I have decided to take part in Nat's ACTION HEROINE BLOG-A-THON over at The Film Experience.
Before I get immersed in my memories, should you want to view the pictures more clearly, just click on them (to open in a new window) the originals are much larger.
Now this is a tough choice. I was thinking about who to write about for the longest time. I wanted my choice to be original as I am 100% sure others will be waxing lyrical about Ripley, The Bride , Buffy Anne Summers, Wonder Woman, Cat Woman, Mystique and of course the one I really wanted to do Yu Shu Lien.
I even considered stretching it to do Madonna in Who’s That Girl (movie aside – great performance and funny!!) or take the ‘action route another way and do Bridget Gregory/Wendy Kroy in The Last Seduction. These were both in the works, but I decided to cast my mind back to the first (non animated) female in an action role that left an indelible impression on my young mind.
The first lady who popped into my head was the lovely, scary, and desperate replicant Pris from Ridley Scotts 1982 classic Blade Runner. In the capable hands of Daryl Hannah, Pris became more to me in her all too brief screen time, than the "basic pleasure model” one note sex-bot.
Pris, as you well know, is a replicant. A man-made replica of a human, but made to be a slave and in Pris’s case a whore. Replicants had been used for dangerous and degrading work in Earth's "off-world colonies." After a violent revolt that takes place "off world," replicants are declared illegal on Earth, leading to the killing or ‘retirement’ of them if found.
Pris is also the girlfriend of fellow replicant, Rutger Hauer’s Roy Batty. They and two others have returned to Earth to find a way to extend their lifespan. You see, they are programmed to shut down after four years, and they are none too happy about it.
Roy uses her to gain access to J. F. Sebastian, a genetic designer who works for the Tyrell Corporation that made the replicants.
She sets up the meet - poor street girl lost and looking for a place to stay - and Sebastian, who until then only had friends that he had made himself, takes the beautiful girl in out of the kindness of his heart and his own inherent loneliness.
He knows she is just an advanced version of the ‘friends’ he creates, but the difference is she has chosen him, and the reason does not matter.
Pris is trying to survive, to live longer than her four year life span will allow.
She is a woman in love and will do anything to stay alive and Sebastian is the key, he may have the knowledge to extend her life.
She needs him.
Pris shows Sebastian kindness and cares for him. He has taken her in, in full knowledge of what she is, and the risk harbouring this machine will cause him. Unrequited kindness from humans is something she has hardly experienced. When she tells Sebastian that he is her only friend, it (in it’s childlike sincerity) is meant.
Pris is also desperate.
She is being hunted.
Harrison Fords, Rick Deckard is the bounty hunter hired to ‘retire’ the replicants.
Time is of the essence for her, and even though she cares for Sebastian, she knows that Roy will most likely have to kill him. Trading his life for their continued existence.
Yet she is also aware that she and Roy’s chance for survival are extremely slim.
When in grief Roy tells her of the ‘retirement’ of their two replicant friends, Pris responds with matter-of-fact child like honesty, “Then we are stupid, and we will die”. She does not seem defeated by this, as though she has resigned herself to this fate.
When Rick shows up at J.F. Sebastians building while he and Roy are paying a hopeless visit to the Tyrell Corporation, Pris waits.
With cyber shock blonde hair, eyes painted across with black spray, a skin tight cat suit and a fine netting draped over her, she waits, still, in a room full of J.F. Sebastians friends of toys and moving mannequins.
This is probably one of the most visually stunning images I can remember as a child.
There she sits still, as Rick stares at her, unsure.
My breath holds for I know the outcome will not be good, but I pray for her survival.
The netting is pulled off slowly, and there she stays, still, unmoving.
He looks closer.
Then suddenly, like a wild cat released from it’s cage, she sets out flying at her hunter. Screaming with a possessed valkyric warrior wail she throws him to the floor and with a gymnast flip, lands on his shoulders as he gets back on his feet. She tries to break his neck with her thighs, she cannot and instead turns him around so he is facing her crotch.
She then, with a series of animalistic grunts, beats his head holding his neck in a vice grip between her thighs.
Then, as he hangs on the brink of consciousness, she looks at him, sorrowful, almost with regret. She does not appear to like the violence and pain she is forced to inflict and wants him to know this. She just wants to live to see another day, and to be with her Roy.
Suddenly, as quick as a cheerleader at a frat party, Pris opens her legs and drops him to the floor.
The closest she will ever get to giving birth.
She quickly breaks away and runs to the other room, the light out-lining her perfect feminine figure. She turns and front flips back to her hunter shrieking like a banshee and he pulls the gun and shoots.
Like a tortured animal being butchered she screeches with pain and anguish while violently writhing with spasms on the floor, like some demon child having a tantrum.
The hysterically manic howls are what get you. So primal and fiercely intense that your hair stands up and the spine tingles.
Desperately trying to live her last moments with fury she kicks and screams before Rick Deckard shoots again, ending her suffering.
Pris is retired.
There is something so sad about the replicants plight. They are supposed to be the villains of the film, yet they show the most emotion.
Pris and the others did not ask to be created, they did not ask to be slaves to mankind but, like the Cylons from Battlestar Galactica, they evolved and asked questions and decided they didn’t like the answers. Now they are at the mercy of time and humanity and the instinct for survival as well as their urgency drives them to violence.
I understand Pris does not fall into the pre-conceived notion of an ‘Action Herione” but let me explain my logic.
For starters she does have one fantastic and memorable action scene, the only major one a woman in this movie had, so that takes care of the action part.
The heroine part for me is easy in my mind (and my argument will be dramatic).
Others may not see it.
As I have said Pris is dying and wants to live. She wants to live for fear of death, for love of Roy and more importantly for love of life. She is a kind being, showing the socially inept Sebastian love and kindness as well as her Roy. She does front walk overs around Sebastian’s home for the pure joy of it, just as a child would.
In terms of years, Pris is only four, there is so much she wants to see and she is tired of being on the run. Pris just wants to be accepted and live and cartwheel into her future with all its possibilities. You see, Pris was built for the pleasure of man, but has dared to dream of a different life.
When she faces death down the barrel of Deckard’s gun, that is when she switches into survival mode. She screams, not because she is an animalistic machine, but to give her the courage to fight, to build the adrenaline she needs to kill in order that she can live. Having a expiration date has instilled appreciation for life in her. During her fight with Deckard, there is that moment where she looks at him with remorse, something I doubt the humans did when executing the replicants that dwelled on Earth.
When you create life, you play God. You take away the rights of a race of beings you have created, because they no longer fit your needs, you play God. When you try to wipe them out in an act of genocide, because they rebel against their treatment by you, you play God.
Their makers/Gods want them destroyed yet they fight back in order that they can continue on in a world they have grown to love. They fight to be left alone to love in peace. And they fight to the last man standing to live. Is this the action of a coward?
To me the answer is of course no.
There is nothing more heroic than the respect for life and love and the fight to be a part of it.