Blade Runner isn’t interesting to me if Deckard isn’t a replicant. I don’t read Scott’s intended ending as ambiguous on the subject at all. I don’t think there’s much gained by ambiguity on the matter, either. If he’s a human, then it’s a story of a guy realizing the people he’s hunting are also human. Nice but pretty generic. If he’s a replicant, then there’s so much more to sink your teeth into thematically, most important of which to me are the film’s ruminations on impending death. Those themes are still there regardless because of Roy Batty’s character arc but viewing both men as struggling first against and then to accept death strengthens the theme, and is also what makes their showdown at the end so powerful. In death, Roy provides Deckard with the model he must follow to live a full life with Rachael.
So I’m a little annoyed the new movie kept coy with it. Also, that if Deckard is a replicant, he’s not a four-year lifespan one but one of the open-ended ones (Nexus 8s) introduced in this film. The original Blade Runner is all about people running from death before coming to realize it can never be escaped, that the only way to live is to live with the knowledge of death. Deckard at the end realizing he’s got less than four years left to live is so poignant, but if he can live to be as old as any human then that takes something away.
However, I’m completely happy to look at the films as separate animals. Whenever I watch Final Cut I’ll think of it as a done-in-one. 2049 is it’s own thing and one of the most visually inventive and immersive, and thought-provoking, sci-fi films I’ve ever seen. This is the rare movie where I want to see it again immediately as I leave the theater. I’m sure I’ll come to watch it as frequently as I watch the original. On my first viewing I feel I’ve scratched only 10% of its surface.
I feel very lucky that two of my favorite cinematic worlds, Blade Runner and Twin Peaks, had such excellent showings this year.