The Light That Burns Twice As Bright…

“The light that burns twice as bright only burns half as long and you have burned oh so brightly…” – Eldon Tyrell

Roy Batty. Rick Deckard. Eldon Tyrell.  If you know these names, then it’s likely you’ve seen Ridley Scott’s science fiction “tech-noir” masterpiece Blade Runner.  It’s also likely you’ve read – or at least know – that the film is based on a novel called “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?” by Phillip K. Dick, who also wrote the stories that led to Minority Report, Total Recall, and A Scanner Darkly.  Simply put, Blade Runner is the story of Rick Deckard – Harrison Ford – and his mission to “retire” (terminate) a rouge band of “replicants”:  life-like machines that think they are, and desire to be, human.

While Deckard is hunting the rouges, their leader – Roy Batty – is hunting his creator, Eldon Tyrell.  Roy’s quandary is one of overcoming the limited life-span given to replicants, something he believes Dr. Tyrell can rectify.  It’s upon locating and meeting Dr. Tyrell that  the statement quoted above is made, to Roy, indicating the problem cannot be solved.  So Roy runs, hunted by Deckard for his actions, and haunted by his coming fate; Roy knows his end is near, unavoidable, and suffers from this knowledge.  He knows he’s seen things most wouldn’t believe and all beauty therein will be lost:  “Ships burning off the shoulder of Orion, c-beams glitter in the dark near the Tanhauser Gate.  All these moments will be lost in time, like tears in rain…”  Roy wants more time and he is powerless to attain it; he isn’t ready to die.  I think that individuals who face their own mortality – before they’re ready – experience what Roy Batty experienced; I’ve been there before.  Yet in my case there have been multiple interventions, instances wherein my light should have been snuffed out but was not. Like Roy, I know that I am living on finite time; borrowed time…time given to me that I should not waste but instead make the most of.

Among the many reasons that Blade Runner is considered by many to be the most influential science fiction movie of all time is that is was one of the first (and still the best) to really ask what it means to be human and glimpse the possibility of overcoming an innate nature, to resist natural programming (as seen with Roy’s action to save Deckard and the “Tears in Rain” soliloquy).  Unwittingly, Roy is actually a great picture of redemptive theology.  In his quest for life eternal he has openly committed the evil of murder, specifically of his creator.  Combat is what Roy Batty was programmed for, it was his nature.  Nevertheless the moment comes wherein he saves the Blade Runner that has been hunting his kind.  Deep within the recesses of this Nexus 6 something turned, and when given the obvious chance to let Rick Deckard die Roy does the opposite (and it is witnessing all of this that changes who Deckard becomes; from a violent has been with a bleak existence – at best – to someone who is willing to love and protect someone he considers not of his kind, Rachel).  However, there is no guarantee this change in Deckard will lead to a happy ending (depending on the version one watches).

Similar events occur in the life of one who come to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ.  Prior there was one nature, one set of programming at work (“what I do I do not want to do, therefore, what I hate I do”) that governs an individual.  Yet when Christ enters the picture a second nature becomes present, a nature that is in conflict with the primary programming and only one can win out.  For the new nature to triumph the old nature must be overcome.  As the new nature emerges and is embraced a feared force such as death – in Roy’s case “retirement” – can be accepted and even welcomed.  In welcoming the end under such a paradigm, some might say “it’s too bad he/she won’t live…but then again, who does?”  Yet even in a Christian worldview this this too is answered, as life abundant is to exist beyond the embrace of death.

As Paul Sammon writes in Future Noir:  The Making of Blade Runner, films are excellent vehicles through which to ask questions, but not the best avenues to answer the questions sometimes asked.  Blade Runner asks deep questions that get to the heart of the human condition, but there exists outside the universe of 2019 Los Angeles a lens through which to answer the world of rain, replicants, and runners that the audience poignantly ponders afterward.


 

 

 

 

 

 

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Aaron

About Aaron

Author, Speaker, and Super Nerd. Aaron Welty speaks and writes regularly connecting the dots of life, faith, and science fiction. Originally from Michigan, he now lives and works in the Washington, D.C. Metro area.

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