Filmsite Movie Review 100 Greatest Films
Blade Runner (1982)
Pages: (1) (2) (3) (4)
Plot Synopsis (continued)

In a small anteroom in a chilly blue-lit atmosphere, Deckard is shown videos of the six escaped replicants, three male, three female, who escaped from the Off-World colonies two weeks earlier, and slaughtered twenty-three people before jumping (hijacking) a space shuttle. "An aerial patrol spotted the ship off the coast - no crew, no sight of them." Three nights earlier, they attempted to break into the Tyrell Corporation: "One of 'em got fried running through an electrical field. We lost the others." On the possibility that they might try to infiltrate as employees, Holden was commissioned to run V-K tests on any new workers: "Looks like he got himself one." Both Deckard and Bryant don't know why they risked returning to Earth because it is illegal, and why they headed for the Tyrell Corporation. [It's ironic that the android replicants want to escape to Earth and live there, while human Earth-dwellers in the inhospitable environment are tempted to begin life anew in the Off-world colonies.] Bryant is confident that Deckard can find out why: "You tell me, pal. That's what you're here for."

There are only four remaining rogue replicants [a confusing plot discontinuity], all are NEXUS-6 replicants. [All of the major female characters in the film are replicants]:

(1) Leon, the dim-witted, ox-like, muscular replicant who murdered Holden, the Tyrell investigator administering the Voight-Kampff test.

(2) Roy Batty (Rutger Hauer), a top of the line "combat model," with handsome face and albino coloring, "optimum self-sufficiency, probably the leader."

(3) Zhora (Joanna Cassidy), beautiful brunette and deadly dangerous, "trained for an Off-world kick-murder squad. Talk about beauty and the beast, she's both."

(4) Pris (Daryl Hannah), "a basic pleasure model, the standard item for military clubs in the outer colonies," (a prostitute), with incept date: 14 Feb., 2016 (Valentine's Day). [The character was modeled after Klaus Kinski's vampirish look as Count Dracula in Werner Herzog's Nosferatu (1979). In her screen test, Hannah puddied out her eyebrows, and emphasized her dark circled, black hollowed-out raccoon eyes.]

(5) TERMINATED - The one that "got fried" in an attempt to enter the Tyrell Building. (see above)

(6) Who is the sixth replicant? [perhaps a discontinuity -- a character from an earlier script version]

The advanced NEXUS-6 replicants were designed as the latest and best technological products of the Tyrell Corporation, capable of human qualities that human beings no longer have in the brutal 21st century. But they also have one fatal weakness, a built-in biological obsolescence and fail-safe mechanism - a four-year lifespan with an abrupt termination date. Their four year shelf-life limits them from conducting a replicant rebellion, running amok, or more positively, from displaying the most human of traits. But they are capable of developing feelings comparable to or better than most humans and wish to find immortality beyond their short life span:

They were designed to copy human beings in every way except their emotions. The designers reckoned that after a few years, they might develop their own emotional responses. You know, hate, love, fear, anger, envy. So they built in a fail-safe device...Four year life span.

Deckard is told that the Tyrell Corporation has a demo NEXUS-6 model. Bryant wants Deckard to see exactly how close they are to human beings, and if the Voight-Kampff tests still work on them. Deckard's investigation begins when he is flown in a police spinner by Gaff to the 700-story, pyramid-shaped Tyrell Corporation building, a genetic engineering firm that has become a powerful corporate monopoly by manufacturing replicants to serve as slaves in Off-World exploration and colonization.

(voice-over) I quit because I'd had a belly-full 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.

In Dr. Eldon Tyrell's vast office with an immense picture window, a white replicant-owl flutters across the room. Tyrell is the founder of the vast corporation. The room is bathed in a yellowish-hue, a soft, golden, sunset-time glow - reminiscent of Egypt (a prime locale of pyramids). Deckard first meets his breathtakingly beautiful, cool assistant/secretary named Rachael (Sean Young):

Rachael: Do you like our owl?
Deckard: It's artificial?
Rachael: Of course it is.
Deckard: Must be expensive.
Rachael: Very.

[Appropriately, Rachael appears like a heroine from a 40s film noir - a Mildred Pierce, Joan Crawford-like heroine with dark eyebrows, soulful eyes, red lips, smooth clear skin, and hair tied rigidly back.]

While they wait for the boss to arrive, Deckard presents his prejudiced views on the new NEXUS-6 mechanical, indistinguishable-from-humans, robotic replicants from the Tyrell Corporation. [His view changes significantly as the film evolves]:

Rachael: It seems you feel our work is not a benefit to the public.
Deckard: Replicants are like any other machine. They're either a benefit or a hazard. If they're a benefit, it's not my problem.

Reversing the tables on the blade runner, Rachael asks a personal question:

Rachael: Have you ever retired a human by mistake?
Deckard: No.
Rachael: But in your position, that is a risk?

Before he can answer, high priest Eldon Tyrell's (Joe Turkel) voice interrupts. The businessman enters wearing a tight-fitted, two piece, blue suit, a pair of bottle-thick tri-focals, and a white bow tie - he is almost replicant-like:

Tyrell: Is this to be an empathy test? Capillary dilation of the so-called blush response? Fluctuation of the pupil? Involuntary dilation of the iris?
Deckard: We call it Voight-Kampff for short.

Out of curiosity and as a way to test the reliability of the V-K test in replicant detection, Tyrell first asks Deckard to perform the test on a human test subject - Rachael:

Tyrell: Demonstrate it. I want to see it work.
Deckard: Where's the subject?
Tyrell: I want to see it work on a person. I want to see a negative before I provide you with a positive.
Deckard: What's that gonna prove?
Tyrell: Indulge me.
Deckard: On you?
Tyrell: Try her.

To test his own replicant-detecting apparatus, Deckard administers the test to Rachael on the V-K machine, lowering the window shades to let in less light. [At this point, Deckard is not aware that she is actually a hot-wired, NEXUS 6 model replicant, but she doesn't know anything about her android nature.] During the test in which he focuses on his subject's eye, magnifying it to detect empathic responses from his questions, a close-up of her pupils fill a television screen. In a memorable image, she smokes a large, fat yellow cigarette with swirling smoke - her eyes aglow [a replicant trait]:

Deckard: You're reading a magazine. You come across a full-page nude photo of a girl.
Rachael: (cooly) Is this testing whether I'm a replicant or a lesbian, Mr. Deckard? [Tyrell smiles, exhibiting pride in her forceful, independent answer to defend her dignity]
Deckard: Just answer the questions, please. (Pause). You show it to your husband. He likes it so much he hangs it on your bedroom wall. (faintly)...'Bush outside your window' (the first of two barely audible, pseudo-subliminal messages)...
Rachael: I wouldn't let him.
Deckard: (faintly)...'Orange body, green legs'...Why not?
Rachael: I should be enough for him.
Deckard: One more question. You're watching a stage play. A banquet is in progress. The guests are enjoying an appetizer of raw oysters. The entree consists of boiled dog.

Rachael's response is one of silence. She is excused following the test composed of over one hundred questions - an abnormally large number. Deckard has determined that she is a replicant, a NEXUS-6 model, but it has been very difficult for him to spot her as non-human - it took five times longer than usual. The test normally takes only 20-30 cross-referenced questions to detect a replicant. Deckard confronts Rachael's manufacturer:

Deckard: She doesn't know.
Tyrell: She's beginning to suspect, I think.
Deckard: Suspect? How can it not know what it is?

She is an unknowing replicant and pet project of Tyrell's - she appears "more human than human." ["How can it not know what it is?" -- this is an ironic statement when considered alongside the alleged theory that Deckard is also a replicant.] Although Rachael believes herself to be human, she has a non-human core. She has had a cruel joke played upon her by Tyrell. Rachael's human qualities are the result of implanted memories and photographs that provide an historical past stretching back to her childhood. [The empty spaces in her memories were filled or implanted with an extremely detailed memory chip - with replicas of the memory cells of Tyrell's sixteen year old niece.]

Tyrell: Commerce is our goal here at Tyrell. More human than human is our motto. Rachael is an experiment, nothing more. We began to recognize in them a strange obsession. After all, they are emotionally inexperienced with only a few years in which to store up the experiences which you and I take for granted. If we give them the past, we create a cushion or pillow for their emotions and consequently we can control them better.
Deckard: Memories. You're talking about memories.

[Deckard knows that memories are vitally important in life - without them, life is vacant. However, as a blade runner, he has had to deny any resemblance between replicants and humans - otherwise, he couldn't function. Now with the latest models of NEXUS-6 replicants, killing the human-like androids will become even more excruciating.]

In the pouring rain, Deckard and Gaff now fly/drive in the spinner to "1187 Hunterwasser" Street, site of the Yukon Hotel and Leon's room to check out leads. They traced his residence (hotel address) from Holden's questioning at Tyrell. A silhouetted and shadowy Deckard enters Leon's bathroom, inspecting and searching for clues. Deckard eventually finds a puzzling clue - a small, scaly object stuck to the bottom of the replicant's bathtub. He gathers it up to take with him in a small plastic bag. Meanwhile, Gaff amuses himself by creating an origami statue/sculpture of a matchstick man with an erection, possibly to tease Deckard about his intense excitement in his job (a job that he didn't want in the first place.) Outside the hotel and across the street, two men watch their rooms being ransacked [Roy Batty and Leon].

In Leon's apartment, Deckard also finds a small stack of Leon's family photographs in a drawer:

(voice-over)...Whatever was in the bathtub was not human. Replicants don't have scales. And family photos? Replicants didn't have families either.

The scene cuts to a scene on a nighttime street - a Chinese sector of the city. In a Vid-Phon booth, white-haired replicant Roy Batty's hand clenches enigmatically and he assures himself: "Time enough." [He is talking to an out-of-frame view Pris.] (Later, Roy is attempting to delay the onset of death - and he plunges a stick through his hand to prevent it from permanently clenching.) Batty meets Leon outside the booth at a pre-determined time, learning from him that "police-men" have searched his hotel/apartment and taken his "precious photos" - all that he has left of his past memories. They walk down the street to an Eye Works laboratory, passing by a shoeshine stand, a line of electrical parking meters (with glowing red domes signifying expired), neon signs, fire burning in a trash can, and Chinese graffiti.

The two enter the icicle-filled, frigid laboratory of the Eye Works manufacturing facility, run by bearded, eye-engineer Chew (James Hong), who is bundled up in a heavy, oversized fur coat and wears insulated gloves. Chew only manufactures eyes for replicants - including the new NEXUS-6 eyes. He speaks lovingly in Chinese to a replicant eye he removes with chopsticks from a plastic storage box so he can view it under a microscope. When Roy and Leon approach, they get his attention by pulling on the heating pipes attached to the back of Chew's furry coat. Chew is shocked that they are not disturbed by the cold. Roy's first words to Chew are paraphrased from a William Blake poem titled: "America: A Prophesy":

Roy: Fiery the angels fell. Deep thunder rode around their shores, burning with the fires of Orc.
Chew: (first speaking in Chinese/English) ...You not come here! Illegal!

Leon plunges his naked hand into a tank full of a sub-zero, cold liquid that contains Chew's eyes in a liquid state. Chew shouts a warning: "Cold. Those are my eyes - freezing." Inquisitively, Leon sniffs at his glowing, ultra-frozen hand after pulling it out. With a chilling smile on his face, Roy demands information from Chew:

Yes, questions.

Leon rips off Chew's heated fur coat and Roy presses the shivering lab engineer with questions about the useful life-span of NEXUS-6 replicants, how they die, and how they can extend their lifetime. Chew vows he only knows about eyes - they need to speak to their creator-mastermind, Tyrell himself:

Roy: Morphology, Longevity. Incept dates.
Chew: I don't know. I don't know such stuff. I just do eyes! Just eyes, genetic design. Just eyes. You NEXUS, huh? I designed your eyes.
Roy: Chew, if only you could see what I've seen with your eyes. Questions.
Chew: I don't know answers.
Roy: Who does?
Chew: Tyrell. He - He knows everything.
Roy: Tyrell Corporation?
Chew: He big boss. He big genius. He design your mind, your brain.

Freezing cold, Chew pleads for his coat back. Roy realizes Tyrell is "not an easy man to see" (a clever pun!). While Leon taunts the trembling and shaking scientist by squishing eyeballs taken from one of the ultra-cold aquariums, Chew offers to have J. F. Sebastian (William Sanderson), an employee of the Tyrell Corporation, take them there for more answers.

Deckard drives home in his turbine-powered car through a glowing tunnel while replaying Leon's V-K test. Arriving in the incessant rain, he is identified by voice-print at the exterior of his own apartment and taken to his floor number: "Deckard - Ninety-seven." When the elevator door opens, he is startled that Rachael is there waiting for him - she has come to dissuade him from believing she is a replicant:

Rachael: I wanted to see you, so I waited. Let me help.
Deckard: What do I need help for?
Rachael: I don't know why he [Tyrell] told you what he did.
Deckard: Talk to him.
Rachael: He wouldn't see me. (Deckard shuts his apartment door on her. He changes his mind and lets her in.)
Deckard: You want a drink? No?
Rachael: You think I'm a replicant, don't you?

[It may be that Tyrell, who plays a God or Creator figure in the film, may have been forcing Deckard and Rachael to be his own personal Adam and Eve, by putting them together as the only two replicants with implanted memories.] In his low-ceilinged apartment, he remains stand-offish. To prove who she really is, she shows him a childhood photograph: "Look, it's me with my mother," to convince Deckard that she isn't a replicant. The photo shows Rachael as a young girl sitting next to her 'mother' on a porch.

And then, to affirm the results of the V-K test, Deckard recounts two examples of memory implants that have been placed in her brain - (1) a childhood game of doctor and nurse, and (2) a spider with an egg that hatched:

  • a memory about 'playing doctor' - "Do you remember when you were six? You and your brother snuck into an empty building through a basement window - you were gonna play doctor. He showed you his, but when it got to be your turn, you chickened and ran. Remember that? Did you ever tell anybody that? Your mother? Tyrell? Anybody?"

  • a second memory (using the audio cues from the V-K test) about hatching baby spiders eating their mothers - "You remember the spider that lived in a 'bush outside your window'? 'Orange body, green legs'? Watched her build a web all summer? Then one day, there's a big egg in it. The egg hatched..." Rachael finishes the sentence: "...and a hundred baby spiders came out. And they ate her."

In one of the most emotionally painful scenes in the film, he brutally and cruelly tells her that her memories are only implants, and that she is just a robot with emotions. Without compassion, he destroys a dream of humanness that she maintains:

Implants! Those aren't your memories. They're somebody else's. They're Tyrell's niece's. (Pause) OK, bad joke. I made a bad joke. You're not a replicant. Go home, OK? No really, I'm sorry. Go home. (Pause)

Replicants aren't supposed to be emotional, but because Rachael is 'more human than human,' tears well up in her heartbroken, watery eyes, and they liberally flow down her cheek. Her face melts after he pounds in the truth. When Deckard leaves the room to get Rachael a drink (lights turn on automatically as he enters his kitchen), she flees the apartment - devastated. As he picks up her discarded snapshot (of Tyrell's niece as a child with her mother), the shadows on the porch in the picture wave or move as if real for a moment or two, and the faint sounds of laughing children are heard. The picture of Rachael with her mother seems to briefly flicker to life.

(voice-over) Tyrell really did a job on Rachael. Right down to a snapshot of a mother she never had, a daughter she never was. Replicants weren't supposed to have feelings. Neither were blade runners. What the hell was happening to me? (As he sorts through Leon's pictures) Leon's pictures had to be as phony as Rachael's. I didn't know why a replicant would collect photos. Maybe they were like Rachael. They needed memories.

[From this point on, Deckard begins his re-education in his own humanity and regains his emotions through his contact with non-human, but super-sophisticated and life-like replicants. He realizes that he wasn't only talking to Rachael and denying her humanity - he was also talking to himself. Her manufactured emotions awaken his own deadened emotions. The idea that 'blade runners...weren't supposed to have feelings' suggests that Deckard may himself be a heartless replicant with implanted memories - a hypothetical theme that keeps reappearing in the film. Conversely, if a replicant can have emotions, so can a blade runner.]

Deckard walks out onto his balcony and views the canyon-like city below.

Punkish replicant Pris, with blonde, straw-like hair, is first seen walking down a bluish-lighted nighttime street. She conceals herself in a trash pile in the front of J. F. Sebastian's apartment building. The next day at dawn, Sebastian parks in a strange-looking vehicle, and then startles Pris when he accidentally drops his keys. She jumps up out of her hiding place and frantically dashes away, running into the side of his van and breaking its window with her arm.

Pris is homeless, hungry and "lost." The shy, childlike, and innocent Sebastian sympathizes with Pris. Needing companionship, he eagerly invites her inside the gloomy, derelict apartment building, describing his lonely life as the only occupant of the large abandoned luxury building:

I've got stuff inside. You want to come in...I live here pretty much alone right now. No housing shortage around here. Plenty of room for everybody.

Sebastian explains that he is a "genetic designer" (for the Tyrell Corporation) who produces realistic toys to be purchased by the upper strata of the society. To combat his own loneliness, the genius toymaker lives with synthetic life forms - automated, humanistic playful 'dolls' that provide him with mechanical companionship:

I MAKE friends. They're toys. My friends are toys. I make them. It's a hobby.

The eccentric Sebastian is greeted by two of his walking and talking doll-toys. A miniature, three-foot-high, but long-nosed Kaiser Wilhelm dressed in a military uniform, and a teddy bear dressed like Napoleon march up to him:

J.F. Yoo-hoo. Home again.
Toys: Home again, home again, jiggity jig. Goooood evening J.F.
J.F. Good evening, fellas.

They turn and march away. Both dolls are a mistake, evidenced when the Kaiser walks into the door frame on his way out of the room. The vulnerable Pris tells him: "I'm sort of an orphan" searching for her friends.

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