Today, Facebook went public. All well and good. But yesterday, Deadline New York reported that Blade Runner co-writer Hampton Fancher is in talks to join Blade Runner director Ridley Scott in developing a sequel to the groundbreaking film. This is admittedly a very tenuous statement, but it bodes well for the direction of the new film. All we know beyond that, is that it will be a sequel to the events in the first film, but won’t focus on Deckard, Harrison Ford’s character. This is a different approach from Scott’s Prometheus, which is a prequel to Alien set in the same universe, but not directly tied to the events of that film. We’ve already talked in perhaps a little too much exacting detail about the risk of Prometheus being a rehash of Alien, and the apparent adoption of exogenesis as a plot device. This time, we’ll go a bit off the deep end on Blade Runner.
I’m okay with this not focusing on Deckard. The first time I saw Blade Runner, it was a Harrison Ford science fiction detective thriller. Han Solo in our future. It fit the proven formula of a detective story, complete with a retired cop who’s too old for this, a grizzled captain, an elegantly dressed but mysterious love interest, a tycoon with a god complex, a shorter nebbish man with uncertain loyalties, and of course dark brooding villains.
But over repeat viewings over the years, I realized that there was much more going on here, for me. At its heart, the film is talking about what it means to be human. The humans, or more precisely the alleged humans, are generally brutish, single-minded, and even robotic. The replicants are in contrast, creatures with passions, interests, devoted to keepsakes, and loyal to each other. The premise of the film presents them as killing machines, that in turn must be killed. SPOILER: However, right before the leader of the replicants, Roy Batty, dies, he demonstrates extraordinary compassion for the man trying to kill him, and delivers some of the most resonant lines in my experience watching film:
I’ve seen things you people wouldn’t believe. Attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion. I watched c-beams glitter in the dark near the Tannhäuser Gate. All those moments will be lost in time, like tears in rain. Time to die.
Tears in rain. What an astonishing metaphor for the human condition. All our moments are subject to being lost. It’s our nature as mortal beings. We strive to achieve goals, to achieve immortality in the memory of others, we raise children with our ideas and behavior, and they carry us further too. But to take these ideas head on in what is ostensibly an action film, is something that is generally missed by film critics. To me, science fiction has always had a unique ability to question the real world. And this instance is no different.
While Roy’s quote was written in part by the actor Rutger Hauer himself, the original text in the screenplay that he riffed on was a centerpoint for the screenwriters and Scott too. This was the core of the film to them. And it became the core of the film for me, not the Deckard storyline. If they can replicate that core for a sequel, and give a new generation pause to question their own humanity, when much of our discourse celebrates commercial success, then that is something worth the experience and the conversation.
SF: I seriously lost my shit when I saw the article title. I would willingly headbutt a porcupine in the face for this.