Title: Blade Runner
Director / Studio: Ridley Scott
Based On: “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?” by Philip K Dick (1968)
Main Cast: Harrison Ford, M. Emmett Walsh, Edward James Olmos, Joe Turkell, Sean Young, Rutger Hauer, Brion James, Daryl Hannah, Joanna Cassidy, William Sanderson.
Empire Ranking: 20
Type of Text: Film
Main Characters: Rick Deckard (Ford), the Blade Runner protagonist; his former captain, Harry Bryant (Walsh), and fellow cop Gaff (Olmos); Dr Eldon Tyrell (Turkell), creator of the Replicants, and his assistant Rachael, who discovers that she is a Replicant herself; Roy Batty (Hauer), leader of the rebel Replicants; the other Replicants, Leon Kowalski (James), the “pleasure-model” Pris Stratton (Hannah), and Zhora Salome (Cassidy); J F Sebastian (Sanderson), a geneticist with a rapid-ageing condition who helps the Replicants.
Genre: Sci-Fi, Dystopia, Crime, Noir
Themes & Imagery: What it means to be human / a person, as opposed to artificial life; importance of memories, desires or deeds in the formation of identity as opposed to birth / construction and biological / mechanical fact; whether it matters how “real” something is if it is in practice virtually indistinguishable from reality. Replicants as workers but akin to slaves, afforded virtually no respect; Bryant refers to them derogatively as “skin-jobs”. Futuristic architecture and technology (e.g. flying cars), huge multi-cultural urban areas (which seem primarily slum-like). At Tyrell’s lab, imagery of light, magic, wonder and, I think, classicism, although this could also be part of the strong religious imagery throughout; similarly with Deckard’s dream of the unicorn while he sleeps at the piano, which shows the desire to maintain a degree of culture and civilisation and preserve some element of beauty in the brutality. Abandonment and isolation. Lack of having any choice; no defence against what the law decides. Perpetual darkness and rain.
Synopsis: A Blade Runner hunts down and “retires” (which is to say, kills and destroys) rogue Replicants: biomechanical constructs almost indistinguishable from humans without psychological testing; Deckard is one of the best Blade Runners around. This time he has four to deal with, violent Replicants who have come back to Earth from the off-world colonies to try to find a way to get their creator Dr Tyrell to extend their short fixed life-spans; but his job is complicated when he reveals to Tyrell’s assistant Rachael that she is herself a Replicant, and then promptly falls for her. His task of retiring the others – which it seems was never particularly easy for him – ends up taking an even greater toll on him, both physical and mental; each time he hunts down a Replicant, he seems to walk into an ambush, and the Replicants are faster and stronger than he is…
Personal Response: I find the dark and doomy feel of this film very appealing: the sci-fi aspects are present but not obtrusive, which means it doesn’t matter if the special effects are now dated; the glimpses of the city and world with which we are presented clearly tend towards dystopia, but believably so. There is action and violence, but it is prolonged and suspenseful; this forestalls any hint of carelessness, thereby fitting in well with the thematic question of whether Replicants deserve to be treated like humans. Roy’s murder of Tyrell is particularly brutal, disturbing, and powerful, but the deaths of Zhora and Pris are also drawn out, slowed down, and given special attention. It’s also refreshing to see a protagonist display so much weakness as Deckard does. I know there’s meant to be a question over whether Deckard is himself human or Replicant but, coming at this film with knowledge of “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?” (where I don’t remember it being an issue), I didn’t pay it much attention.
Favourite Part: When Deckard describes implanted memories to Rachael and then pretends he’s joking about her being a Replicant.
My Top Five Lines & Passages:
Bryant forces Deckard to hunt down the Replicants:
Bryant: I need you, Decks. This is a bad one, the worst yet. I need the old Blade Runner. I need your magic.
Deckard: I was quit when I come in here, Bryant; I’m twice as quit now. [Stands up to leave.]
Bryant: Stop right where you are. You know the score, pal. If you’re not cop, you’re little people.
Deckard: No choice, huh?
Bryant: No choice, pal.
Deckard first meets Tyrell’s assistant Rachael:
Rachael: It seems you feel our work is not of benefit to the public.
Deckard: Replicants are like any other machine: they’re either a benefit or a hazard. If they’re a benefit it’s not my problem.
The Replicant Leon attacks Deckard:
Leon: How long do I live?
Deckard: Four years.
Leon: [Throws Deckard against a coolant.] More than you. [Punches hole in coolant.] Painful to live in fear, isn’t it? Nothing is worse than having an itch you can never scratch.
Deckard: I agree.
Leon: [Slaps Deckard twice around the face.] Wake up; time to die.
Roy and Pris start trying to enlist Sebastian’s help:
Roy: Why are you staring at us, Sebastian?
Sebastian: Because, you’re so different. You’re so perfect.
Sebastian: What generation are you?
Roy: Nexus 6
Sebastian: Ha, I knew it. Cos I do genetic design work for the Tyrell corporation. There’s some of me in you. Show me something
Roy: Like what?
Sebastian: Like anything?
Roy: We’re no computers, Sebastian, we’re physical.
Pris: I think Sebastian, therefore I am.
Roy: Very good, Pris, now show him why. [She somersaults and then picks up a boiling egg and throws it to Sebastian; he drops it in pain.] We’ve got a lot in common.
Sebastian: What do you mean?
Roy: Similar problems.
Pris: Accelerated decrepitude
Sebastian: I don’t know much about biomechanics, Roy, I wish I did.
Roy: [Pulls him closer, threateningly.] If we don’t find help soon, Pris hasn’t got long to live. We can’t allow that.
Roy confronts his maker, Dr Tyrell, and asks for a way to live longer, which Tyrell says is not possible:
Tyrell: You were made as well as we could make you.
Roy: But not to last.
Tyrell: The light that burns twice as bright burns half as long, and you have burned so very very brightly Roy. Look at you. You’re the prodigal son. You’re quite a prize.
Roy: I’ve done… questionable things.
Tyrell: Also extraordinary things. Revel in your time.
Roy: Nothing the god of biomechanics wouldn’t let you into heaven for. [Kisses Tyrell, and then kills him, brutally.]