Rutger Hauer: Remembering Roy Batty, the man who had seen things we people would never believe
To a new generation brought up on Netflix and randy vampires the name Rutger Hauer may not even register, let alone Roy Batty and Blade Runner, and therein lies the greatest shame.
"I've seen things you people wouldn't believe. Attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion. I watched C-beams glitter in the dark near the Tannhäuser Gate. All those moments will be lost in time, like tears in rain. Time to die."
It was with those words that Rutger Hauer's iconic character Roy Batt took his last synthetic breath, a last firing of bio-laced neurons destined to fail. That was the lot of the Replicant, a sentient being with a clock ticking down.
'Blade Runner' (1982) is arguably one of the finest films ever made, a neon-lit, smog frocked eulogy to humanity's last gasps on Earth. A thrust into the unknown to save a species as inherently cruel off-world as it was to the planet that birthed it.
Ostensibly the hero of Ridley Scott's towering triumph is Rick Deckard, played brilliantly by Harrison Ford, but in Deckard's nemesis Roy Batty did the film find its true titan. A Replicant who returns to Earth to find his maker in the hope that he can find a way to avoid his pre-ordained demise and live just a little bit longer. Why? No one really knows, but there's a glimmer of hope that towards the end Batty wanted what all of us really want: to preserve a memory, to keep a sliver of ourselves alive, to hope to find a quantum of immortality in the froth of space.
Batty could easily have been played as the evil villain hell-bent on destroying humanity as he hopes to satiate a megalomaniacal need to live forever. Batty could easily have been run-of-the-mill. But in the soul of Hauer, Batty found life. 'Blade Runner' is the story of Batty, no matter what Deckard fans think. Yes it is about life, it is about immortality, and it's most certainly about a creator and his creation.
In the most iconic death scene in cinema history, Batty, sitting in the pouring rain, with dove in hand should be swept away into the gutter of humanity, a footnote to the vast list of inhumane actions of a species that rewrites its own moral code on a whim. But Hauer's Batty would not go gently into that good night. His gentle caress of the fragile dove speaks volumes of the thing he is; all power, but still able to exert the gentlest of touches to those he wishes no harm.
In the end Batty knew death was coming, a trench-coated spectre arriving from out of the deluge, and as much as he wished to avoid it he also knew to recognize the inevitable finality. And he does so with the consummate grace of a creature of the great vacuum who has seen the stars up close and reached out to kiss the galaxies.
To a new generation brought up on Netflix and randy vampires the name Rutger Hauer may not even register, let alone Roy Batty and 'Blade Runner', and therein lies the greatest shame. We may have inadvertently done to Rutger Hauer what Tyrel did to the Replicants, washed away an icon like tears in the rain.