I’m not arguing with the author’s larger point that the plot of a story can be “squeezed” too much, and that too many “twists” can spoil the soup of a novel, if you will. I’m sure this is quite possible. But I happen to think her example to prove this point is a rather poor one: I don’t agree at all that Rick Deckard as replicant ruins Blade Runner.
Why does it weaken the story if Deckard is a machine, just like the machines he’s hunting? It shouldn’t, and doesn’t. Blade Runner is not just a story “about a man who has lost his humanity.” If you think that Deckard is a member of mankind and that Blade Runner offers no other interpretation, then yes, that’s what the film is about: A man who wakes up to his own life after seeing the "life" pulsing in the artificial heart of Roy Batty (Rutger Hauer). But if you add in the Deckard as replicant subtext, it becomes something more. This fascinating scenario deepens the film’s questions about what it means to be a human. Deckard-as replicant allows us to ponder scientific/metaphysical questions like:
- Are humans mere machines of flesh and blood that also happen to empathize based on an accumulation of memories? Or are they something more?
- If you could theoretically implant memories in a machine that allow it to empathize, and to comprehend the wonders in the universe and wish for more life due to the accumulation of experience, when would it cease being a machine and become a “human”?
- Is Sean Young the hottest robot ever? (Yes)
To be fair, if Deckard is just a human, the film still allows us to examine these questions through the example of the other replicants. But by not revealing any clues that Deckard is a replicant, Blade Runner sets up our expectations is that he is just a world-weary cop. This allows us to emphathize strongly with Deckard until the final reveal—and the revelation that he just might be a replicant, too. With that comes the realization that we’ve perhaps been empathizing all along with a machine. And that’s pretty amazing in itself.
Speaking of the final reveal, who isn’t blown away when Gaff places the origami unicorn on the landing, and Harrison Ford grimly nods his head, realizing that his dreams and “memories” are likely not his? That’s awesome storytelling in my book. Not a plot stretched too far.
In short, the possibility of Deckard as replicant defies our expectations and makes for a better movie--and a better story too.