See How Blade Runner 2049 Brought Back A Classic Character

The following article contains mild-spoilers for Blade Runner 2049, consider yourself officially warned.

There was so much to love about Denis Villeneuve’s ambitious Blade Runner 2049. Stunning set design, beautiful cinematography, and some awe-inspiring use of digital doubles. For a key scene in 2049, Harrison Ford comes face to face with a fresh off the factory floor copy of Rachel (Sean Young), and she hasn’t aged a day. Villeneuve opted to create the de-aged Rachel using a digital double, and with the help of Sean Young and footage from the original film, Villeneuve created the most convincing digital double I’ve seen. There was also a whole lot that didn’t work for me, but I’ll save that argument for another day.

Using digital doubles is still a new invention, and one that Hollywood has been trying to perfect since we saw a de-aged Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellen in X-Men: The Last Stand. For the most part, the early use of de-ageing characters was a bit of a joke; the uncanny valley syndrome was too much for audiences to accept as genuine. Cracking the uncanny valley issue is still something Hollywood is trying to fix (based on Henry Cavil’s lip work in Justice League, we’re still years away from a solution). Last year’s Rogue One brought Peter Cushing back to the Star Wars franchise which has raised an ethical quagmire for audiences and filmmakers.

I found the use of a digital double to resurrect Grand Moff Tarkin (Cushing) creepy. I understand that it would have been odd to have told the story they did without some mention of appearance from Tarkin, after all, he was running The Death Star in A New Hope. That said, Tarkin could have been recast with someone who looked a bit like Cushing or only use the digital double in a short cameo sequence as they did with Leia. Tarkin had quite a few scenes, and the more I looked at it, the more it registered as odd. The digital double of Rachel is used sparingly in Blade Runner 2049 and is all the more impactful for its brevity.

Blade Runner 2049 is released on DVD & Blu-ray on February 5.

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