Blade Runner's Theme: A What, Where, Why Commentary

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The Eyes Tell All

The Eyes Tell All
A What, Where, Why Commentary of the Bladerunner Theme
John McCoy
For Syverson's E309M Fall 95

What is so interesting about Bladerunner?

The typical lay-person's reaction to Bladerunner:
"It's a classic? But isn't it just a sci-fi
thriller?" Yes, on the surface. There are
well-choreographed action scenes replete with
violence, blood and gore. There is a
suspense-filled plot to put the audience member on
seat's edge. There are even a few close love
scenes to move the romantic. And behind every
gripping action sequence or scenic vista are the
masterful musical pieces of Evangelos

But it takes more than a good fight, a long kiss
and a moving melody to give a movie cult status.
And Bladerunner does have a cult following composed
of a generation of people. They are mostly
college-educated Generation X-ers, who sit on the
verge of a revolutionary technological future.
(The typical University's student union theatre
will have one or two Bladerunner showings
annually). The allure of Bladerunner goes beyond
the simple mechanics of a thrilling shoot-em-up.
It is about power. Perhaps on a subconscious
level, the viewer is primarily attracted to power:
the trappings, the use and possible mis-use, and
the consequences. The driving underlying theme of
Bladerunner concerns our psychological fascination
with power over others. As long as society could
dismiss a replicant as nothing more than a machine,
no morality need be imposed in their treatment. To
humans, replicants have no souls.

A Quick Synopsis of Bladerunner

The 21st Century is the scene of impressive
technological progress as mankind conquers the
dimensions of outer space and the human mind. The
genius Tyrell of the Tyrell Corporation has
advanced robotics toward Nexus--evolving artificial
beings almost identical to humans. Only these
"replicants" are stronger, faster, and smarter, but
genetically programmed for four-year life spans.
Replicant slave labor is used in off-world
colonization, combat and generally, hazardous or
unsavory duty.

Rick Deckard is a Bladerunner, a Police specialist
assigned to "retire" runaway replicants
impersonating humans. To him falls the
detective-slash-terminator task of uncovering four
ruthless replicants. Nexus units Roy Batty, Leon,
Pris and Zhora are aware of their mortality and
seek their maker. They "want more life" and are
rather ammoral in their dealings with the Earth

Who Owns Your Soul?

A question must be asked: do replicants have souls?
The value of a replicant lay in their superhuman
prowress, their programmability for specific
missions and their expendability as machines. Like
normal sentient beings, the mind of a Nexus is
programmed with real human memories. These past
experiences are necessary as an emotional cushion
and reaction database for day-to-day response to a
replicant's surroundings. The ability to think,
remember and emote fools most Nexi into believing
they are human! That there is a Heaven to accept a
Nexus soul is uncertain, but it is enough that
replicants believe in their Self. I think,
therefore I am.

The need to escape the predestination of one's life
(an escape from the Nexus four-year, genetic
life-span) is a soul expression. The need to know
that one is NOT a Nexus is another (the replicant,
Rachael, pesters Deckard without end for the
answer). A being with a soul will desire control
of its own life.

The pertinence of the soul is reflected in the
movie's obsession with eyes. As the soul is such an
ephemeral subject, the eye is a fitting proxy.
Eyes are the gateway to the soul. Eyes then serve
as references to the condition of a character's

This still is a scene of a damaged eye. It is
unsighted with spots and cataracts. Supposedly, it
belongs to the badly injured...
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