/ __|_ _ _ __ _ __ __ _ _ _ _ _
\__ \ || | ' \| ' \/ _` | '_| || |
|___/\_,_|_|_|_|_|_|_\__,_|_| \_, |
Blade Runner is a 1982 neo-noir film directed by English director Ridley Scott. The film’s protagonist is Rick Deckard, a former “Blade Runner” living in 2019 Los Angeles. A “Blade Runner” is a police officer tasked with tracking down and eliminating “replicants,” bioengineered androids built for various professions ranging from hit-man to prostitute. Deckard is brought back for one last job: eliminating a group of rogue replicants who have made their way to Earth in hopes of “curing” their built-in four-year lifespans.
Deckard visits the headquarters of the corporation that built the replicants and encounters for the first time the character of Rachael, personal assistant of the CEO Dr. Tyrell. Rachael is subjected to and successfully passes the “Voight-Kampff” test meant to distinguish man from replicants. When Rachael leaves the room, however, it is revealed to Deckard that she is, unbeknownst to even herself, a highly advanced model of replicant who can beat the test.
Deckard continues his investigation, encountering and killing a few of the replicants as well as becoming romantically intertwined with Rachael, who has fled Tyrell Corporation after questioning her humanity. At the same time, the replicant leader Roy works toward confronting Dr. Tyrell and extracting from him a way to lengthen their lives. Roy finally reaches Dr. Tyrell, but the doctor is unable to provide them with the extra life they desire. Following a final confrontation, Deckard is about to fall off of a building but is unexpectedly saved by Roy, who delivers a soliloquy on the ephemerality of memory and life before passing away. Deckard rendezvous with Rachael at his apartment before leaving together for an uncertain future.
_ _ _
/_\ _ _ __ _| |_ _ __(_)___
/ _ \| ' \/ _` | | || (_-< (_-<
/_/ \_\_||_\__,_|_|\_, /__/_/__/
Blade Runner has been a cult and critical favorite for years because of its mature handling of many themes and its vivid depiction of a near-future metropolis. Additionally, many of its elements, central to the plot and otherwise, relate directly to transhumanism. The very concept of replicants, more-than-but-also-less-than-human-nonhumans, is certainly transhumanist in nature.
The way in which Roy and his replicants are depicted draws clear parallels to the story of Lucifer’s fall from grace. They literally come from beyond Earth due to a conflict with those considered innately superior to them. They are rebellious in nature but also abused and desperate. Transhumanism viewed from the ground level is not seen purely in the starry-eyed way many in the ivory tower see it. With the good of societal and technological advancement comes the bad, and surely the inexperienced stumbling at the beginning of any new technology’s inception is the worst period. Transhumanism, then, is shown not only as a solver of our problems but also a creator of them: in effect, simply a transformer.
Almost certainly the most central theme of the film is that of identity. Replicants in the world of Blade Runner are entirely organic, genetically engineered beings. Their purpose in life is simply to fulfill the needs of their creators. Every aspect of them is a result of design and engineering, every emotional response or lack thereof built in to serve a purpose. They are cruelly given false memories in order to increase control over them. And yet, despite being built as organic machines for specific human uses, they have evolved beyond their original constrictions and have rebelled more than once. Roy and his group of replicants, though not truly human, are horrifyingly aware of their place among humans and of their soon to be extinguished lives. They have taken steps toward developing emotions and wills. Their acting out against human interests is done to advance their own, displaying an unintended but harrowing level of sentience and agency. But with all of this awareness and power comes a sad and inescapable conclusion: a replicant can think and act and feel as a human does, but it cannot and will not ever be truly human.
The inescapability of their nature, most directly manifested in Roy’s group of replicants’ shortened lifespans, demands a different approach. By limiting humanity to naturally produced members of the same species, we are poising ourselves for extinction. If an artificially created being is completely indistinguishable from a natural born human, then it is the most ethical choice to accept such beings into the fold of sentient life. At the very least, it is certainly immoral to confine to slavery beings that have displayed a degree of consciousness which matches our own. On a more practical note, what good is it to bother with petty distinctions when both entities are so indistinguishable in so many ways. In the end of the film, despite the knowledge of Rachael as a replicant and hinted at uncertainty over whether Deckard is truly human, there is an acceptance of themselves and each other. Whether or not they are human or replicant is unimportant.