Seeing “Blade Runner” at the cinema in 1982 had an impact on me that’s hard to explain to people who’ve grown up with the movie.
I was twenty-five, I’d been a Sci-Fi fan for more than a decade. I’d never seen anything like it. It invented future-noir two years before William Gibson published his first cyber-punk novel. It made Star Wars seem like a child’s fantasy. It built a whole world for the eye to absorb. It didn’t explain. It didn’t slow down. It hit you in the face with the emotional impact of what we might do to vat-grown, sentient beings.
In the begining “Bladerunner” seems like a simple hunt and shoot tale. The Bladerunner of the title is given the task of hunting down and killing four Nexus 6 Replicants, vat-grown beings that look human but have superior strength, speed, agility, resilience, and intelligence and who have fought their way back to earth. The Replicants are the threat, the Bladerunner is the solution.
What made the movie compelling was the Bladerunner’s emerging empathy for the Replicants he’s hunting. His interactions with them force him to consider what it is that makes him human and them something that he can kill just for being on Earth.
By the end of the movie, we know that the Nexus 6 was engineered with a kill-switch, a four-year lifespan to prevent them becoming impossible to control and that Roy Batty, a two-year-old Replicant has led his small group to Earth to ask his creator to extend their lives.
The final confrontation between the Bladerunner and Roy takes place on a rooftop in the rain. The dying Roy has just demonstrated empathy by saving the Bladrunner’s life. What follows is a speech that was more moving than anything I’d ever seen in a Sci-Fi movie. Rutger Hauer’s delivery was perfect. In my view, he made the movie with that scene.
Here it is:
Rutger Hauer died this week, at the age of seventy-five with a strong career behind him. I’ve seen all of his movies. If he was in it, I’d watch it. But the moment that first comes to mind whenever I hear his name was him, on a rooftop in the rain, acknowledging what would be lost now that it was time to die.
My wife pointed out to me one of those coincidences that will feed nerd SF Quizzes for decades: in 1982, when Bladerunner was made, it was set in the near future. Roy Batty brought his team to earth in 2019. This means he and Rutger Hauer died in the same year.