We really do live in the damn future. You know how I know that, aside from the fact that we recently passed the date Marty McFly travels to in Back to the Future Part 2? Because we’re only a few years away from the time of Blade Runner, and if the world of Ridley Scott’s 1982 science fiction film isn’t the future, I don’t know what the hell is. Sir Ridley’s loose adaptation of Philip K. Dick’s novel Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? takes place in 2019 (there are apparently going to be some drastic changes in the next three years), but today, January 8, 2016, marks a very important day in this cinematic universe. Today is the birthday of Roy Batty, and to celebrate we suggest you watch your favorite version of Blade Runner.
There are reportedly seven versions of Blade Runner that have been screened, though not all theatrically (one was just screened for test audiences, and another was broadcast on CBS), but the five most well known were collected in special collectors editions in 2007 and again in 2012. These sets include The Workprint, The Theatrical Cut, The International Cut, The Director’s Cut, and The Final Cut, as the respective versions are generally known, and each has a different run time, has voiceover or lack thereof, includes different levels of violence, and of course, various endings, among other discrepancies.
The point is that, no matter your preferred version—I’ve been fortunate to see three of them in theaters, which is always an awesome experience—today is a perfect day to dust off your copy, call in sick to work, and give it a spin.
To be fair, I guess it’s not really Roy Batty birthday as much as it is his Incept Date, as you can see when the screen displaying his stats pops up in Blade Runner. Played by the venerable Dutch actor Rutger Hauer, Batty is the leader of the escaped Nexus 6 replicants, a crew that includes Pris (Daryl Hannah), Zhora (Joanna Cassidy), and Leon (Brion James), and is the primary antagonist of Harrison Ford’s Rick Deckard. Though that doesn’t mean you can’t sympathize with him.
Originally intended for combat, designed for off-world military action and to have awesome hair, Roy is smart, vicious, driven, and still trying to figure out how to cope with his newly formed emotions that he and his ilk are not supposed to have. After going rogue, he and his followers risk returning to Earth and being "retired" by Blade Runners like Deckard in order to find a way to extend their preprogramed four-year life span.
Roy’s story has a number of religious and philosophical themes and implications. He’s been compared to Christ, especially with the stigmata, self-sacrifice, and knowing he is destined to die; and they’ve been called angels fallen from Heaven, among many other moments of religious symbolism. As they’re looking for their creator, their journey is often equated with a search for God. With their manufactured perfection and imposing strength, the replicants have even been compared to the Nietzschean Ubermench.
But today, all of this is in the future for Roy Batty, as he came forth into the world on January 8, 2016, with no idea of all the trouble, soul searching, and drama he’ll be involved in over the next three years and ten months (Blade Runner is set in November 2019). For now he’s just a bright-eyed young replicant, designed for battle, with big things ahead of him.
So, happy birthday, Roy Batty, hope it’s a good one. And I can’t think of a better time to rewatch your favorite version of Blade Runner. As if you need another excuse.