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At the end of Blade Runner why does Roy Batty catch Deckard as he is about to fall? I have always assumed that it was perhaps the realization of his own imminent demise that caused his actions. I was wondering what other peoples opinions are or if it has ever been discussed in Blade Runner documentaries? I have not seen it mentioned in any of the many DVD extras.

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To demonstrate his ironically more compassionate humanity. –  Mark Rogers Nov 25 '12 at 22:46
    
Also on Movies SE. –  unor Aug 21 '13 at 22:46
    
Maybe he was malfunctioning. Just before a computer breaks down it's prone to doing all sorts of weird things. –  Richard Jul 5 at 20:29

8 Answers 8

up vote 35 down vote accepted

I feel there are two reasons Roy saved Deckard.

The first is that, during his final moments, Roy utters his awesome "Tears in the Rain" soliloquy, which extols the wonders of life, and despite its complexity, how utterly fleeting and transitory life is:

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 Tannhäuser Gate. All those moments will be lost in time, like tears in rain. [pause] Time to die.

Rutger Hauer, the actor playing Roy Batty, improvised that speech a bit at the last moment, cutting some of the scripted speech, and adding a bit of his own improv.

In interview with Dan Jolin, Hauer said that these final lines showed that Batty wanted to "make his mark on existence ... the robot in the final scene, by dying, shows Deckard what a real man is made of." from The Ridley Scott Encyclopedia.

Roy Batty, throughout the final confrontation, points out Deckard's failings. He breaks his fingers for Pris and Zhora, and asks Deckard "proud of yourself, little man?". He directly taunts Deckard's supposed moral highground: "Not very sporting to fire on an unarmed opponent. I thought you were supposed to be good. Aren't you the 'good' man? C'mon, Deckard. Show me what you're made of."

The first, and most obvious reason Batty spared Deckard's life is to demonstrate that he (Batty) understood the value of life, and what it meant to be "good", better than Deckard, the supposed protagonist of the story. It is one of those moments that flips the perspective of the entire narrative, and suddenly the "bad guy" is now the sympathetic victim of a system that never gave him a chance. It is, in my opinion, one of the single greatest moments in the movie, and is one of the primary reasons why I consider it a true classic.

The second reason is more subtle, and more speculative.

The original version was "lightened up" a bit by the studios. Changes made in the later Director's Cut, however, introduced hints that Deckard himself might be a replicant (the "unicorn scene", and Gaff's unicorn origami). During an interview in the 2000 BBC documentary On the Edge of 'Blade Runner', Ridley Scott confirmed that Deckard is, in fact, intended to be a replicant.

In the light of this revelation, it is conceivable that Batty knows this, and saves Deckard out of a sense of kinship (which also ties in with the moral high ground portion above).

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That is a great answer. I did know that the "Tears in rain" portion was improvised. I also agree with that potential last part about kinship. All the way through the movie we see replicants exhibiting more feeling towards each other than the humans do to each other almost turning the robot-human roles around. At the back of my mind was the thought that he saved him because the possible kinship angle. Great answer –  bazz Jul 26 '12 at 21:13
    
+1 Awesome answer. I think the first part is more important; the second part of your answer (the spoiler) is also relevant, but I think it's less important. Batty has no way of knowing this bit of information (if he could tell at a glance, then a certain test wouldn't be needed); I choose to believe his "kinship" is with all living sentient creatures. But awesome answer nonetheless! –  Andres F. Jul 26 '12 at 23:13
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+1 just for quoting the tears in rain monologue. –  psr Jul 27 '12 at 22:48
    
“the robot in the final scene, by dying” “We are not robots ! We are living beings !” –  Nicolas Barbulesco Mar 23 '13 at 12:37
    
@Andres The test may be required for humans to figure out whether somebody is a replicant - A replicant, with its superior senses may actually see a difference in moving / reasoning / other clues without having to perform the test. –  flq May 28 '13 at 7:16

I always interpreted that scene as Roy finally coming to grips with his own mortality and, in his final moments, accepting it instead of fighting against it.

Throughout the movie, Roy and the other renegade replicants were trying to find a way to avoid their demise. They ultimately weren't able to. As Roy and Deckard fought at the end of the movie, Roy's body was gradually giving out. There is a scene where his hand clenches shut and he has to drive a nail through it to unclench it.

I believe that Roy finally realizes that no amount of resistance or punishment he deals out to Deckard is changing the fact that he is going to die. As his body slowly gives out on him, he decides to accept his fate, and realizes that he just wants someone there with him. Maybe he doesn't want to be alone in his final moments, or maybe he wants someone there who will remember him, so that his memory can live on even though his own memories "will be lost in time like tears in rain".

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That is also a great answer. I had never thought of the "not wanting to die alone" angle on that scene at all. –  bazz Jul 26 '12 at 21:14
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+1. I also think driving the nail into his hand was intended as a reference to the story of Jesus Christ. In the context of the movie it meant that he had come to terms with his mortality and chosen forgiveness over revenge. (Admittedly this interpretation is weaker if Deckard is a replicant. I prefer the released movie to the director's cut because Deckard being a replicant diminishes the significance of this scene, without adding much except a pointless plot twist not very different from what they did with Rachel, with whom it worked much better). –  psr Jul 27 '12 at 22:45

Some good thoughts here, but I will add a simple formulation to the sum. If Tyrell had created nothing more than extremely convincing machines, then it's no great crime to create them to wear out quickly. If he created actual human beings, then it's a terrible crime to create them to live profoundly only to die quickly. The whole question of Blade Runner, indeed of most of Philip K. Dick's work is, what is the dividing line between the original and a perfect copy of something?

What defines a human being, what separates him from being either a mere animal or an automaton is free will - the ability to override our basic nature and choose a different path. Batty was a combat unit, designed and programmed to kill. By saving Deckard as the final act of his existence, he demonstrates that he has freewill, that he is a fully human being, and thus the enormity of Tyrell's crime against him and the other replicants.

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+1 Very interesting thought. It is the final proof that Batty, originally a combat model, is doing something out of his free will. –  Andres F. Jul 26 '12 at 23:12
    
That is another excellent viewpoint and one that I had not thought of at all. –  bazz Jul 27 '12 at 17:48

My thought has always been that Roy Batty, in the moments before his death, finally understood what it was to be human.

One of the best explanations of that scene, and the symbolism that it contains it from Philosophere Blog:

It’s obvious that there are several motifs in this scene. The dove often represents peace, which is why Roy was carrying it when he saved Rick’s life. The rain creates a theme of sadness, and in the monologue Roy says “like tears…in the rain.” So, it’s a multifaceted scene that can be interpreted in many different ways. In regards to the question; however, what makes a living human like Rick, different from a living, but non-human being such as Roy. The answer to me lies in the human ability to understand one’s self in relation to his or her existence, and then ask the pivotal question…why? What I am referring to is self-awareness. Self-awareness is defined as being aware that one exists as an individual being, but I find this definition too simplistic for my argument. Instead, I will list defining characteristics on what it actually means to be self-aware.

  1. One must know that he or she exists.

  2. One must have the capacity to contemplate him or herself in relation to his or her existence.

  3. One must have be able to conceive an ideal self of some kind.

  4. One must have an innate sense of right and wrong or ‘ougt’ness.

Roy Batty finally realized that being created in a lab didn't make him any less of a human.

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I've heard that the release of a white bird is an ancient symbol for the departure of the soul upon death, especially the death of a king. –  Beta Jul 26 '12 at 19:13
    
@Beta That would definitely jive with the way Batty is portrayed by his makers. –  Ryan Jul 26 '12 at 19:23
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And the way we finally see Batty compared to the "hero" Deckard. I disagree with your answer; I don't think Batty saw himself as human at the end, or felt much kinship with human beings, or had ever thought of himself as inferior to them. I think he saw human beings as petty creatures who couldn't even appreciate what he was, and what a terrible loss his death would be ("I've seen things you people wouldn't believe..."). But miserable little Deckard was the only one left he could tell about it. –  Beta Jul 26 '12 at 19:59
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Good theory! Aren't movies that leave the endings open to speculation grand? :) –  Ryan Jul 27 '12 at 0:06
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@Beta I think that's the one. No tombstone for Roy, only words seared into Deckard. –  Rob May 21 '13 at 15:10

Wonderful thread.

What if Deckard IS one of the six Replicants? What if Deckard had been their leader? Returning to Earth was his idea. His plan. He was caught trying to enter Tyrell corp. and re-programed. Was Rachel the other? Were they lovers off-world, as were Roy and Pris, Leon and Zhora? There's your six, three males, three females.

Roy saved Deckard's life because they were friends. Deckard's memories are truly lost, like tears...in the rain.

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Was Roy his lover? –  Paul D. Waite Dec 7 '12 at 11:55

In the original book, the key theme is the difference between humans and androids, and what defines humanity. This raises two themes:

1 - Humanity = Empathy: In the book replicants differ to humans in that they supposedly have no empathy. The "Voight-Kampff" test distinguishes replicants from humans by giving a moral dilemma and testing for the empathy response. The idea that replicants are incapable of empathy is questioned throughout the film as the replicants a clearly capable of feeling of kinship for each other (even as they are cruel and callous towards humans) and mourning each other's loss. Roy's final act of compassion drives the question home - are replicants truly incapable of empathy? Is empathy something innate that we are born with or something that can be learned. Roy's brief life experience and his forming an attachment to his fellow replicants, particularly Pris has perhaps finally taught him to feel empathy. Empathy might simply be lacking in replicants because they lack real experiences, they never had the experience of a mother's love (harking back to the question that sent Leon over the edge at the start of the film). And if empathy is the result of experience then is an implanted experience (a false memory - like Rachel's implanted memory of her mother) enough to create empathy and hence imbue replicants with humanity. This leads on to point two

2 - Humanity = Memory: If our humanity is accumulated by our experiences - and stored in our memory. Then all of Roy's humanity is contained in the amazing recollections he has accumulated during his brief existance and eulogised in his final monologue. He comes suddenly to the realisation that his memories - the sum total of his "humanity" is about to disappear. By saving a witness of his life in Deckard, he saves some of his memories, and therefore some of his humanity from death. This makes the viewer think about the connection between experience, memory and humanity. Does a lack of memories make the replicant less human? Does the fact that Rachel's (and possibly Deckard's) memories are artificial mean that she is less human?

The final soliloquy is the masterful touch that brings all the main themes explored by the film to a point.

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+1 For theme #2! –  Andres F. May 17 '13 at 0:23

Why does Roy save Deckard?

Roy Baty has has ended his rebellion against humans and given up fighting against his fate of a too short life (how human). Intellectually, he knows his time is up-his body is failing. More important, his spirit and will to fight is dead. It died with Pris. Without Pris or other replicants he would be relegated to being a talking machine. Without meaning there is no life. He and his friends have failed in their quest, so he lets go.

Even though he is a machine, Roy is 'human'. This is stated in two ways. The rain soliliquy is the same summary any human might give at a moment of utter defeat. Also, saving Dekard's life is Roy's statement of awareness of shared humanity and the value of life. Roy is a dead man walking (or sitting). Depriving Dekard of his life serves Roy no useful purpose. As a statement, it is even more powerful because he sees what biological humans are too prejudiced to see.

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In the original version of the movie Deckard's voiceover gives some speculation on the reason why:

I don't know why he saved my life. Maybe in those last moments he loved life more than he ever had before. Not just his life, anybody's life, my life. All he'd wanted were the same answers the rest of us want. Where did I come from? Where am I going? How long have I got? All I could do was sit there and watch him die.

Although removed from subsequent releases it remains, so far as I am aware, the most authoritative answer you're going to get.

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protected by Kevin May 21 '13 at 16:09

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