Blade Runner 1982
Director: Ridley Scott
Director of Photography: Jordan Cronenweth
Visual Futurist: Sid Mead
Musical Score: Vangelis (Chariots of Fire)
The screenplay is based on Philip K. Dick's novel Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?
Deckard: Harrison Ford
Rachael: Sean Young
Pris: Daryl Hannah
This is the information given on screen in the opening minutes:
Early in the 21st Century, the TYRELL CORPORATION advanced Robot evolution into the NEXUS phase--a being virtually identical to a human--known as a Replicant. The NEXUS 6 Replicants were superior in strength and agility, and at least equal in intelligence, to the genetic engineers who created them. Replicants were used Off-world as slave labor, in the hazardous exploration and colonization of other planets. After a bloody mutiny by a NEXUS 6 combat team in an Off-world colony, Replicants were declared illegal on earth--under penalty of death.
Special police squads--BLADE RUNNER UNITS--had orders to shoot to kill, upon detection, any trespassing Replicant. This was not called execution. It was called retirement.
This background information can be found in Philip K. Dick's story Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? It is not explained in the film.
To uncover runaway Replicants, Deckard uses a machine and an exam called the Voight-Kompt test. The V.K. test measures dilation of the eye when an embarrasing or emotionally disturbing question is asked. What kind of questions are disturbing in 2019? Since the earth is thoroughly polluted, animals are very rare, and every animal is protected. Mechanical animals are being made to replace real animals. Many of the V.K. questions have to do with the treatment of animals.
(All of the type in quotes represents what Deckard says in voice-over throughout the film.)
Although Deckard has been quite a successful Blade Runner, he finds himself more and more troubled about killing Replicants who are, after all, nearly human beings. To do his job well, he must repress his feelings. When it seems he can no longer maintain his cold equanimity--when his emotions begin to interfere with his ability to do his job--he quits.
At the film's opening, Leon Kowalski is a new worker at the Tyrell Corp. He is being tested by a police examiner to see if he is a Replicant. Leon is, in fact, a Replicant, and to avoid being caught, he shoots the police examiner, Mr. Holden, and escapes.
"They don't advertise for killers in a newspaper. That was my profession. Ex-cop. Ex-Blade Runner. Ex-killer. Sushi--that's what my ex-wife called me. Cold fish."
Holden was the man who had replaced Deckard. Since he has been badly injured, the police want Deckard to come back to work for them again. Deckard's former boss, Bryant, sends his assistant Gaff to find Deckard and bring him to the police station. Since Bryant knows he won't come willingly, he tells Gaff to arrest Deckard.
"The charmer's name was Gaff. I'd seen him around. Bryant must have upped him to the Blade Runner Unit. That gibberish he talked was city-speak, gutter-talk, a mish-mash of Japanese, Spanish, German, what-have-you. I didn't really need a translator; I knew the lingo; every good cop did. But I wasn't going to make it easy for him."
Bryant tells Deckard that he cannot refuse the job: if he does, his own life will be in danger. Then he gives Deckard the details. Six Replicants--NEXUS 6--have escaped from an Off-world colony, killing 23 people and then stealing a shuttle. The Replicants have come back to earth, and one has already died by electrocution when the group broke into Tyrell Corp. and inadvertantly ran through an electrical field. Deckard's job is to find and kill the other five robots. (Bryant should say four robots--the screenwriter or editor made a mistake.) The four are Leon Kowalski, Zhora, Pris and Roy Batty.
Tyrell Corp., who designed the NEXUS 6, gave them extraordinary physical abilities and also experimented with giving them a brain capable of emotional responses. Tyrell Corp. was facing a problem: they were building robots who had the potential to be superior to human beings, but who would be used as slaves for human beings, and who had unstable emotions. So they also built in a way of controlling the robots: each NEXUS 6 has a life-span of only four years.
"Skin-jobs: that's what Bryant called Replicants. In history books he's the kind of cop [who] used to call black men 'niggers.'"
Bryant tells Deckard to go over to Tyrell Corp. and run the machine and Voight-Kompt test on a NEXUS 6 there. In this way, Deckard can know how to spot a NEXUS 6. "And if the machine doesn't work?" asks Deckard. Bryant has no answer.
"I quit because I'd had a bellyful of killing. But then I'd rather be a killer than a victim, and that's exactly what Bryant's threat about 'little people' meant. So I hooked in once more, thinking that if I couldn't take it, I'd split later. I didn't have to worry about Gaff. He was brown-nosing for a promotion, so he didn't want me back anyway."
At Tyrell Corp. Deckard is greeted by a beautiful but frosty young woman named Rachael. She introduces him to Dr. Elden Tyrell. Tyrell requests that Deckard demonstrate the Voight-Kompt test by providing him with a human response which he can then compare with a Replicant response. He suggests that Deckard test Rachael to obtain a human response. After more than 100 questions--usually the test is decisive after 20 to 30 questions--Deckard realizes that Tyrell has deliberately misled him: Rachael is not a human, but a Replicant. Then Tyrell asks Rachael to step out of the room. Rachael doesn't know she is a robot, and Tyrell doesn't want her to find out. Deckard asks Tyrell how it is possible that Rachael doesn't know she is a robot. Tyrell answers that he has given Rachael memories--the memories belonging to one of his nieces. He shows Deckard her files, which include her incept date--i.e., her birthdate--and other details of her background.
After leaving Tyrell Corp., Deckard and Gaff must begin their search for the runaway NEXUS robots. They follow the only clue they have: the address of the hotel where Leon Kowalski said he was staying. There the two men find animal scales in the bathtub and photos. Deckard puzzles over the meaning of these items.
"Whatever was in the bathtub was not human. Replicants don't have scales. And family photos? Replicants didn't have families either."
Below the hotel room, on the street, we see the clenched hand of Roy Batty, the leader of the rebel NEXUS group. He meets Leon and asks him, "Did you get your precious photos?" Leon shakes his head and answers,"Somebody was there." In a coldly deliberate voice Batty asks, "Men? Police. . . men?" Roy and Leon know that they are running out of time. They need to get into Tyrell Corp. before they are caught by the police, and they have been unsuccessful twice. So they try a new method: they go to EYEWORLD where they accost a Chinese genetic designer responsible for creating eyes. "I design your eyes," says the researcher. "If only you could see what I've seen with your eyes," responds Batty. The two NEXUS force the researcher to tell them the name of someone who can help them get into the Tyrell Corp.: J.F. Sebastian.
In the meantime, having completed his workday, Deckard goes home. Rachael is waiting for him there, and he nearly kills her because she surprises him in the hallway. She has come to ask him a question--am I a robot? She suspects she is, but Tyrell is refusing to see her. Deckard lets her into his apartment and tells her some of her most private memories--things he knows from reading her files at Tyrell Corp. She shows him a snapshot, trying to convince him that she is really a human being. He cruelly tells her that they are faked--and her memories are the memories of Tyrell's niece. She cries silently, helplessly, and leaves. Then Deckard feels remorseful, but it is too late.
"Tyrell really did a job on Rachael, right down to a snapshot of a mother she never had, a daugher she never was. Replicants weren't supposed to have feelings. Neither were Blade Runners. What the hell was happening to me? Leon's photos had to be a phony as Rachael's. I didn't know why a Replicant would collect photos. Maybe they were like Rachael: they needed memories."
Another of the NEXUS group is introduced: the pleasure- model Pris. Posing as a homeless girl, she gains entry into J.F. Sebastian's home. He shows her his hobby--his genetic experiments who are half-human "pets," or dolls. At home, Deckard is idly playing the piano. From our view of the piano-top, it seems that he, too, has lots of photos. He takes the one that he has gotten from Leon's apartment and inserts it into his computer/scanner. He finds that Zhora (another of the escaped NEXUS group) is reflected in the background, with an exotic costume hanging up beside her.
Deckard goes to an animal expert who tells him the scale he found in Leon's apartment is an artificial snake scale and that it was manufactured by Abdul Ben-Hassan. Under duress, Abdul admits that he sold the snake to Taffy Lewis, a bar owner in Chinatown. At the bar, Deckard calls Rachael and asks her to join him for a drink. (He is trying to apologize for his rudeness before.) She refuses.
But while he is at the bar, Deckard finds one of the runaways. Zhora is working as a dancer for Taffy Lewis. He follows her to her dressing room posing as a representative of the "Federation of Variety Artists," but she guesses who he is and attacks him. Fortunately for him, other dancers come into the room, and Zhora flees. He chases her down the street and through the crowds. In a chilling scene, he catches up with her and shoots her from behind.
"The report would be routine retirement of a Replicant, which didn't make me feel any better about shooting a woman in the back. There it was again: feeling, in myself, for her."
Bryant appears on the scene to congratulate Deckard and tell him that he has four more NEXUS to kill. Three, corrects Deckard. No, four, replies Bryant. Rachael has run away from Tyrell Corp. and now must, according to law, be killed. Just then, as Bryant leaves, Deckard sees Rachael across the street. He starts toward her but is suddenly pulled aside by Leon. Leon watched Zhora die, and he intends to kill Deckard in revenge. He almost succeeds. "Wake up-- time to die," he sneers at Deckard, slapping away his gun with vicious speed. But just as he prepares to poke out Deckard's eyes, Rachael, from across the street, picks up the gun and shoots. Leon falls face-forward, dead.
Deckard and Rachael go back to his apartment. He sees she is shaking with fear and shock. "Shakes?--me too. I get 'em bad. Part of the business," Deckard says. Rachael replies, "I'm not in the business. I am the business." She continues, "What if I go North--would you come after me? Hunt me?" "No, I wouldn't," Deckard answers. "I owe you one."
Rachael has another question: what is her incept date? Deckard says he didn't look at it. Then, exhausted, he falls asleep. Rachael wanders over to the piano to play, and Deckard wakes up and joins her. "I didn't know if I could play," she tells him. "I remember lessons. . ." He kisses her, and she tries to run out of the apartment. It seems that she perhaps cares for him, but she is balanced between desire and fear. "I can't rely on. . . (my feelings)," she chokes out. Brutally he kisses her again, and refuses to let her leave.
At J.F. Sebastian's home, Pris puts on a quixotic make-up design, increasing her resemblance to a doll. She asks J.F. how old he is. He tells her he's 25, but he's got Methuselah symdrome, a glandular condition which makes him age too quickly, and which has prevented him from leaving earth. He cannot pass the medical exam to go to the Off-world colonies. Just then Roy Batty walks into the apartment. To J.F. he says, "Gosh, you've really got some nice toys here!" To Pris, he says, "There's only two of us now." J.F. begins to suspect that his two visitors are not human. "You're so different--you're so perfect--what generation are you?" Upon learning that they are NEXUS 6, he is pleased. "There's some of me in you!" he exclaims. His remark is inadvertantly double-edged, as Pris and Roy immediately perceive: the NEXUS have the same problem that J.F. does--accelerated decrepitude. Seeing a chess game which Sebastian is playing with Mr. Tyrell, Roy has an idea of how he can get to see Tyrell.
Roy and Sebastian go to Tyrell Corp. and take the elevator up to Tyrell's top-floor apartment. On the way, J.F. checkmates Tyrell. Intrigued, Tyrelll invites him to come in. Flickering lights play over the chamber as Roy and J.F. step inside. Tyrell is momentarily taken aback, but he betrays little sign of his thoughts. In a fatherly tone, he says to Roy, "I'm surprised you didn't come here sooner." "It's not an easy thing to meet your maker," responds Roy.
"And what can he do for you?"
"Can the maker repair what he has made?"
"Would you like to be modified?"
Turning to J.F., Roys says, "Stay here," and continues, "I had in mind something a little more radical."
"What--what seems to be the problem?"
"Death. Well I'm afraid that's a little out of my jurisdiction."
"I want more life, fucker," hisses Roy.
Tyrell smiles slightly and begins to declame: "The facts of life-to make an alteration in the evolvement of an organic life system is fatal. The coding sequence cannot be revised once it's been established . . . . You were made as well as we could make you."
"But not to last!"
"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."
"I've done questionable things."
"Also extraordinary things. Revel in your times."
Roy smiles bitterly. "Nothing the god of Biomechanics wouldn't let you in heaven for?"
Roy kisses Tyrell and then, suddenly, horribly, crushes his head while putting out his eyes. Having killed J.F. as well, Roy leaves.
Deckard is called and told about the crime. He in turn calls J.F.'s aparmtent to see if anyone is there. Pris answers, but then cuts him off. Deckard goes to the Bradbury Building to catch her. In J.F.'s toy filled roon Pris hides as a doll. Deckard finds her, and she attacks. He shoots, her and she short-circuits. Kicking and screaming, dying in a truly grotesque fashion, she so frightens Deckard that he must shoot her again and again until she is silenced.
Now Roy returns to the apartment. Hiding, Deckard waits for him. Roy finds Pris first. Her death--her garish wounds--grieve and anger him. Moving away from the body, and appearing in the doorway, Roy is briefly visible: Deckard shoots at him, but misses. Now a chase begins, and before long, Roy has injured Deckard so badly that the hunter becomes the hunted. Having lost his gun, and cradling his broken fingers, Deckard searches frantically for a way out of the building. Roy, howling, completely unhinged, can feel his own death approaching. He pierces his hand with a nail to keep himself alive through the stimulus of pain. "You'd better get it up--or I'm going to have to kill you!" shouts Roy. "Unless you're alive, you can't play, and if you can't play . . . " He breaks off, feeling his powers ebbing.
Deckard climbs out of the building and onto the roof. Roy follows. Deckard jumps off the roof, trying to reach the next building to escape. He doesn't quite make it: he bounces off the other roof, slips, and catches himself just in time. Dangling by his arms hundred of stories up, he cannot hide or defend himself. Roy catches a pigeon and, surveying Deckard's position, jumps across too. Standing tall above Deckard, he says, "Quite an experience to live in fear, isn't it? That's what it is to be a slave." Just as Deckard's strength gives way and he falls, Roy catches him and hauls him back over the building's edge. Deckard scrambles away in fear, but Roy doesn't touch him. Instead, he sits down and says, "I've seen things you people wouldn't believe. Attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion. I've watched C-beams glitter in the dark near the Tannhauser Gate. All those moments will be lost in time, like tears in rain. Time to die." His head falls forward and the pigeon slips from his grasp.
"I don't know why he saved my life. Maybe in those last moments he loved life more than he ever had before. Not just his life--anybody's life--my life. All he'd wanted were the same answers the rest of us wanted. Where do I come from? Where am I going? How long have I got? All I could do was sit there and watch him die."
Behind, in the pouring rain, Gaff appears. "You've done a man's job, sir," he calls. "Finished," replies Deckard. As he leaves, Gaff turns half-way around and says, "Too bad she won't live. But then again, who does?"
Panicked, Deckard returns to his apartment. Gaff's remark must have been a comment about Rachael; Gaff must know she is hiding in his home. But Rachael is unharmed, and Deckard is relieved. "Do you love me?" he asks. "Do you trust me?" Deckard will flee with Rachael to the North. The two slip out of the apartment and into the elevator. On the way Rachael steps on a little silver unicorn left by Gaff. The film ends as the two fly away over the mountains.
"Gaff had been there and let her live. Four years he had figured. He was wrong. Tyrell had told me Rachael was special, no termination date. I didn't know how long we'd have together. Who does?"
Among the American public, this film is a cult classic. Among film critics, it is famed for its striking set design and photography. Extremely violent, nightmarishly disturbing, thematically unfocused, burdened by a film-noir voice-over that doesn't quite work, and undercut by and ending most improbably cheerful: even with all these defects, Blade Runner remains one of my favorite films. I find certain scenes hauntingly unforgettable: Zhora breaking through window after window in her flight; Pris and Roy peering around the corner at J.F.; the flame of the city reflected in Holden's eye; Rachael's high-collared coat silhouetted against the light; Roy howling with Pris's blood and make-up on his face; the pigeon flying upward to the smokestack and the sun.
The film has been re-released in a "Director's Cut" version. When the film was first screened, the test audience found the original ending too depressing. So the last bright and sunny flying scene was added. In the new 1992 version, the voice-over is removed; a dream scene is added (Deckard dreams of a silver unicorn); and the old ending is restored (Rachael and Deckard getting into the elevator while Gaff's words echo in Deckard's mind). By adding the dream scene a new interpretation is offered. Deckard is himself a NEXUS. How else could Gaff know about his dreams and leave the symbolic little unicorn?
Having watched the "Director's Cut" version, I felt that two of the changes were actually detrimental. The voice-over, however flat, is necessary to provide continuity and to clarify action. Without it, much of the film is unintelligible. Also, implying that Deckard is actually a NEXUS seems to take away from his interest in the film, which comes from his unwilling identification with his "victims." To discover that Deckard himself is a NEXUS somehow lessens the value of the sympathy he has offered, or at least gives his sympathy another motivation. The "Deckard is actually a NEXUS" interpretation gives the plot a last surprising twist, but squeezes out some of the film's vital frisson. For these reasons, I am showing the original release. I did feel that removing the last flying scene was an improvement--it is unecessary, and in coloring and tone it runs counter to the film's dark atmosphere.
Leon Kowalski is being tested by Holden to see if he is a Replicant. Leon shoots Holden.
Deckard is eating in a little noodle shop when he is arrested by Gaff.
Deckard is taken to Bryant. Bryant tells him about the escaped NEXUS 6 Replicants and sends him to Tyrell Corp.
Deckard meets Rachael and gives her a Voight-Kompt exam. Tyrell tells Deckard that Rachael is a NEXUS 6, but also a new experiment.
Deckard and Gaff go to the hotel where Leon was staying and find his photos and a snake scale.
Roy Baty and Leon visit a Japanese researcher. They learn from him that J.F. Sebastian can help them see Tyrell.
Rachael visits Deckard and asks him if she is a robot. He tells her the truth, but brutally, and hurts her feelings.
Pris fools J.F. Sebastian into letting her into his home.
Using his computer/scanner, Deckard finds a clue to Zhora's whereabouts in Leon's picture. In the background he sees her and an exotic costume hanging up.
Deckard goes to an animal expert who tells him that the snake scale was made by Abdul Ben-Hassan. Ben-Hassan says he sold a snake to Taffy Lewis. When Deckard shows a picture of Zhora to Lewis, Lewis says he knows nothing about her. Deckard calls Rachael, but she refuses to come to the bar where he is.
In the bar, Zhora dances with the snake, and Deckard follows her to the dressing room. She suspects him, attacks him, and then runs away. He follows her out into the city, and shoots her. Afterward, while Deckard is getting a drink, Bryant congratulates him and tells him he must now find and kill Rachael.
Deckard sees Rachael, but Leon, who has been standing nearby, attacks Deckard and nearly kills him. Rachael saves him by shooting Leon.
Deckard takes Rachael home. He promises not to hunt her and kill her like has the others. Then he falls asleep. Rachael plays the piano, just to see if she can. Deckard wakes up, kisses her, and makes her kiss him back.
In J.F. Sebastian's home, Pris and J.F. and Roy Baty talk. Roy decides he can get Tyrell's attention if he helps J.F. Sebastian checkmate Tyrell in the game of chess they are playing against each other.
Roy and Sebastian go to Tyrell Corp. Roy and Tyrell talk about his life span, and then Roy kills Tyrell and Sebastian.
Deckard is told about two men being killed. He goes to Sebastian's apartment and kills Pris.
When Roy Batty returns, Deckard tries to kill Roy. But Roy is too strong and too fast. Deckard's fingers are broken, his gun is lost, and he is chased through the building by Roy. Roy is dying, and so as to live a little longer, he pierces his hand with a nail. Both men climb up to the roof. Deckard nearly falls to his death, but Roy saves him. Then Roy dies. Gaff comes to congratulate Deckard, but also lets him know that Rachael has been discovered.
Deckard returns home, and finds Rachael sleeping and unharmed.
The two leave Deckard's apartment and get on the elevator. Deckard picks up a silver paper unicorn left by Gaff.
Rachael and Deckard fly away, heading North to safety.