In the 1970s and '80s, Harrison Ford brought to life three of the most iconic characters in cinematic history: Han Solo, Indiana Jones and Rick Deckard. With The Force Awakens in 2015, Blade Runner 2049 and a fifth Indiana Jones movie in 2019, Ford provides a rich continuation of all three characters, answering many of the burning questions left in the final moments of the original movies from the '70s and '80s. All of his characters remain highly influential to this day, but Deckard is arguably the most complex and hotly debated of these individuals.
Fortunately, Blade Runner 2049 succeeds at incorporating Deckard in meaningful ways that didn't overshadow the newer characters and story of the sequel. The recent release and intriguing direction the filmmakers take the character into offers the perfect opportunity to reexamine Deckard's arc in the original film and now its sequel. Despite initially establishing Deckard as the main protagonist in #BladeRunner, Deckard's actions are cold and emotionless for much of the film. The moment where he shows the most emotion is a horrific one.
Warning: Major spoilers for Blade Runner and Blade Runner 2049 ahead.
There is perhaps no crime worse than sexual assault, yet the supposed protagonist Deckard is guilty of this as he expresses disturbing lust and a toxic desire for control. Moreover, Deckard sexually assaults Rachael, a woman who saved his life and seeks solace as she grapples with the revelation of her Replicant identity. After kissing Rachael, she attempts to leave his apartment, but he blocks her exit, slams her against a wall and kisses her again. He then forces her to say things like "Kiss me" and "I want you" despite her protests.
Deckard's largely emotionless attitude has helped fuel the debate that he is Replicant rather than human, but it is more fascinating to believe Deckard is human and that his cold actions actually make him the original film's true villain. Blade Runner 2049 does not nullify his villainy, yet rather builds on it before launching Deckard on a path of redemption.
Why Deckard Is The True Villain Of 'Blade Runner'
Blade Runner opens by framing Deckard as the film's main protagonist. After witnessing the Replicant Leon's destructive actions when tested, Deckard receives his call to action when tasked with hunting down and "retiring" Leon and the other escaped Replicants. Given these actions and the exposition about the Replicants, it's easy to believe Deckard is the hero and the Replicants are the villains, with their leader Roy Batty as the primary antagonist.
However, despite being remembered but as an iconic cinematic villain, Roy is actually not the antagonist of the film. Roy wants to live longer because he embraces life and wants to live it freely. He seeks out his maker Eldon Tyrell as a son seeking out a father for answers and comfort, but Tyrell gives him neither. Regardless of the compliments he pays Roy, Tyrell still views him as a machine with an expiry date and nothing more. Many thus argue that Tyrell is the real villain of the film even though he only appears in two scenes and doesn't perform many meaningful actions. By creating the Replicant technology and incorporating it as he did into society, Tyrell is largely responsible for generating the underlining problems that drive the existence of Replicants like Roy and humans like Deckard. However, Tyrell is never made to confront the other characters in a dramatic scene and so his status as the real villain is only implied.
A villain is defined by their most evil moments and the motives that drive them. In that respect, two aspects are particularly disturbing, as they portray Roy and Deckard doing things that makes them worthy of a villain flag. The first is when Roy brutally kills Tyrell. The second is when Deckard sexually assaults Rachael. As already established, Roy murdering Tyrell is rather justified, which leaves the most villainous moment of the story to Deckard. Up to this point in the film, Deckard shows little emotion or care about anything. When a distressed Rachael confronts him about being a Replicant, he reacts cruelly and then treats the situation like a joke. When Leon attacks him, Rachael saves his life by shooting and killing Leon.
Deckard shows his thanks in the form of forcing himself upon Rachael, the same person who just saved his life. Despite the humanity shown by Rachael, Deckard continues to ruthlessly hunt down and kill the remaining Replicants, only ceasing when Roy saves his life and chooses to stop fighting while delivering the thought-provoking "tears in rain" monologue. Roy and his team of Replicants are manipulative and commit their share of questionable acts, but all their actions are defined by their thirst for life, as opposed to the emptiness of Deckard and the acts he commits, making him the true villain.
How Deckard Begins To Find Redemption In 'Blade Runner 2049'
Given the span of time that's lapsed both in reality and within the fictional worlds of Blade Runner and Blade Runner 2049, there were endless possibilities of how to handle the return of Deckard. From his first appearance in Blade Runner 2049, Deckard conveys more humanity than the character showed 30 years ago. He quotes Treasure Island and engages in a brief conversation about literature and K's motives before firing a weapon. Even though Deckard believes K is there to kill him, Deckard shows intellect, curiosity and a wry sense of humor, traits that were absent in the days of shooting Replicants in the back.
Deckard fights and tries to kill K but stops when he realizes K is not there to kill, capture or hurt him. Deckard doesn't know who K is and K mistakenly believes Deckard is his father. Despite the misconceptions, their conversation over whiskey plays out like a long-lost father and son meeting for the first time, cautiously gauging each other out. Audiences learn of the steps Deckard took to protect the child he had with Rachael, even parting from her and the child despite having to live in ignorance of their fates.
Deckard's path to redemption continues when he's kidnapped and faces Niander Wallace. The creepy character attempts to extricate the whereabouts and true nature of Deckard and Rachael's child. Wallace tempts Deckard with a Replicant identical to Rachael from the original Blade Runner (arguably the most stunning CGI accomplishment in aging/de-aging a character in cinematic history). After gazing at her longingly, Deckard rejects Wallace's offer with a gruff "Her eyes were green." His resistance shows courage and a moral code unlike anything demonstrated 30 years ago.
Furthering his redemption, Deckard saves K's life after K saves him. Deckard then has the opportunity to meet his daughter, offering a kind of humanity he's never known but finally earned through his steps toward redemption.
The villainous actions from the original Blade Runner aren't nullified in the sequel, but Deckard's development does fulfill an arc of an unlikely villain beginning to find redemption.
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