Guest Post: Happy Birthday, Roy Batty! (And Why Karen Should Watch Blade Runner)

Greetings, Excuse This Honesty readers! My name is Kari, and I’m taking over, muahahaha!!

Well, okay, no, this isn’t a takeover, it’s a guest post. Because today I discovered that the lovely Karen, your usual host here, hasn’t seen the 1982 sci-fi classic Blade Runner.

I’ll give you a moment to pick yourself up off the floor. Back? OK.

This is particularly relevant today, the 8th January 2016, because in Blade Runner’s timeline, today is the birthday or Incept Date of Roy Batty, as played by Rutger Hauer. We’re catching up with the future, faster than some of us would like to admit.

Now, plenty has been written about Blade Runner, and there’s a lot that can be said – but even though it’s 33 and a half years old we’re keeping things spoiler-free today. Because Karen is going to watch it after she’s read this post. Oh yes, she is.

What’s it about?

Blade Runner is set in a dystopian Los Angeles in November 2019 (like I said, we’re catching up to the future way too fast!). The powerful Tyrell Corporation manufactures genetically engineered androids called Replicants which are practically indistinguishable from humans – but gifted with superior strength, agility and/or intelligence depending on the model. Replicants are illegal on Earth – they’re only permitted on the off-world colonies – so any who make their way to the planet are to be hunted down and “retired” by specialised cops called Blade Runners. Two weeks prior to the beginning of the film, a group of replicants led by Roy Batty escaped the off-world colonies, and jaded Blade Runner Deckard (played by Harrison Ford) is reluctantly drafted in to deal with them.

It’s based on the 1968 novel Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? by Philip K. Dick, and directed by Ridley Scott – it was his third film, following shortly after 1979’s Alien.

But which version?

I’ll be honest, Blade Runner wasn’t originally received well – when the original workprint version was shown for audience test previews negative responses led to film executives demanding modifications. These included a narration by Harrison Ford, which the actor was reluctant to do. He is quoted as saying, “I went kicking and screaming to the studio to record it.”

In 1990/91 the original workprint was shown as a director’s cut, albeit without Ridley Scott’s approval, and positive responses prompted the studio to approve an official director’s cut. Significant changes in this version included the removal of Deckard’s voice-over and the original ending which had been imposed by the studio, as well as the insertion of a sequence which implies a certain underlying difference to the ending. However Scott was not directly in charge and was never completely happy with this as a definitive version.

In 2007 a version of Blade Runner over which Ridley Scott had complete artistic control was finally released; the Final Cut. So, in short, this is the version that you want to watch!

Visual and Audio Aesthetic

The film draws strongly from film noir conventions, both in the screenplay and in visuals, with dark and shadowy scenes in which corporate power looms large, and stunning special effects which were inspired by the landscape of “Hong Kong on a very bad day”, the industrial landscapes of North East England, Edward Hopper’s painting Nighthawks and a French science fiction comic magazine called Métal Hurlant. Overall it is a visual aesthetic which has since been copied by many programs and movies in the cyberpunk genre.

When you consider that the special effects were made with 1982’s nondigital technology, they are absolutely stunning and generally recognised to be among the best of all time. In addition to matte paintings and models they often used multipass exposures with the set lit and shot, then the film rewound and recorded over with different lighting, sometimes up to 16 times.

The soundtrack, created by Vangelis, perfectly matches the visuals; futuristic synthesisers combine with classic composition to create a dark melodic background for the stunning retro future.

Cultural Impact

It’s hard to understate the cultural impact of Blade Runner; the style and design of the film has influenced films, anime, video games and television programmes and it has been frequently cited as one of, if not the, greatest science fiction films of all time.

It’s also influenced music; the song More Human Than Human by White Zombie is a prime example. The title references the slogan of the Tyrell Corporation, and some of the lyrics are inspired by lines in the film.

That Monologue

Okay, if you haven’t seen it you won’t know what I’m talking about. However, once you have seen it, you’ll understand. There’s a certain brief monologue by Rutger Hauer as Roy Batty which was altered from the script and improvised by Hauer the evening before it was filmed. It is said that when he performed the scene the film crew applauded and some even cried.

There are clips of the speech on YouTube, but honestly, it’s best to see it in context.

So, happy birthday Roy Batty, see you in 2019?

Kari is an international local woman of mystery who also writes fiction at and other stuff in other places…

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