Great films raise big questions while layering in big ideas and getting audiences thinking and talking as they pick apart plot points and story beats. Blade Runner 2049 is one such film, a complex neo-noir mystery that invites everyone to examine and reexamine important events, symbolism, and character relations while bathing one's eyes in visual mastery.
But in all the reviews and blog posts and forums thread I've read about this amazing movie, I had a pretty cool idea that no one else is talking about. A bit of a fan theory of mine, if you will, but one that I think rings true upon repeat viewings.
Now, I loathe spoilers. I hate them with a fiery passion. As such I wanted to discuss my take away from the film but didn't want to ruin the film for those who missed it in theaters.
It is on this note that I warn you - if you have not seen Blade Runner 2049 - DO NOT READ ANY FURTHER. This article contains numerous major spoilers. If you haven't seen Blade Runner 2049 stop reading now.
You've been warned. STOP reading if you haven't seen the movie.
Okay, if you're still here, hopefully, that means you've seen Blade Runner 2049 at least once. If you've done that you'll have an idea of what I'm talking about.
On the surface, Blade Runner 2049 is about a Replicant Blade Runner called K played by Ryan Gosling who finds himself caught up in a mystery surrounding the missing Rick Deckard played by Harrison Ford and the rogue Replicant called Rachel. This mystery sets K on a path of self-discovery that forces him to question not only who and what he is, but also what it means to be human.
That little summation may be the plot of Blade Runner 2049, but at its core, that's not what the film is actually about. Not fully. It's my idea that Blade Runner 2049 is also about Deckard and Rachael's daughter, the memory maker Dr. Ana Stelline played by Carla Juri.
Detective stories have a certain set of plot elements and Blade Runner 2049 is no different. The Detective -- K -- is out to solve the mystery. The Villian -- Jared Leto's Niander Wallace -- is pulling whatever strings he can to keep the mystery from going public. The Henchmen -- Luv, played by Sylvia Hoeks -- must carry out the Villian's plan. But there's an important element missing here.
Who is the client?
In Detective stories, someone has to hire the hero, be it an individual person or a law enforcement agency. And, sure, K works as a Blade Runner, but the mystery he's hired to solve is one sparked by a memory of a date carved into the bottom of a toy wooden horse that matches the one found at the base of Sapper's tree.
Since K's memories actually belong to Dr. Ana Stelline, it's Ana who fills the traditional Client archetype. Which means, as a memory maker for Replicants, Ana must have purposefully seeded K with her memories in hopes of finding the truth about her parents!
The only clue Ana has about her Parents is that memory of the wooden horse in the neo-Dickensian orphanage. Rachael died giving birth. Deckard disappeared either just before she was born or immediately after. All she has to go on is that toy with what turns out to be her birthday (and Rachel's death) carved into the foot. As we know from the movie, she gave this memory to K. But was K the only replicant to get her memories? How many other Replicants were given this memory?
Unable to find her own parents because she's trapped making memories in a hermetically sealed room, it's logical that Ana would give numerous other Replicants and Blade Runners like K her memories in a desperate bid to find her parents. The scene where K meets Ana and she views the memory and confirms to him that it wasn't made up but actually lived isn't that simple.
If you rewatch this scene, note Ana's emotional response. I'd argue it comes not only from the agony of seeing that event from her childhood again but also now knowing that someone is on the trail, that a "detective" has taken up her case. For the first time, she has hope that she might learn the fate of her parents if not possibly get to meet them.
While K is clearly our protagonist, we are then learning Ana's story through K's journey. His memories of the wooden toy and the date become central to his investigation when he discovers the same date carved into the base of Sapper's tree above Rachael's grave.
While K may have believed (hoped even) that he was the Replicant child at the core of the mystery, once he learns the truth, he's in too deep to just turn away. Like the classic detective, he must finish the job he was "hired" for. As K says to Deckard "The best memories were hers," who he is as an emotional being is because of Ana. He couldn't simply turn a blind eye and walk away, he had to see the job through to the end and reunite a daughter with her father even if that meant giving his own life.
"Dying for the right cause. It's the most human thing we can do."
Without Ana and her memories and her dream of finding her parents, there simply wouldn't be a movie. If K didn't have that memory of the horse, he wouldn't know what the date on Sapper's tree meant. It'd be just another random carving. K wouldn't know to look for the wooden horse in the furnace. He wouldn't know to go looking for Deckard. K simply would have remained as he was: believing he was a thing, a tool designed to kill other tools who no longer function as programmed until he himself would be unceremoniously retired.
As I mentioned in my Blade Runner 2049 review, I left my first viewing in a bit of a hazy stupor and had to take a long, long walk to process what I had seen. I probably walked somewhere around five miles throughout Chicago thinking the movie through and it was during this walk that this little theory dawned on me. As I kept thinking it through I realized how well it worked out. After each subsequent viewing of the film, the idea has held up and makes the film even more interesting and engrossing for me.
Not sure about it? Keep it in mind the next time you watch Blade Runner 2049.
What do you think? Do you think this theory holds up? Or do you think it's a bunch of bunk? Obviously, a movie like this spawns a great number of fan theories, do you have one of your own?
Feel free to add your two cents to the discussion!
- Discs mentioned in this article: (Click for specs and reviews)
- Blade Runner 2049 - 3D (Blu-ray)
- Blade Runner 2049 (Blu-ray)
- Blade Runner (Complete Collector's Ed.) (Blu-ray)
- Blade Runner 2049 - 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray (Ultra HD)
- Blade Runner 2049 - 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray (Best Buy Exclusive SteelBook) (Ultra HD)