City Tech, Fall 2016

Class Discussion: ‘Blade Runner’

This is a space to continue our class discussion of Blade Runner.

Here are the group discussion prompts from today’s class, as starting points (though you can address anything you want in relation to the film here):

Consider the novel & film together. While you should certainly take stock of their similarities and differences, this is only a first, brainstorming step. Your discussion here should not only note key similarities and/or differences but also (and this is the crucial part!) discuss the significance of these similarities and/or differences. Putting two texts in dialogue with each other allows you to create a more nuanced argument about their themes, conflicts, characters, and meanings.

  1. Consider the novel & film together. While you should certainly take stock of their similarities and differences, this is only a first, brainstorming step. Your discussion here should not only note key similarities and/or differences but also (and this is the crucial part!) discuss the significance of these similarities and/or differences. Putting two texts in dialogue with each other allows you to create a more nuanced argument about their themes, conflicts, characters, and meanings.
  1. Consider the scene in J.F. Sebastian’s apartment, where the replicants encounter other automata (his “toys” and creations). In particular, consider the scene where Deckard uncovers Pris (before she attacks him).
  1. Consider the scene in which Roy encounters his various creators (first “Chew” with the eyes, then J.F., and then Tyrell).
  1. What’s up with the “unicorn” dream & origami figure at the end of it?
  1. Consider the theme of “eyes” in the movie.
  1. Consider the theme of memories in this movie.
  1. Consider the setting of the film, and how this contributes to the themes, plots, and conflicts.
  1. Consider the scene near the end, in which Roy and Deckard struggle and fight. How does this battle help reinforce (or complicate) our assumptions about these characters, about the distinction between replicants and humans, and about good and evil?

Also, make sure to check out today’s class notes (once they are posted), for more themes of what we discussed. Let’s engage with the notion of the “cyborg,” and also “prosthesis” (remember to check out the great scene, starting at minute 43, where Deckard enhances his vision to see into Leon’s photography through the use of the Esper machine).

[The Logistics]

Just a reminder that you should make your at least one comment (just hit “reply,” either to my original post or to another comment on it) by F 11/4. Then go back/read through all comments and extend the conversation by making at least two more comments (of course, more are always welcome!) in response by 11:59pm on Su 11/6.

Your comment (reply) can be just a few sentences: provide the quote/citation and a quick explanation of how/why it functions in the context of some larger issue/question (or you can raise questions, complicate issues, extend discussions, analyze a character, or setting, etc. &/or discuss central conflicts/values/themes through the use of your evidence/analysis). Feel free to post multiple comments, and also to respond to others. If you’ve already discussed some of these instances in your previous blogs or in class, you should feel free to draw on that material.The goal is to have some good virtual discussions here to help you think critically about important themes/questions raised by this complex novel, and to find/analyze/synthesize various pieces of evidence in support of claim.

The goal in all cases is to provide specific examples from the film (quotes/scene + citation – use the minute:second format) with discussion/analysis and some connection to a larger claim/argument. You must cite currently in MLA format (in-text citation).


  1. Johnny

    I would be remiss to not say I’ve seen the movie several times before and the viewings sparked reading of analysis and critiques.
    With that in mind, I find the films focus on time, eyes and hands to very fascinating. Focus on hands and faces always evoke in me the image of a clock. During the clip we saw in class, we see Pris applying make up followed by the striking of a clock. (1:13:00) Similar juxtapositions were made in Metropolis. It draws parallels between the two, man and machine. Its especially poignant in Blade Runner as the distinction between the two is blurred, and the clock reminds Pris of her short life span.
    I especially enjoy the films focus on eyes. I remarked in my blog that few people in the film see clearly. Deckard stares at eyes through a screen and looks for the absence of life. Moreover, the entire world seems to be clouded by rain and darkness. Batty thanks chew for his vision and recalls the wonderous things he has beheld. He later removes Tyrell’s eye as though he didn’t deserve them.

    • Rino

      To extrapolate on an artistic point Ridley Scott might be trying to do here, the focus on eyes might be part of the whole “eyes are a window to the soul” kind of thing. The Replicants, with the orange tint in their eyes, are considered “lifeless”; so too is the focus of eyes being reflective of the ability to see humanity through the Voight-Kampff. And your point about people not seeing clearly could also talk about the uncanniness of the Replicants to pass as humans. This blurring (wish I could italicize that for emphasis) line between the real and fake, and how Rick ultimately agrees with Gaff’s remark of “it’s too bad she won’t live, but then again who does?” in relation to how can you really value a life.

      • Jill Belli

        Great points Johnny & Rino! (& Rino, you can always use ” ” for emphasis here, even if you can’t italicize within the comments).

  2. Johnny

    Sidenote: check out this video if you can about a film with similar themes to Blade Runner.

    Link is a brief video essay about the film Ghost In The Shell, which is about a cyborg cop hunting down a malicious A.I. It tackles themes of man v. machine, false memories, and how space and technology can influence identity. Strongly recommend checking it out if time permits.

    • Rino

      And I did watch that Youtube vid, thanks for the link Johnny. I’ve been meaning to watch Ghost In The Shell because I heard it’s one of those “must see animes” that people boast about. That attention to detail in animating the city in it’s own dedicated, extended scene in the middle of the movie has me now more intrigued to finally watch it. Thanks again for sharing, cheers!

    • Cody

      I always used to watch Ghost in the shell when back in highschool at night, the show can tie in a lot of themes like Johnny said. It’s a great show, It kind of reminds me of Blade runner when i think about many of the episodes. Especially dealing with trying to have emotion and empathy. Show is full of symbolism especially the movie.

  3. Daniel Mayorga

    The scene where Pris encounters J.F. Sebastian’s creations demonstrates how inferior the automatons are compared to the replicants. If we were to take a look at the scene during her first encounter with them, more specifically (40:50), we can see a tremendous difference in terms of quality. Replicants are on a completely different level, as they are able to make decisions similar to that of a human. Whereas one of the toys greeting them, runs into a wall instead of just moving slightly to the left. So we can draw out a type of hierarchy, which has replicants above automatons.

    Now if we were to take a look at the scene where Deckard uncovers Pris (1:32:33), we can see that the replicants can pass as both humans and automatons. Deckard had trouble distinguishing which one was the replicant in hiding, considering how Pris made her appearance to that of a mannequin. If she hadn’t attacked Deckard, he probably would have looked the other way or checked one of the other creations.

    • Rino

      Another interesting thing to add and think about with Pris is that she’s a “pleasure model”. Both her and the toy automatons act as a means of entertainment for people, reflective of their creator’s motive for making them. It again illustrates that humans see the Replicants as tools, whether it’s for slave labour, combat, or for pleasure, which might be why Pris gave that look of disdain when first encountering them since Sebastian is making a tool to subside his loneliness.

    • Sky Captaina - Alex S

      There is also the fact that JR made both or at lest helped make the replicant , meaning that both have the same creator. So both the toys and the replicants are of the same line and most likely JR made the toys because it is illegal to have replicates on earth, meaning he had to use his skills from the make of replicants to create flawed versions the would pass as toys. Also it would be difficult for him to get all the parts needed to make a full replicant being part of an assembly line. The process for making either is not know to us so it is not impossible that he could get enough to make something better from scraps or get everything if no one cares to stop him. So long as he would not sell them, then there is no risk to the company. The only issue would be the tech of the brain which is the new model, other then that everything else would be considered standard parts. So other then the brain and the outward look of the two, they are of the same family of engineering.

  4. Joselin Campoverde

    The final scene where Roy and Deckard fight for their lives marks a major turning point in the film as it displays a contrast between a replicant and a human and who are the good ones and bad ones in the film. In my personal opinion, after I watched the ending scene, the perspective I had towards the replicants significantly changed and I start to sympathize to them. The final scene made me come to the conclusion that the replicants were uncomprehended by a human society that only see them as machine slaves to satisfy their needs. I feel like the only thing they wanted was to form part of the society and live in peace among humans and this is revealed through the character of Roy. Roy’s desire was to extend his life so he can live longer and see those wonderful things he has seen while being alive. But knowing that nothing can be done to stop his demise, he decides to use those final moments to save Deckard’s life(1:45:42). This heroic act demonstrates that Roy appreciated the value of life, and what it meant to be good as opposed by the protagonist of the story, Deckard. In my opinion, this scene becomes the major turning point in the film as it changes the view of the entire movie. The “bad guy” becomes a sympathetic being of a society that misunderstood him

    • Sky Captaina - Alex S

      The end was odd to me, before and during the film the Replicants killed to get to their goal of getting away from what they did before and to get new life or prolonged life. So why at the end when all of his friends are killed by Rick why does Roy save him. What point does it lead to. It could be possible that he wanted to show the world that he could do things outside of what he was made to or that he can become more then what was made as said above. It just feels like the end was not enough time to change or do things differently from Roy. There is a lack of progression from killer to savior in that short time. As to who is bad or good, both Rick and Roy are killers just with different reasons.

  5. Rino

    Expanding on question number 4, I wanted to look at all the scenes where Gaff creates an origami figure and note the significance they have and maybe figure out what role Gaff plays in the film.

    The first one was in the office where Rick was talking to the Chief about being convinced to take on the case of retiring the Replicants (12:40). Gaff in this scene creates a chicken and places it down right as Rick leaves the office, but then returns back. Gaff knew that Rick was essentially being called a “chicken” and thus went on to take the case. So, for whatever reason, Gaff was able to predict Rick’s emotional response to what the Chief, as though he were clairvoyant.

    The second time Gaff creates a figure is when they are exploring Leon’s apartment to discover clues about his whereabouts (24:25). After getting evidence, which was an artificial snake scale belonging to one of the Replicants, Gaff places down a figure of a man, who appears to have another appendage that resembles a tail. This could signify how Rick views the Replicants, humanoids that he believes are really animals or monsters. The discovery of the snake scale also plays at the idea that the Replicant he is now seeking is an “animal” and a serpent no less, which has many significances including that of the snake that tempted Eve to eat the forbidden fruit (which you can take from that as you will and interpret it more in depth).

    The third and last time Gaff creates an origami figure is that of a unicorn, in the very last scene of the film (1:51:45). You also hear Gaff say “it’s too bad she won’t live, but then again who does?”, referring to Rachel. So you can take away at this that Rachel is the “unicorn” that Rick dreams about but can never grasp; a mythical creature that is not REAL, which was one of the major premises of the entire film (and by extension, DADoES?). Is Rachel not real because she’s an android? Rick decides to believe that she is real, as he leaves the film with a smile of agreeance with what Gaff said.

    With Gaff’s ability to almost predict Rick’s thoughts, I’m going to make the bold statement of saying Rick is a Replicant/android. To support this, I refer to the scene where Rick is discussing false memories with Rachel (32:20) and how Rick is able to “predict” what memories Rachel has. Gaff is also able to predict Rick, not only knowing his “dream” of a unicorn but also knowing what his thought patterns are like. Moreover, all of the Replicants have the same “glint” in their eyes in certain lighting (it’s an orange tinge, making their eyes look as though it’s made of glass/mechanical); there is a scene where Rick’s eyes appear this way (1:06:30), when Rick tells Rachel he wouldn’t kill her, but “somebody would”. I’m not sure if there are other scenes where his eyes are like this, but that’s the one I caught when I skimmed through the movie again.

    • Joselin Campoverde

      I agree with your assumption about Rick being a Replicant with implanted memories. And this is reflected through the ability of Gaff to predict Rick’s thoughts as it were his. I found it pretty interesting the fact that he is able to perceive and anticipate Rick’s emotions and actions before he performs it. But I wonder that if Rick is a Replicant, then it would change the perspective of the entire film. We observe that Rick is in love with Rachael, he cares about the Replicant more than anybody else. He even runs away with her to save Rachael from being killed by the other blade runners. He finds a reason to live and displays feeling that is only presented in human beings. So in that case, if Rick was a Replicant, the film let us imply that the ability to display emotions and feelings is what clearly defines to be human, and that just as human beings, the Replicants deserve the same care and treatment that human beings receive.

  6. Jill Belli

    Keep the great comments going here everyone. Really fascinating analysis happening 🙂

    & just to through a few more things into the mix, we should also consider the role of “gender” in the film and also the Esper machine (the photo analysis), around minute 43:00.

    • Johnny

      Despite the scene with Deckard and Rachael (1:11:00), I found Deckard to be asexual. I didn’t feel he was motivated by sex or strongly attracted to any character. I got the impression that interaction between him and Rachael arose from his need to fill a void or distract himself, akin to constant imbuing of alcohol. Additionally, the scene felt aggressive instead of romantic.
      On the other hand, I felt that the scene with the Esper machine to be oddly voyeuristic at first. As I re-watched the scene to gleam its significance, I found myself mirroring Deckard, leaning closer to the screen to read it more carefully. Each time the camera cuts back to the machine, its a little closer. Deckard also sits closer and closer, until all we see is the a close up on the photo and the lights hitting Deckard’s eye. (45:20) Perhaps Scott is beckoning us to place the whole movie under the same scrutiny.

  7. Cody

    The ending scene to me is the part that stood out to me the most. Roy who was a combat model Android toyed with Rick the entire time they were fighting giving him chances to escape and chances to kill him. I believe it was when Rick killed Pris Roy felt something new. He leaned over her body and felt her and knew she was gone, then he cried. That was when he finally started to feel some sort of empathy. When he gazed over rick fighting to survive and not fall his expression changed, and he that’s when he had the full understanding. Saving him was the only way Roy could prove to humanity he now has what they claim he can’t. I wouldn’t call Roy a bad guy, his entire purpose was to kill he was designed to kill. His creators who made him kill I would call evil. Roy using what he was made to do escaped from that life only to be hunted. And in being hunted he did everything he possibly could just to survive. The only thing Roy really wanted was to live so he can see more, and understand more of the world he was on for such a short time.

    • Joselin Campoverde

      That is an amazing understanding of the character of Roy. I definitely loved the final scene too as it shows us that what makes humanity is the fact that they are able to feel empathy towards others. I sympathize with Roy because through him we can that robots are not only a killing or slave machine but they can actually feel emotions just as individuals do. The only thing that Roy wanted is to live longer and see more things that still not discovered. He did not want to be seen as a machine but as an individual in society.

    • Jovan

      I feel like this was a great analysis of the character of Roy. His creator’s were more focused on self gain then they were the lives of the andys they created. Through the movie Roy’s character fought to live, while in the book, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? Finding a way to live longer was not a recurring idea, not only among Roy but any of the Andy’s. I feel like with Roy’s Character in the final scene , he was imposing fear on Rick the same way Roy, as a hunted Andy felt. I think the reason Roy let Rick live was so Roy could never be forgotten. I also think he let him live so Rick could use his experience to change the perception of andys as a whole, not only to Rick but to eventually everyone through Rick.

  8. Sky Captaina - Alex S

    so much of this film is visual to the point that every revolves around eyes and what they see. The Flight over the city, seeing it reflected in the eye, but not sure to who they belong to. What do eyes mean when they are made vs born? do fake eyes see less of the world or more? Roy saw things that most humans did not, like ships on fire over Titan and other sights that only combat androids get to see. The city that they come to, what do they see it as? All the humans running around, crowded in a dark city that always rains. What did they think of their masters, what did they see. Some joined them and played the part of entertainers while others seemed to just stay back. Perhaps Roy was the only one who did not wish to have anything to do with humans other then to get fixed or maybe he understood them too well. They were made by humans, to fight, to kill to go where humans wanted them to go and where humans did not want to be. So that is the question did humans try and remove evil from themselves by moving it to their children. If humans no longer kill humans them a long standing sin can be removed. Same with the pleasure androids, if they are not humans but can be used to fulfill needs without it being called cheating then another vise can also be removed. So does that mean that all the negative parts of humanity where carried over to them? And if that is true, then is Rick truly an android because he is sent to kill, something that humans seem unable to do now.

    • Johnny

      You proffer some good questions. In my opinion, you can’t detach yourself from violence. If you are aware of the action of others, and observe their actions, you participate through inaction. In other words there is no such thing as an innocent observer, Tyrell being fully aware of his “children’s” transgressions is as much a participant as the replicants.

  9. Jovan

    I think the Visuals in this film help the watcher experience the darkness and loneliness the characters are feeling. As for the eyes, Yes they are the window to the soul, but i also feel like they are a reminder to the androids that they are being watched. When Chew tells Roy, they he in fact is the creator of Roy’s eyes, i didn’t read into it as much more then he is one of Roy’s creators. However in the group discussion while talking about question #3, it made me believe that because all of the Androids eyes were given to them, there perception is tainted by their creators. What ever they see, they must interpret it the way the creators made their eyes to see it. I feel like this gives them a false sense of reality.

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