Character Analysis: Roy Batty
Updated March 23rd 2003
Blade Runner has been errorneously labeled by some as lacking in character development. The film reviewer Roger Ebert notes in his review of the director's cut, "It looks fabulous, it uses special effects to create a new world of its own, but it is thin in its human story." It should not surprise us that in the dehumanized world of Los Angeles 2019 the human story would be difficult to uncover. This sentiment is echoed in a thought provoking review written by Sean M. Rutledge. The characters in Blade Runner are as complex, dark and beautiful as their surroundings; with their humanity equally difficult to find. Roy Batty's character stands out in this rich background to provide us amply with both questions and answers. Interpretation I - Roy Rises
Roy Batty like any good villain is the most complex character in Blade Runner. Being a Nexus-6 with the best physical and mental capacity afforded to Replicants, he is designed to survive, fight and kill quickly with no remorse. With these qualities Roy successfully leads a group of four of his fellow Replicants (all Nexus-6's) to Earth by hijacking a shuttle and killing the crew and passengers. In the opening sequence an eye is overlooking the "Hades" landscape. This could be someone regarding their new surroundings, but it can also be a metaphor indicating the film is scrutinizing the audience (Humanity). If the eye is Roy's, it could also be an indication of his internal conflict; or even that Humanity can be closely examined through him (Interpretation II). We see Roy for the first time in a vid-phone as his stiffening hand indicates his biological clock is running out. With the loss of one of his friends to a security field in a direct assault, and the discovery of Leon at Tyrell Corp., Roy demonstrates great flexibility in switching tactics. Upon Leon's return Roy asks, "Did you get your precious photos?" It seems Roy did not approve of Leon trying to get them, and maybe Roy finds the photos themselves as unimportant. Roy shows his resourcefulness by locating Chew, a genetic designer that did some work for the Tyrell Corporation. When they meet Chew in his lab they immediately set an aggressive tone and Roy begins by paraphrasing a poem by William Blake: "Fiery the Angels fell,
Deep thunder rolled around their shores,
Burning with the fires of Orc."
The original lines are:
"Fiery the Angels rose, & as they rose deep thunder roll'd Around their shores: indignant burning with the fires of Orc And Bostons Angel cried aloud as they flew thro' the dark night." This is the first direct reference to an angel in the film. Roy clarifies his self image by changing "Angels rose" to "Angels fell" in conjunction with the theme of rebellion in this classic poem. It also indicates that Roy will be on Earth for a short time because Earth is a transitory point for angels, the equivalent of limbo or purgatory. Being compared to an angel is only one facet of Roy's connection to the Gods. Roy has many similarities with the demigod Hercules. They both have powerful father figures and chaotic stepmothers, Hera for Hercules and technology for Roy. They are both cast out by their fathers for reasons beyond their control and they have similar physical abilities, violent pasts, and are heroes to an underclass. When Chew realizes what Roy is he takes credit for designing Roy's eyes. In response Roy says, "If only you could see what I've seen with your eyes," which links the importance of sight with the formation of self. The manner in which Chew is questioned is as cold as the lab and during this scene we see Roy as methodical, intelligent and most of all ruthless. In a small irony Roy is able to see his way to Tyrell by questioning an eye designer, who provides him with the name of J.F. Sebastian. Pris is sent by Roy to locate and pacify Sebastian and when Roy arrives soon afterward he and Pris kiss in front of...
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