15. What does it mean to be human?
This is perhaps the biggest philosophical question of all, both in the story of Blade Runner and human existence in general. After all, what is the real difference between the replicants and their human creators?
Humans are conscious of themselves. They think about the world around them with a level of complexity that, in the real world, remains unmatched. They have emotions and sometimes act on those feelings with a depth of feeling that can be equally beautiful and destructive.
In a philosophical sense, how are the replicants any different? Their obvious distinctions are engineered into them. Their intelligence and abilities, along with their short lifespans and the subsequent emotional stunting, are all products of their artificial creation.
Yet, they are terribly self-aware of their limitations. In some cuts of the film, Batty finally confronts Tyrell, his remote and treacherous creator. “I want more life, f—er,” he says, one of the only times someone curses in the film. Other cuts replace it with the word “father”.
What human wouldn’t feel the same rage and despair when facing their own quickly approaching death? The replicants sin just like us, and sometimes try to do good, too – remember that Batty both tries to kill Deckard and also saves him in the final act of the film.
Ultimately, it may be that little lies between us and the replicants, other than a few accidents of time and science. This may be the realization that gives Blade Runner some of its biggest heft and has helped it become such a long-beloved legend.