Men Made Gods: Biblical Themes in Blade Runner

Share this post

Watch any film in Ridley Scott’s Alien or Blade Runner franchises, and you’re bound to notice some common themes. Not least amongst these is man’s search for meaning. Biblical aspects span all of the films, with men like Tyrell, Weyland and finally Wallace making gods of themselves. And in the lands of gods exists monsters, be they replicants or xenomorphs.

Biblical themes are not uncommon in pop culture, and Scott’s work is rife with them. As far as whether the stories within it are real or not is beside the point. No, what matters is the impact, and the Bible’s influence is apparent as far back as William Shakespeare. It only makes sense for directors to continue to do so today. Scott is amongst those directors with Denis Villeneuve artfully following suit in his iteration of Blade Runner.

Since this article is fresh off the release of Blade Runner: 2049, the biblical themes within that film, and its predecessor are going to be discussed here. While similar elements are certainly present within the Alien franchises, those films deserve an article all their own. Weyland is mentioned here due to a quote attributed to him about Tyrell and the belief by many fans that the two series exist within the same universe.

That’s how he ran his corporation, like a God on top of a pyramid overlooking a city of angels. –Peter Weyland

Eldon Tyrell appears as a man whose the perfect balance between subdued and flagrant. His hand’s folded before him and his head slightly bent, Tyrell is more than the creator of replicants. It is his interactions with Roy Batty that supplant him as an inventor and morph him into a god.

Roy’s more human than human nature is indicative of Adam in the Christian Bible, and while Los Angeles in the first film appears dirty and decaying to the human eye, to someone like Roy, it is an Eden filled with possibilities if he can reach his god in the tower. His quest to Earth and subsequent desire to extend his life is comparable in many ways to the religious pilgrimages individuals take to holy sites. In Blade Runner, as with those individuals, there is a search for meaning in life, and while those who pray at sacred sites, do not get to confront their god, Roy does.

Tyrell’s interaction with Roy is when man destroys God. While religious individuals will argue that it is man’s purpose to serve God, the opposite is true in a Neitzeian sense. God exists to serve man. When God no longer serves its purpose, man destroys it. When Roy finally meets with Tyrell, he is momentarily in awe, but the reverence quickly expires. “The light that burns twice as bright burns half as long,” Tyrell explains. This, however, is an unacceptable answer and Tyrell’s God to Roy’s Adam no longer serves his purpose and his creation destroys him.

The death of his god fits into Roy’s narrative when considering the actions he takes at the film’s climax. The question about why he opts to save Deckard’s life instead of ending him is one that still puzzles fans. However, without the promise of either destruction or reward for pleasing his god, Roy can act as he chooses. The purpose of his creation (war) no longer applies and as such, saving Deckard’s life is for him, the final nail in the coffin of his god Tyrell.

You’ve found the key to civilization, and all it will cost you is everything. – Niander Wallace

 

Wallace knows, beyond any doubt that he is a god. Where Tyrell likely did not see himself that way, Wallace prides himself in such a label. The world within 2049 is darker than the original despite the presence of ‘Angels,’ and cranks the biblical themes up to eleven.

In Blade Runner: 2049, Niander Wallace takes up Tyrell’s role, but he is comparable to the god of Revelations. Appearing feeble and soft-spoken, he is brutal, and power hungry. However, to understand Wallace, it isn’t just Villeneuve’s film that deserves examination. The first of these films, 2036: Nexus Dawn, directed by Luke Scott is the best insight into his character.

During his exchange with the group of politicians, he acknowledges the only reason for their patience is due to his contribution. Indeed, Wallace’s inventions have staved off starvation for the populous, but he is also aware that such a thing is temporary. “The Earth is Dying. You are dying,” he tells them. However, his belief in life isn’t about saving humanity. He wishes to morph it into his likeness. By unlocking the secret behind Rachel’s child, he becomes the harbinger of the apocalypse especially if he could remake the species in such a way they grow wholly compliant to his will.

Deckard is best to view as a successor to Tyrell and a rival to Wallace. In many ways, he is indicative of the New Testament God. His child is representative of a Christ-like figure. This is especially true when considering what she represents to the replicants. Her memories become pseudo prophecies to the events which unfold. K’s reliance on those memories acts as the driving catalyst behind the film in many ways.

The film ended much like its predecessor suggesting the themes discussed here could expand in a later film. Wallace doesn’t seem like a man whose easily deterred. God becomes a lot harder to kill when he surrounds himself with wrathful Angels. He may still yet, have the final word.

Leave a Reply