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Blade Runner 2049: Is Deckard a replicant? Denis Villeneuve answers a few burning questions

The director of the epic sci-fi sequel opens up about what happened to Las Vegas and Deckard’s new furry friend, but even he doesn’t have all the answers

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 17 October, 2017, 4:01pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 20 February, 2018, 4:48pm

It’s OK to still be a little perplexed about Blade Runner 2049. Director Denis Villeneuve leaves a lot unexplained in the complex, futuristic world he created for his critically acclaimed sci-fi epic, which he says has “a lot of layers.”

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Multiple viewings are recommended to better understand the dystopian universe inhabited by Ryan Gosling and Harrison Ford. Villeneuve is still tight-lipped about key aspects of the film, like the ending. “I’ve been keeping secrets for two years, I don’t know if I can start talking now,” he says. But Villeneuve did answer a few of our burning Blade Runner 2049 questions.

Is Rick Deckard a replicant?

The question has raged since Ridley Scott’s original Blade Runner: Is replicant hunter Rick Deckard (Harrison Ford) a bioengineered android himself? Ford has always argued that the character is human, while Scott has maintained Deckard is a replicant. The original novel by Philip K. Dick on which the film is based – Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? (1968) – was filled with ambiguity.

“In the book, blade runners themselves are doubting their own identity, like a doctor always in contact with sick people,” Villeneuve says. “They start to see symptoms of the sickness. They became paranoid.” Paranoia is an important theme of Blade Runner 2049.

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“Deckard, himself, is unsure of his own identity,” says Villeneuve, adding that replicant creator Niander Wallace (Jared Leto) “plays with (Deckard) at the end.”

Wallace might know, but Villeneuve happily insists even he doesn’t. “I love the fact that we are not sure,” he says. “It’s more exciting and more dynamic. When you are sure, it’s a dead end. In my heart, I prefer to keep the question alive.”

What happened to Las Vegas?

The light in deserted Las Vegas in Blade Runner 2049 is the glow of radioactive fallout. “That dirty bomb generated a lot of radiation, but it doesn’t destroy the infrastructure,” says Villeneuve.

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Vegas became barely habitable; the perfect place for Deckard to hide out. “Nobody wants to live there. Like the Ukranian city Chernobyl, the place becomes a ghost town,” says Villeneuve, “so Deckard went there after the first film.”

How did Los Angeles turn so treacherous?

The global climate in 2049 is even more berserk than it was in the original film. California copes with a never-ending winter and is crowded with refugees. This is starkly shown by the massive sea wall on inland Sepulveda Boulevard, protecting the city from the rising Pacific.

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“It’s not a very optimistic portrait of the future,” says Villeneuve, who says they consulted scientists about future climate and technology. “I would say it’s an exaggeration, an exploration. The ocean rising could happen one day. But not that much. It’s a sci-fi film.”

Why did Deckard get a dog?

Dogs are “very, very rare” in this world, which is why Gosling’s Officer K asks if Deckard’s companion Bo is real or a replicant. “Ask him,” Deckard growls.

“What I like about the dog is we don’t know if the dog is real or synthetic,” says Villeneuve. “We have the same questions about Deckard.”

Ford says the dog provides “understanding about this character and his circumstances that he has this wolf-like critter as a companion.”