Batty at the forefront

One of the most compelling features of Blade Runner is the character of Roy Batty. His violent resistance to “accelerated decrepitude” and quest to extend his lifespan speak to his frustration at not being allowed to live longer than four years. Through the noble actions that ensue after Batty has chased Deckard up on to the roof of Sebastian’s building, the viewer is able to appreciate the complexity of Batty’s character. In the beginning of the film, rather than resist death as a sort of knee-jerk reaction, or at least immediately understand his “retirement” as inevitable (as Batty’s character seems to do in Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?), he adopts a very “human” relationship with the knowledge that he is to be killed. Batty is characterized by a degree of suffering unmatched by any other Nexus-6 in the film, as it directly relates to his being informed that a “coding sequence cannot be revised once it’s been established”. His suffering and ability to empathize with other Nexus-6s is evident also when he comes across recently-retired Pris and kisses her good-bye.

If the objective of the film’s creators is to encourage the viewers to understand the human/non-human interplay through the eyes of the Nexus-6s, Rachael’s perspective seems much easier and more natural for the viewer to undertake (as her experience as a non-human revolves around learning that her memories are not hers, and forcing herself to be loved by a human). While Batty’s struggle with the idea of a very limited mortality and his lack of innocent motives make him, at times, deplorable and antagonistic, he does seem more the antihero than Deckard himself. Batty’s refusal to understand death as inevitable persists until he and Deckard meet in Sebastian’s building. After death begins to creep up on Batty, and through his decision to save Deckard’s life, the viewer can appreciate the complexity of Batty’s character. As he speaks his last words (“All those moments will be lost in time like tears in rain. Time to die”), the viewer is left to experience for himself the entire weight of Batty’s suffering.

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4 Responses to Batty at the forefront

  1. I think the question that you raise of using Rachel’s perspective vs. Roy’s is really interesting. I find Roy’s ability to empathize with Deckard (at least at the level of caring about his life/ saving him– maybe this is more sympathy) more compelling than Rachel’s relationship with Deckard as well. On one level, this is the way the film makes us feel just because of the fact that Deckard and Rachel have a very one-sided relationship, and we never really know if there is any depth of feeling on Rachel’s side, or if she just slips into a submissive role. Additionally, though, I think there’s something to be said of the fact that Roy has always known he is an android (or at least it’s never suggested otherwise). Unlike Rachel, he has never been in the position of thinking he is human, through which she has already empathized with the humans she previously perceived as her family. So, for Roy to have any emotion toward human, which he hasn’t seen as part of his species/ hasn’t really experienced anything other than pain from seems much more powerful because it’s less logical, if that makes sense at all.

  2. teithabess says:

    That link is a great find! I wonder how Deckard (from the book) would respond to that tree? Burn it? (Like a true pagan tree!)

    Anyway, of all the things the movie changed from the books, one of my favorites is giving Batty that drive to find more life. When reading the book, I am always surprised at how briefly the androids’ four-year lifespan is discussed. This is mostly due to my exposure to the film, but also because it seems like an obvious point on which to build an android motive. However, a viewer can consider the movie’s taking and running with the android lifespan problem a simplification of its effect on the androids, for Philip Dick’s androids seem to accept their fate much more subtly than anything Ridley Scott created. Besides, Dick’s focus is Deckard, who has enough of his own emotional anguish to fill the book. Nonetheless, even though Batty’s internal, and external, battles are far less subtle in the movie than in the book (many minutes devoted to him leaning over Pris’s body, kissing her, yelling, howling [I still want to know if he could have known what a dog or wolf was], and generally going a little crazy vs. a single cry), they make the film more compelling. Not only are they more visual (a pun, if you’d like, on the eye theme in “Blade Runner,” an example being Batty gouging out Tyrel’s eyes), but also vividly illustrates the critique implied by the text shown at the beginning of the film by making Batty appear far more human than Deckard. Deckard’s destruction of both Pris and Batty become equated with murder, for the viewer has little to distinguish Batty from a human attempting to escape death, which I would argue humans can very much associate with. Ultimately, while Deckard may ultimately compromise with technology by the end of “Androids,” the film leaves the impression that the tension between humanity and the technology it has created is more like a war at times, without the possibility of compromise.

  3. “Batty’s refusal to understand death as inevitable persists until he and Deckard meet in Sebastian’s building.”

    The concluding Roy/Deckard battle scene has always struck me as strange. Why Deckard? Why does Roy go after Deckard? Clearly, he doesn’t mean to kill him; he has no real reason to. Deckard, of course, means to kill Roy, and that might offer incentive to kill Deckard first, but Deckard stands no chance of killing Roy, and Roy’s at death’s door anyway.
    Why Deckard then? There are a few possibilities: 1) the film needs a battle, and Deckard’s available; 2) Roy doesn’t really care about Deckard, and this big show of force represents Roy—for the first time—coming to terms with his mortality; or 3) Roy hunts Deckard to make a point of the arbitrariness of hunting androids, since Deckard has no real reason to hunt androids—he doesn’t seem to understand the moral implications of doing so—and yet he’s made an occupation of hunting them. The above—“Batty’s refusal to understand death as inevitable…”—seems to emphasize the second of these possibilities.

  4. h0p3d1am0nd says:

    I think you bring up some really interesting points. What I really struggled with throughout the movie was Deckard’s lack of clear (empathetic?) motives. In the book, he has a wife to care for and a boss and neighbors to impress. We don’t get any of this in the film. He seems much like a killing machine (though, we know it is actually called “retirement”).

    However, in contrast, as you explain, Batty has very clear motives throughout the film: “violent resistance to ‘accelerated decrepitude’ and quest to extend his lifespan speak to his frustration at not being allowed to live longer than four years.” This feels very human. What have humans been looking for since the dawn of time? A way to end their own mortality; and four years–well, that sounds particularly awful. He also, as you mention, has a seemingly empathetic relationship with Pris, which makes him even more human-like and gives him an even bigger reason to fight their shared fate as androids. I think the fact that viewers see Batty’s motives and see him push back against what seems inevitable is what makes him a likable antihero and even more human than Deckard himself.

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