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BLADE RUNNER
Maybe no movie of modern time has explored the definition of what it means to be human better than Blade Runner.
BLADE RUNNER
(1982)

This page was last updated May 23, 2005

Harrison Ford: Rick Deckard
Rutger Hauer: Roy Batty
Sean Young: Rachael
Edward James Olmos: Gaff
M. Emmet Walsh: Bryant
Daryl Hannah: Pris
William Sanderson: J.F. Sebastian
Brion James (I): Leon
Joe Turkel: Tyrell
Joanna Cassidy: Zhora
James Hong: Chew
Morgan Paull: Holden

Writing credits: Philip K. Dick (novel Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?) Hampton Fancher and David Webb Peoples
Directed by Ridley Scott.
Running time: 115 minutes.
Classified R (for violence, brief nudity).

Note on writer David Peoples: Many of his writings use biblical themes. He is a profound writer with incredible spiritual depth. Scripts include: Soldier (1998), Twelve Monkeys (1995), Deadfall (1993), Unforgiven (1992), Hero (1992), Leviathan (1989),The Blood of Heroes (1988)

BY M. REID BAILEY
EMAIL Riposte@home.com
"It’s not an easy thing to meet your maker." So states Replicant Roy Batty as he stands face to face with his creator geneticist Eldon Tyrell.

     Maybe no movie of modern time has explored the definition of what it means to be human better than Blade Runner. The Tyrell Corporation’s motto, "More human than human", serves as the basis for exploring the human experience through true humans and created humans, or Replicants. Replicants, genetically engineered humans, are created by the Tyrell Corporation for the purpose of slave labor and dangerous assignments. And Blade Runners are the members of a special police squad whose job it is to hunt them down and kill them should any find their way back to Earth from their "Off-World" colony.

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     As the movie progresses we are presented with the surrealistic images of Los Angeles in the year 2019. The futuristic imagery and film-noir feel is some of the best ever done on film. The future of Director Ridley Scott is not so much ominous as encroaching. The dark, rainy streets; the subdued, filtered light; and the sounds and sights all work together to wrap around the viewer and draw him in. Symbolism of the meaning of humanity is woven throughout the film, relying largely on biblical metaphor.

     We are presented with types of angels, demons, Heaven and God as the creator as well as allusions to Christ himself.

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   The Replicants represent the fallen angels of the Bible, or demons. They were created to be a little better than humans and to serve them as well. In Psalm 8 of the Bible the writer contemplates the state of humans saying they were created a little lower than the angels. And numerous passages relate the angels as servants to the followers of God. But these angels/Replicants fell from Grace when they mutinied against their creators. Likewise the demons of the Bible are angels that fell from God’s Grace and were cast out of Heaven when they rebelled against God’s authority. When the Replicant leader, Roy Batty, is introduced he recites a slightly altered version of a William Blake poem that begins, "Fiery the Angels fell".
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     A powerful symbol that recurs throughout the movie is that of the eye. The sophisticated computerized test that Blade Runners use to detect if someone is a Replicant or not measures the responses of the eye to psychological questions. The first person that the Replicants seek out to solve their questions of life is the man who designed their eyes. It seems that the preferred method of killing humans is for the Replicant to gouge out the victim's eyes.

     The Bible uses the illustration of the eye hundreds of times to show its importance as a gate to the soul. Jesus says in the Gospel of Luke,"The light of the body is the eye", meaning that not only do the things that we look at affect our soul, but also that our eyes can show what is already in there. When the Old Testament hero Samson was captured by his enemies he was publically humiliated by having his head shaved and his eyes gouged out.

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     As the movie unfolds we learn that the genetic designers that created the Replicants programmed them with only a four year life span. Replicants were meant to copy humans in every way except for emotions, and to keep them from creating their own emotional responses their lives were shortened. The Replicants have returned to Earth to find out how to live longer. And to do that they will ultimately have to face their creator.

     But the creator has created yet another experimental model of Replicant that is given memory implants. Because the new model has memories to reflect upon she is as yet unaware of her status as an engineered person. As she learns her true identity her path becomes inextricably entwined with Blade Runner Deckard played by Harrison Ford. As his character progresses Deckard comes to symbolize the contrary nature of the human experience by equating Replicants to machines in one instance and being emotionally wrecked after having killed a renegade Replicant in another. Ultimately falling in love with the new, experimental model.

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     The Replicants turn to another genetic engineer in their quest for answers. J.F.Sebastian is a young man in an old body, being inflicted with Methuselah’s syndrome which causes extremely accelerated aging. Sharing the fate of an early demise he is persuaded to lead the Replicants to see the creator Eldon Tyrell of Tyrell Corporation. Tyrell’s office creates the mood of an ancient Egyptian pyramid. The home of the Earth bound god. As Roy Batty enters the highest level of the Tyrell’s pyramid he steps into the heavenly realms of Tyrell’s bedroom. Only candles light the space and reflect off of white drapes and whiter surroundings. The bed clothes of the creator are all white robes that mirror the habit of a bishop.

     Roy states simply that what he wants is more life. He has come into the presence of the creator, in the creator’s realm, with a supplication. Tyrell remarks that Roy is the prodigal son returning to his father, referencing the New Testament parable of a sinner returning to God for forgiveness and grace. Roy begins to confess the sins he has committed and like the father in the parable Tyrell brushes them aside. Roy is convinced he is guilty of "nothing the god of bio-mechanics wouldn’t let you into heaven for" as he sits with his father-confessor.

     Tyrell confides in the Replicant/prodigal that it is impossible to give him more life. The all powerful creator is helpless to heal, the genetic code is irreversible. Roy takes the face of his creator in his hands and kisses him, and we see an re-enactment of when Judas kissed Jesus just before betraying Him. The prodigal son then kills his father, his creator, his God. In the Biblical account of Satan’s fall from Heaven he stated that he would rise above God and replace Him on the throne of Heaven. And here stands a fallen angel with blood on his hands.

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   By now Deckard has tracked the Replicants, or skin-jobs, to the home of Sebastian, who was also killed by Roy at Tyrell’s office. All that remains at Sebastian’s home are the genetic friends he has created and a female Replicant, Pris, hiding among the shadows. She has covered herself in a white veil, a symbol of purity, and blackened both her eyes in another allusion to importance of the eyes.
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A brief fight leaves Pris dead and Deckard awaiting the return of Roy Batty. As Roy returns and finds his last friend dead he begins the stalking of his final victim. Roy knows his life span is almost up. When his body begins to die and his hand stops working he rips a nail from a board and plunges it into the center of his palm. The powerful image of the crucifixion of Christ marks a dramatic change in the Replicant’s character that leads to the climax between the two men, one who is human and the other who is "more human than human".

Having lost his gun, Deckard has tried to escape across the roof tops. A frantic jump between two buildings leaves him hanging from the building’s edge. Roy now appears behind Deckard holding a white dove snatched from the roof-top.

The white dove has long been an important spiritual symbol, representing both the Holy Spirit of God and Divine Peace. When Jesus was baptized by John the Baptist the Spirit of God settled on Him like a dove. And it was a dove that returned to the Ark and showed Noah that his deliverance had come.

Roy stands over the struggling Blade Runner, who is struggling for a grip, hanging between Heaven and Hell. The moment that Deckard loses his grip the nail scarred hand of Roy Batty grabs him and pulls him to safety. Deckard watches in amazement as his savior quietly dies, and in so doing releases the dove which flies towards Heaven and a small patch of blue sky. The soul returning to its true creator as in the passage from the Book of Ecclesiastes that states, "And the spirit shall return unto God who gave it".

In his dying words Roy grieves over the fact that all the beautiful things he has seen will be lost in time. Not only has he learned emotions but he has learned the value of his own memories.

Blade Runner doesn’t necessarily answer any of the questions that it raises, but it does really leave the viewer pondering the essence of life and humanity. And more importantly it raises questions about the ramifications of humans playing God.

As the film closes Deckard is confronted by another cop who knows about his affair with the experimental model and lets him know that he won’t interfere, leaving Deckard to run off with the Replicant, the hunter becoming the hunted. "Too bad she won’t live, but then again who does?"

 

Bulletin Board:BR DOES NOT NECESSARILY HAVE TO BE CHRISTIAN BASED
Subject: BladeRunner
Date: Fri, 15 Mar 2002
From: MAC
  Hello. I have not yet found the idea (not meaning to disrespect believers or non-believers alike but only to suggest...) that Bladerunner may or may not be seen in symbolic Christian texts only but something moreso archaic since, after all; Christianity was not the beginning of Time as we recall it but only another precursor to a still ongoing chapter in the evolution of our species on this planet thus far. What I mean to point out is that many mythologies and cosmologies which still permeate our Collective Consciousness' (admit it or not) have the ideas of humans as "pawns", as manipulations which end up beginning to just realize potentials for better as well as worse as living conscientious beings. One can look to ancient religions which have now become myths about our being created by one Or various, in fact multitudinous, Makers again and again for labour, companionship, spite, and the whole gamut of what we now take for granted to be "human" reasons for creating a being. If you are familiar with the written works of Erich Von Danikken or Zecharia Sitchin and William Bramley to name a few, whose sincere researches into the origins of humannature and beginnings on this planet evolved there is arguable enough evidence found in our environments and museums to suggest time and again in-depth beliefs of we, as so-called humans, being made for not always so benevolent reasons. Nietszche says something to the effect that it takes a foundation of aeons of so called men to create a superman. Let us speculate that this superman was the kind of man fully aware and conscious now of his divinity in existenc, in just being here. He would have not time to be a racist, sexist, egoist, or otherwise. He would marvel at this grand opportunity and its infinite manifestations in everything he perceives and experiences around him. He would adore life in all its complexities and instantly obey the obvious laws of existence which would declare emphatically to his newfound woul that; All life is precious (no different than Batty perhaps?). Wise heroes and kings and men the ages over "ahead of their times" have been persecuted and slain in every thought of way if not deemed mad or insane, but much later more would perceive the spark much missed and realize or try to appreciate what these men had fathomed and even "how". In almost all cases it was by "accident" or a constant series of them. I hope that I've given a bit of a different angle to you all on the scope of my personal wonderings of Bladerunner and the limitless ways you can run with it. I mean, after all; everything you write or say or feel about this movie is a reflection of your inner soul and has a right to be stated (there really are no "right" or "wrongs" here) , because, in a nutshell, these are the infinite beauties fo existences' manifestations.Thank you for hearing me and I would like to write back again or
elaborate on anything that may have confused you. Keep the angles coming, and
may all be blessed.signed, Mac
ANOTHER POINT OF VIEW
Subject: Blade Runner
Date: Sun, 9 Sep 2001
From: Callum
I read your review and found it interesting; I think some of the symbology is a little heavy-handed, but generally well made. I would just like to point out that as Batty kills Tyrell, he pushes his thumbs through the eyes, destroying them; perhaps (and maybe I am reading too much into this) so that he would not be "seen" to do evil by his creator?RELIGIOUS MESSAGE OVERSTATED
Subject: Roy Batty and the "Death of God"
Date: Mon, 15 Jan 2001
From: Linda
I think that maybe the religious message of Blade Runner is being overstated; It's not a tract for Christianity. But I hadn't really given much thought to the idea of the replicants as "fallen angels", and I think perhaps that analogy does hold. However, I don't think Rooy's killing of Tyrell is the "death of God": it wasn't Roy who said his sins were not something the "god of biio-mechanics wouldn't let you into heaven for". That was what Tyrell said. Roy was confessing to him what he had come to see as sins, thus developing morality, something which he presumably wouldn't have been outfitted with at his inception as a military design. Tyrrell was discounting them as trivial, which Roy knew they weren't. Thus he found that his "god", his creator, was a false god. I have always loved the scene where Roy saves Deckard on the roof, and I also still prefer the version of it with the eloquent voiceover saying that at that moment, Roy Batty "came to respect any life. His life. My life." It's like at that moment he became a "real boy", a real human. He at that time had the dove, the Holy Spirit, and when he saved Deckard and the dove goes skyward, it's like God rewards him with the "more life" he sought, gives him grace. I think all the hoo-haw over whether Deckard is a replicant or not detracts from thinking over the point of the film, which is just what does it mean to be human. I think it's much more poignant that Deckard the human finds love with an android. Being truly human isn't just a matter of having flesh and blood, but of caring for others. M. Emmet Walsh's character, with his references to "skin jobs", is less human than Rachel, who gets the shakes just like Deckard after she kills another replicant to save him. You could even argue that Gaf earns a little salvation here. Supposedly the "next gunslinger" out for Deckard's spot, at the end he had a chance to kill Rachel, the last "skin job", but didn't. He let her live, and left behind the origami unicorn (a creation of man's imagination) behind as testimony. I like his statement: "Too bad she won't live- but then, again, who does?"
Linda Oliver Bolivar, TN
RELIGIOUS CONNECTION TO BLADE RUNNER
Date: Wed, 2 Aug 2000
From: Dan
I stumbled across your site while doing research for a book on Christians and art, and among the older comments I found a request for reviews on Blade Runner that explore its religious content. You can find one I wrote a few years ago at http://artisticwhispers.homestead.com/files/bladerun.html If you for some reason would like to reply, you can get me at lokmer@bigfoot.com -DanBLADE RUNNER IS AGAINST CHRIST
Date: Mon, 8 May 2000
From: "Steve Evans"
I think that maybe the symbolism in Blade Runner isn't for Christianity but against it since Phil Dick was an Agnostic, and since he helped write the screenplay. Maybe Roy and the androids represent non-Christians and Deckard represents Christians, Tyrell still is God. When Roy says, "Quite an experience to live in fear isn't it? That's what it is to be a slave." I saw this as saying - Christians try to force their Christ and what he stands for on non-Christians. When Roy pierced his hand with the nail he was trying to get his salvation himself, become the New Age God Man of the counter culture that Phil grew up embracing. When Roy killed Tyrell it was a metaphor for the counter culture that started in the sixties pretty much saying that the Judeo/Christian God is dead. We will embrace our own Self Diesm - which the Devil propigated from the begginning. "...All three thematic categories stem from Dick's somewhat neurotic and libertarian individualism coupled with respect for what the Quakers Dick knew when young call "that of God in every person." Though he had long used gods and the possibilities they represent as devices for political discussions, Dick, in his last years, turned to serious presentation of religious ideas and debates in his fictions. Though he had accepted the idea of God, he never let his belief shatter his previous conception of free human interaction and indiviluation. He could not see God as a totalitarian. His last books are a reflection of his own struggle to come to terms with his conception of his God and attempts to integrate his older beliefs into a new situation." Reality, Religion and Politics in the Fiction of Phillip K. Dick by Aaron Barlow The coldness at which Deckard treats the androids is like the coldness that non-believers feel when we tell them that they are not God and the only way to salvation is through Jesus. This is poignantly protrayed when Deckard shoots the female android and she falls through the window in slo mo, the relationship with the android love interest, and the realization of the humanist qualities in Roy at the end. In other words, "Sinners are people too." Phil Dick lived a life searching for the truth, he mixed Jung psychology with Eastern Mysticism, Shamanism and Christianity. He was tormented by voices (probably demons) who would prophecy to him and torment him. Heavy drug use and broken relationships lead to several attempts at suicide. He was a hero to the Agnostic movement. When Roy dies the dove is released symbolising the return of the spirit to God. Perhaps saying that those who do work out their own salvation, may not be able to reach Godhood, but do go to heaven if they do sacrificial deeds such as saving your enemy, i.e. Deckard. Redemption is a great thing that Christ did alone, but the Devil would love to twist it and use it for his purposes, taking away from the glory of Christ. As far as the fallen angel symbolism - this could be the author reckognizing the fallen nature of man and using angelic metoaphors to symbolize it. Not in fact a metaphor saying that the androids represent angels. This might be backed up by the fact that in the early 60's Phil joined the Episcipol Church in his hometown of Berkeley after seeing a vision over the horizon. This vision he later put into his work while writing in Marin, "a giant face with slotted eyes . . . . It was an evil, horrible-looking thing. . . . I actually sought refuge in Christianity from what I saw in the sky. Seeing it as an evil deity I wanted the reassurance that there was a benign deity more powerful." (Platt, Dream Masters, 154) But he never met the God that could set him free from this evil he now knew excisted. The "religion" that he so dispised could not in fact save him, because that is what is was, religion. If he would've found a personal relationship with Christ through the renewal of his mind instead of organized religion that he had so reportedly despised, then he would not have returned to his searching and the subsequent visions and mystical experiences of his later life wouldn't have continued to lead him astray. When Roy kills Tyrell it was like the author was saying the God of the Christians is not real to me, but I know he exists - I didn't find God in Christianty so I will kill your idea of God, I will keep looking. Phil did and died not a happy man, never knowing the peace of Christ. This is the lie of the devil. To have us believe that we can become as God. And he can blind people through religion. Roy is like Phil. But unfortunately Phil's spirit isn't in heaven like Roy's dove spirit in Blade Runner. I can say one thing for Phillip King Dick. He wanted the truth- and it showed in his work. And I pray that Christians can use symbolism the way Dick has - as so to help people like Dick find peace.
Amen Chris Evans
BLADE RUNNER DIFFERENT IN VARIOUS CUTS
Subject: -How about the director's cut?
Date: Sat, 4 Mar 2000
From: Darren

I note your film review does not take into account the history of the film. As most everyone knows by now,"Blade Runner" has been restored with the voice over narration completey removed. also,the old video version (THE EUROPEAN VERSION) had a few minutes of extra violence-including the scene when Roy kills Tyrell.In the "director's Cut" (available in widescreen) this scene is not as bloody. Also,there is the implication that Deckard himself is a Replicant (a Nexus 7?) And dreams of Unicorns.
You mentioned the eye motif. What about the setting of BR being a (borderline) Police State/Big Brother? ("if your'e not cop,your'e little people") (Your' licenses in order")and so on. As for Batty,check out the scene after he kills Tyell (and supposedly,Sebastian) riding down in the elevator, he is not only desending,but "falling from the stars".
Also,the "happy ending/escape to the countryside" is not on BR:DC. I have both the old film (the unrated European version) and the WS Director's cut on video. With the former in pan and scan/cropped, its almost as if they are two different movies,yet still the same.
Darren J. Seeley
Michigan

Response: Very interesting. Wow! Keep your thoughts coming. -David. DO ANDROIDS DREAM OF ELECTRIC SHEEP?
September 17, 1999. Your wonderfully insightful review of Blade Runner has caused me to ponder some possibilities I hadn't previously considered. When "the created" meets and kills "the creator", might this be a reference to "Death of God" theology in which God has in effect been killed by God's creation, humanity? If so, the transformation of Roy into a Christ figure would be representative of the individual taking the place of God, which is also a part of "Death of God" theology. I would have to think this through further to see if there's anything to that, but I am convinced this movie is not only about the nature of humanity, it is also about the nature of God the Creator. My love for this movie caused me to read the book "Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?" (the title of which suggests that Deckard himself is a Replicant). Consequently I have become fascinated with the writings of Philip K. Dick. If you appreciated the theological questions raised in this movie, check out Dick's writing. Much of it is dated, but it is still some of the most thought-provoking stuff you'll ever read!
-Andy
HAS A WEALTH OF RELIGOUS  IMAGERY
May 21, 1999. Not too religious myself, but I've long been fascinated by the wealth of religious imagery and referencing in Blade Runner. I'm glad to see someone else make the fallen angels comparison with the Replicants, with Tyrell playing an Aztec God, atop a pyramid built on human sacrifice. What I find most interesting about the movie in regards to the angels/Replicants comparison is that Rutger Hauer's character, Roy, is transfigured from a Lucifer figure to a Christ figure over the course of the film's final sequence, as he saves his pursuer, Deckard, with his nail-pierced hand. An interesting side of the film that doesn't often get discussed, amid all the hoopla over the special effects, decrepit L.A., and whether or not Deckard is a Replicant himself. –Andrew

May 4, 1999. I own this film on both DVD and VHS. Originally, I hated Blade Runner. The way it was promoted made it look very Star Warsy and since it debuted between SW and Empire my expectations were dashed. Upon revisiting the film years later, I discovered how great a film Blade Runner is. Your review has given me new insight and I'm eager to see it again. Very good review for a very good movie.
-Mike Way
wayonbay@aol.com

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