Dr. Tyrell: I’m surprised you didn’t come here sooner.
Roy: It’s not an easy thing to meet your maker.
’s Roy Batty (Rutger Hauer
) is in turns villainous, heroic, beatific, frightening and victimized. This is not a result of disjointed filmmaking, rather it represents the film’s construction of Roy Batty as an amalgamation of archetype
s. The film combines the Biblical
figures of Lucifer
into one larger-than-life character, who must alternatively petition or confront his creator. This creator is Dr. Eldon Tyrell (Joe Turkell
), who represents God
, and provides the context within which Roy exists. The film uses a large set of visual, sonic, and narrative techniques to draw the parallels that it does between its characters and Biblical figures.
Blade Runner opens with the following scrolling text:
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.
Here a crucial word choice of “created” over the more neutral “made” brings up intimations of Dr. Eldon Tyrell’s godhood. (“Engineers” is a plural noun, but in the same way that in Genesis
1:26 God says “Let us make man”, the ultimate burden and glory of creation is solely Tyrell’s.) Dr. Tyrell has created Man, or at least the close simulacrum of Replicant, and he looms over his creations like he does over the miniature humanoid figures on his chessboard. According to Hannibal Chew
), Dr. Tyrell is omniscient; “He knows everything”. In fact, the owl in his chamber recalls Athena
, the goddess of wisdom, whose favorite animal was traditionally the owl (Bulfinch, 1:1). Most unequivocally, creation Roy calls Dr. Tyrell “the God of Biomechanics”.
Dr. Tyrell’s godlike status is reflected in Blade Runner’s depiction of his place of work and residence, the Tyrell Corporation Building
. Very near the film’s beginning, the camera films a low-angle shot
approach to this edifice, which has a halo-like spotlight coming out of its roof. The building’s architectural design exaggerates the effect of this and other low angle shots by appearing to lean backwards towards the top of the frame. Its structure also bears a strong resemblance to that of a Mayan temple. And in contrast with the film’s typically dark and heavy color palette, the exterior of the building is usually suffused with golden light. Its interior is decorated with classical busts and columns, recalling Mt. Olympus
, and pointing to the godhood of its sole resident.
As God- Dr. Tyrell- ’s “prodigal son”, who has “done questionable things”, Roy confronts his creator in the Tyrell Corporation Building. In this sequence, Roy is portrayed as Evil
personified, and is shot in close ups that emphasize his sweaty, smirking, and threatening visage. In fact, Dr. Tyrell says that Roy has “burned so very, very brightly”, drawing a direct comparison to Lucifer- literally “bringer of light
”. Roy compares himself to this fallen archangel
when he misquotes William Blake
’s America: A Prophecy
for Mr. Chew, “Fiery the angels fell, deep thunder roared around their shores, burning with the fires of Orc.” And throughout much of Roy’s screentime in Blade Runner, he visually fits the part of the evil Lucifer. For instance, on both occasions that he walks, within the Bradbury Building
, towards J.F. Sebastian
)’s apartment, he appears as a heavy, dark shadow, made nominally visible only by the slight back lighting outlining his arm and head. And he wears a coat with the extremely high, turned-up collar associated with evil since its appearance on the supernaturally frightening film villain Nosfuratu
But while Roy has an ominous “bad guy
” side and stands in as Lucifer, his motivation, as it is clearly delineated, is not the fallen angle’s greedy desire to assume ownership of Heaven
. Rather, he and the replicants he leads spend the course of the film trying to infiltrate the Tyrell Corporation Building in order to get Dr. Tyrell to lengthen their meager four-year life span. Like Adam, of whom God says “’Behold this man is become as one of us’… Therefore the LORD God sent him forth from the garden of Eden” (Genesis 3:22-23), Roy is forbidden to approach Dr. Tyrell, or even to be on the Earth. In fact, the name for the police officers guarding the Earth against the replicants’ return- Blade Runner- recalls the cherub
with a “fiery sword” (3:24) that guarded the Garden of Eden
against Adam. Also, like Adam made mortal (3:19), Roy becomes decrepit at an accelerated rate, in order that he die before achieving emotional maturity. In a more cryptic comparison to the original and fundamental man, Roy’s serial number is N6MAA10816
, the letters from which can be reordered to read “A MAN”. He is physically strapping and handsome, is, according to J.F. Sebastian, “perfect”, as Adam was “very good” (1:31). And his dramatic killing of Dr. Tyrell is an exact and fitting inverse of God’s Biblical creation of Adam: it comes with a kiss (2:7).
Roy’s status as a metaphorical Adam is strengthened through a “snake
in Blade Runner, recalling the snake who promised godhood to Adam and Eve in Genesis 3:5. The replicant Zhora
) does an exotic dance
with “the snake, that has once corrupted man”, and she has a snake tattooed on her neck. And when Rick Deckerd
) inspects Leon
)’s hotel room, he finds a snake scale from Zhora’s snake, or from one of her costumes. An extreme close up shot of the scale on his fingertip ensues, one that is repeated after he finds the image of Zhora hidden in one of Leon’s photographs. Later in Taffy Lewis
’s club, the camera, wandering briefly across the glamorous assembly, alights on a woman wearing a snakeskin hat. A candle right in front of her obscures her face, so that it is primarily the hat that is visible, bobbing up and down with a seeming life of its own as she laughs and nods. This is not the only time a person is snakelike: when Zhora is strangling Deckerd she lets out a brief but loud hiss.
But ultimately, Roy does not live out his days as a pastoral patriarch Adam, not does he crash and burn like the fiery Lucifer. Rather, in dying, he comes to resemble a third Biblical colossus- Jesus- whom God intended to die (Isaiah
53:10), as Dr. Tyrell intended Roy to die after four years. Visual symbols create the analogy: When Roy returns to J.F. Sebastian’s apartment to find Pris (Darryl Hannah) dead, he lightly caresses her bloody wounds, then smears his fingers on his face, painting a vertical red, think line from below his nose to the bottom of his chin. Combined with the horizontal pink line of his lips, this forms the clear sign of a cross
on the bottom half of his face, one that is emphasized in extended close-ups. And in a cringe-inducing (for this viewer) action, Roy, close to death, stabs a long nail through the palm of his hand. In an ensuing shot, Roy stands in an almost completely dark room, facing to the left, with his hand in front of him, in front of the only source of light, a window. His hand and the nail in it are the only elements of the shot in high contrast to their background, and as a result they stand out, as does the comparison between Roy and the stigmata
bearing Jesus that they draw.
But Jesus’s legacy is about more than misery. The name “Roy” derives from the French for “The regal one”, alluding to Jesus’s royal status (St. Matthew
2:2). By the time of his death Roy has removed his demonic collar- indeed, like Jesus, traditionally depicted as being crucified wearing only a loincloth
, he has removed nearly all of his clothing and wears only shorts. And while Roy does not replace the God he succeeds in killing, while he does not liberate his people or create any sort of justice, the film’s presentation of his death is serene
. Slow motion cinematography casts a peaceful tone over the scene, while high, droning “angelic chorus
” music plays on the soundtrack. Roy also releases a dove
, which bears no connection whatsoever to the rest of his actions (why would he pause while pursuing Deckerd to find and capture a dove?). This serves the symbolic purpose of representing his soul leaving his body (as in St. Matthew 3:16) and attesting, as dove do in the popular iconography
, to his holiness