Welcome to The Last Sci-fi Blog, our biweekly column about all things science fiction in movies.
Last week, one of the weirdest press releases in a long time hit the Internet: the producers of the upcoming sequel to Blade Runner were seeking Harrison Ford's involvement. They weren't announcing his casting. They weren't announcing that they were in talks. They were announcing that they wanted him to join the cast, talking up the screenplay and sounding more like desperate teenagers trying to get a girl to go on a date than film producers hoping to make a follow-up to one of the greatest science fiction movies of all time.
But let's not spend any more time making fun of their press release. Instead, let's focus on why Harrison Ford should decline their invitation and stay away from Blade Runner 2.
I'll be upfront about this: I have no problem with a sequel to Blade Runner being made. In fact, I welcome it. The world that Ridley Scott constructed back in 1982 remains one of the most fascinating fictional universes ever created and every street corner and high-rise looks like it could have a story. I would welcome a Blade Runner follow-up that explores different aspects of this universe and follows new characters attempting to get by in a world that's one small shove away from being a total dystopia, where morally complex androids roam the streets and special police officers are trained to hunt them down.
So when I say that Harrison Ford should say no to a new Blade Runner, I'm saying it because the last thing I want in a sequel is the return of the Replicant-hunting detective Rick Deckard, not because I wouldn't welcome a new film set in the Blade Runner world. And no, this is not a response to Ford's recent big-screen track record, which has mostly involved lazy, phoned-in performances (and, uh, Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull). This has everything to do with preserving the mystique of Blade Runner and keeping one of cinema's greatest mysteries alive.
Spoilers for Blade Runner follow, but surely you've seen it.
When the 1982 film concludes, Deckard's life has taken a few crazy turns that are never resolved in camera. His showdown with Roy Batty and his relationship with the dying Replicant Rachael have left him a changed man... if he's even a man at all. There's plenty of evidence in Blade Runner that suggests Deckard himself is a Replicant and that's he's been hunting his own kind. The Director's Cut released on home video offers additional evidence, as does the Final Cut that arrived a few years back. But a definitive answer is never given.
Blade Runner's greatest strength is that it plays its narrative cards close to its vest -- it meticulously builds a deep sci-fi playground and then populates it with half-truths and shades of grey. In a modern movie landscape where everything tends to be spelled out for audiences, the ambiguity of Blade Runner and its protagonist still feels refreshing. It's telling that people are still discussing the true nature of Deckard to this very day. It's even more telling that the special features on the Blu-ray feature a series of interviews where director Ridley Scott says that Deckard is a Replicant, followed immediately by other filmmakers saying he is wrong. That's the kind of mystery we're dealing with here: people are passionate enough about it to say the filmmaker is wrong about his movie!
My big concern is that Deckard returning for a sequel would force a definitive answer to this question into existence and spoil the fun for everyone. If Harrison Ford returns, it would be impossible to avoid the elephant in the room -- his humanity or lack thereof would undoubtedly be explored and answered. By making a return at all, Ford and the film's crew risk stripping the magic out of science fiction cinema's greatest debate.
Sure, the film could dance around offering a final answer (but it probably wouldn't). Sure, fans could cover their ears, ignore the film and act like it isn't canon. Or, the film's producers can realize that courting Ford in the press sounds desperate and rewrite the script to center it on new characters with new mysteries who just happen to live in the fascinating world of Blade Runner.
There are infinite options for a Blade Runner sequel, but retreating to the character a big movie star played 30 years ago can't help but feel a little desperate.
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