What Happened to Ridley Scott?

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What Happened to Ridley Scott?

Ridley Scott gave us Alien and Blade Runner... so how did we get to the cinematic disasters of Prometheus and Exodus?

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Seriously now, every director/actor/creative person goes through periods of drought (look at the early 2000s directorial work of Woody Allen), without it being turned into a pattern...
I don't have half the love some people have on his filmography, but I would not rule him out just yet.

I think much like Steven Spielberg, Scott is now just running on auto-pilot.

To be honest though the only Ridley Scott movie I actually like is Alien. While I certainly respect Blade Runner for being one of the most masterfully shot movies ever, I just find the whole experience impossibly dull. And Gladiator... Yeah, that movie kinda sucked.

What happened to Ridley Scott? It's simple, really: he became Important™ enough to start bossing around producers and screenwriters, he gained perfect artistic freedom, and the constraints that had kept him from slipping into this kind of stuff all along came sloughing off and took his talent with them.

It's no coincidence that his two best movies were made at the very start of his career, back when he was a novice with very little clout (yes, his version of Blade Runner was infinitely superior to that of his bosses... though even the good version wasn't anywhere near as good as Dick's novel, thanks in no part to the utterly-nonsensical "Deckard is a Replicant" interpretation that Scott foisted onto the picture). Great art (often) comes from constraints and necessitated compromises.

The thing about Scott's decline is that it was very gradual; it's not like a lot of other famous directors who had the ONE film where everything went wrong and they went from beloved artist to creative pariah. I mean, even his fans admitted he had a few duds even before this happened. Anticipation for Robin Hood, Prometheus, and even Exodus had high hopes from people, but then they went to the theater and wondered what the hell happened.

The guy's importance to film will never be denied, but it looks like his twilight years are gonna be his mediocre ones.

Okay, I'll say it -- I loved Prometheus. LOVED IT. One of my favorite films in recent memory. I understand some of the gripes about the film, but terming it a "disaster" is a little over the top. I'll also defend Kingdom of Heaven (director's cut), which is underrated.

That said....I do think there is a trend with some of Scott's films lately in terms of them being bloated and unfocused. The most extreme example of this Robin Hood, which is hands down one of the worst, more boring movies I've seen in the last decade. And Bob's description of Body of Lies was pretty spot on -- it was solid but forgettable.

I'll also buck the trend here by saying Matchstick Men was terrible. If you couldn't see the "twist" coming from miles away, then you need your head checked.

It could be that we just had too high of expectations for Ridley Scott himself. Maybe his good films were always contingent on having good producers and screenwriters who could push back on stuff, and once he became Big Enough that he more thoroughly had control of the films he was making he started slipping. People say the same thing about George Lucas, and I know it definitely happens with authors.

Exley97:
Okay, I'll say it -- I loved Prometheus. LOVED IT. One of my favorite films in recent memory. I understand some of the gripes about the film, but terming it a "disaster" is a little over the top. I'll also defend Kingdom of Heaven (director's cut), which is underrated.

That said....I do think there is a trend with some of Scott's films lately in terms of them being bloated and unfocused. The most extreme example of this Robin Hood, which is hands down one of the worst, more boring movies I've seen in the last decade. And Bob's description of Body of Lies was pretty spot on -- it was solid but forgettable.

I'll also buck the trend here by saying Matchstick Men was terrible. If you couldn't see the "twist" coming from miles away, then you need your head checked.

Pretty much matched my sentiment. Ridley Scott has always been hit or miss with me.

I think that for many people, and this comes out especially with artists, they have something to say early on and then when they finally get to say it, and everyone goes "Yup!" then they get successful.

Which is awesome, right? Artists need to eat. Except that most artists then lose touch with what gave them something to say. And because they are successful, nobody is out there telling them, "No, this doesn't work" or really challenging them anymore. The artist must be right, right? S/He's made MONEY, right? They've got awards, right?

But artists thrive on challenge. Challenge is what inspires people-sometimes horrible, awful challenges, but not always. And not every challenge--or, there is a difference between challenged and crushed (as he may have felt after his brother died).

Scott's decline comes post Gladiator and I think it's because he's not being challenged anymore.

It's an interesting question to ask, since it's certainly not like M. Night Shyamalan. But to be honest, I didn't think even Gladiator was that great. From what I've seen of his work in the 2000s, his biggest movies seem to have this odd trend of having incredible visuals and cinematography coupled with weak, hokey and sometimes downright terrible scripts (cough Prometheus) where characters say things and then some things happen without much sense of weight or consequence.

But then there's American Gangster, which is IMO a very well-written film. It's really weird.

Interesting how you bring up Tony Scott. For everything Ridley is known for, no one talks about Tony anymore, as if he didn't contribute anything to the art of movie making.

Well... except the fact he INVENTED the Michael Bay aesthetic which Michael Bay owes everything towards. But actually made pretty decent movies with it. I remember back in 1995 seeing the movie The Rock and thinking I was seeing a Tony Scott movie. For better or worse, no one will stfu about Michael Bay and his militaristic America-fuck-yeah wankfests, yet, no one wants to remember the guy that gave us Top Gun. Hmm...?

:/

Michael Tabbut:

Exley97:
Okay, I'll say it -- I loved Prometheus. LOVED IT. One of my favorite films in recent memory. I understand some of the gripes about the film, but terming it a "disaster" is a little over the top. I'll also defend Kingdom of Heaven (director's cut), which is underrated.

That said....I do think there is a trend with some of Scott's films lately in terms of them being bloated and unfocused. The most extreme example of this Robin Hood, which is hands down one of the worst, more boring movies I've seen in the last decade. And Bob's description of Body of Lies was pretty spot on -- it was solid but forgettable.

I'll also buck the trend here by saying Matchstick Men was terrible. If you couldn't see the "twist" coming from miles away, then you need your head checked.

Pretty much matched my sentiment. Ridley Scott has always been hit or miss with me.

Another thing to remember about Scott -- he's always been a polarizing filmmaker with critics/audiences. Remember that Blade Runner was decimated by critics when it first came out (they called it "Bored Runner" and "Blade Crawler") and was a box office disappointment. Only in later years was it considered a sci-fi classic. Ditto, to a lesser degree, for Alien. The film was criticized for being slow and excessively gory (I believe it was actually rated X in the UK) and while it did well at the box office, it was another film that grew in prestige over the years and wasn't considered a true classic until a more than a decade after its initial release.

So while there's little chance we'll bbe sitting here 20 years from now seeing Robin Hood labeled as a classic or watching Body of Lies be inducted into the Library of Congress as a historic work, I do think the years may be kinder to films like Prometheus and even The Counselor (which I didn't enjoy but can't seem to forget).

Here I was hoping to we could solve the Riddle of Ridley Scott (yes, I went there, and no, I do not apologize for it). I haven't seen the director's cut of Blade Runner or Kingdom of Heaven, but the versions I watched were good. Although it was pretty confusing for Kingdom to give ALL the white guys English accents so you shouldn't tell where they came from (France, Germany, etc.). Gladiator and American Gangster were fucking awesome, but Prometheus? That was the first movie I really payed attention to the viral marketing of a movie, but didn't go see it because of so many online reviews saying in unison "It sucks!" Especially Bob, who is apparently not entertained (BOOM!).

Same as most of humanity, bend TO the rules of the time and not bend the rules of the time.

Prometheus wasn't a sequel to Aliens.. it started as a 5th alien movie but ended up in the same universe as the Alien films but it wasn't directly tied to it.. they included just enough stuff to make the it seem connected to Alien... it's just a universe sharing film

Look, Gladiator was fun, but you're never going to convince me that it was "smart."

Also, I notice that Bob seems to be scrupulously avoiding any mention of the 1989 classic Black Rain. No, not the famously excellent Japanese book and film about the atomic bombing; the movie about an angry American cop shooting up yakuza that Ridley Scott inexplicably gave the same name. I defy Bob to find a way to justify that one as part of Scott's golden age.

Prometheus is under-rated and gets far too much hate.

There were some dumb scenes yes (notably the first half of the film and the bit at the end where they run away from the ship) but there were also some brilliant scenes and great acting! The alien-abortion scene was intense! The story was interesting, basically our 'creators' hated their creation and wanted to wipe us out with the Xenomorphs. It serves well as a prequel to Alien despite not really having an 'Alien' in it until the final scene. I want to see a sequel, there is definitely potential with the story.

Exodus was eh, alright. A bit strange how it tried to play it off as 'realistic' with crocodiles making the Nile red and the sea receding instead of parting with two epic walls of water.

Sylocat:
What happened to Ridley Scott? It's simple, really: he became Important™ enough to start bossing around producers and screenwriters, he gained perfect artistic freedom, and the constraints that had kept him from slipping into this kind of stuff all along came sloughing off and took his talent with them.

That happens to far too many creative folks. Moffat was good when he was writing Doctor Who, before he started helming the ship. Artists sometimes need limits to produce masterpieces.

Honestly, I don't think anything happened to Ridley Scott. He was always great at the visual side of the directing equation, but with some very few exceptions he wasn't usually very good at the story telling side. Luckily he's so good at the first thing that most people didn't notice anything was lacking in his movies for a very, very, long time.

Nothing has happened to Ridley Scott. He has made some great movies and some mediocre movies. You cant expect him to be perfect 100% of the time, only an idiot would expect that.

Woah woah woah...

Prometheus was fucking awesome.

And Bob said he liked it! What is this?

So Bob is saying Exodus is the worst film Scott has ever made? I find that hard to believe, as I hated The Counselor far more than anything he had made before that point.

TristanBelmont:
Woah woah woah...

Prometheus was fucking awesome.

And Bob said he liked it! What is this?

He's backpedaling and jumping on the hate bandwagon like he did with Man of Steel and Dark Knight Rises.

hermes200:
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"No I didn't!"

OT:

I often suspect the George Lucas Effect is in full effect. Once you get big enough, it becomes easy for your head to disappear up your ass. Where once you were filtered by things like criticism, you're now a legend in your own mind (and maybe in the real world, too).

TristanBelmont:
Woah woah woah...

Prometheus was fucking awesome.

And Bob said he liked it! What is this?

KiramidHead:

He's backpedaling and jumping on the hate bandwagon like he did with Man of Steel and Dark Knight Rises.

I don't know. This review was overall positive, but not exactly glowing and largely in step with his recent criticism. I don't think that backpedalling is a legit claim here.

Fair point. It's been ages since I watched that review. I just remember that out of nowhere dig at Prometheus in his Oblivion review last year and going- "Wait what?"

Prometheus was great.

Considering Scott's earlier works, yes there's a disconnect in quality. Regardless of what you think of Prometheus, there's a lot of things wrong with that movie, enough that its definitely not his best work. Plot holes galore and awfully stupid situations and very poor dialogue for supposedly highly intelligent scientist folk. I mean as a director did he not see those issues?
Robin Hood wasn't bad, but it wasn't great. I do feel since Gladiator, Scott hasn't seemed to put the same amount of passion into his movies (save perhaps Kingdom of Heaven). In the last two years though it could be due to his brother's suicide. That would make anyone's life a bit difficult.

People were piling up the legacy of the Alien franchise on Prometheus a little to much. I liked it, yes it was not perfect but it sure tried. It was a true sci-fi film, leaving us with more questions, then answers like a true sci-fi should. Today's movie going crowed with short attention spans do not appreciate that.
Robin Hood had a MAJOR rewrite in the story, originally it was conceived as Nottingham if I remember and was to be focused on the sheriff of Nottingham as a more complex and justifiable character ala Malificent. Studio execs were scared of that for there pockets and scraped the thing for a ordinary gritty Robin Hood story.

But... I liked Prometheus. :(

*hides*

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Casual Shinji:
I think much like Steven Spielberg, Scott is now just running on auto-pilot.

To be honest though the only Ridley Scott movie I actually like is Alien. While I certainly respect Blade Runner for being one of the most masterfully shot movies ever, I just find the whole experience impossibly dull. And Gladiator... Yeah, that movie kinda sucked.

I have to agree with this. While Scott never seemed like a bad director, most of his truly memorable films occurred early in his career. I adored Alien, but if you know about the films production, then you know that most of the intellectual aspects came from the writer and H.R. Giger. The script was as subtle as it was focused, and both it and Gigers work brought the sexual undertones of the film to life. In fact, I'd argue that early drafts of the script were superior to the final version, and that Scott cut key scenes. This is forgiveable for budget constraints, but unfortunate. Scott was by no means a bad film maker, but his best films were a group effort in which he was not the primary creative force. He simply helped focus that creative force.

Fox12:
I have to agree with this. While Scott never seemed like a bad director, most of his truly memorable films occurred early in his career. I adored Alien, but if you know about the films production, then you know that most of the intellectual aspects came from the writer and H.R. Giger. The script was as subtle as it was focused, and both it and Gigers work brought the sexual undertones of the film to life. In fact, I'd argue that early drafts of the script were superior to the final version, and that Scott cut key scenes. This is forgiveable for budget constraints, but unfortunate. Scott was by no means a bad film maker, but his best films were a group effort in which he was not the primary creative force. He simply helped focus that creative force.

I don't know if I agree with that. Scott worked his butt off making Alien. He was still fresh, and didn't have much respect yet. He had his hands full keeping the studio off everyone's back. He initially got a lot of shit for spending so much of the budget on the landing gear and Space Jockey scene. He had to deal with Dan O'Bannon running around like a nervous chicken. And he also storyboarded the entire movie himself.

And the earlier drafts of the script didn't include Ash being an andriod, and honestly he was probably the best character in the whole movie. David Giler and Walter Hill might've been scumbags trying to lift O'Bannon's and Shusett's script away from them, but their inclusion of Ash was gold.

I think Scott's only real flaw is that he's just very hands-off with his actors. In Alien this worked to his advantage, but in his following movies not so much. And I still don't blame him for Prometheus. The fact that he worked on it is really the only reason that makes the movie worth a damn.

Raidenko:
People were piling up the legacy of the Alien franchise on Prometheus a little to much. I liked it, yes it was not perfect but it sure tried. It was a true sci-fi film, leaving us with more questions, then answers like a true sci-fi should. Today's movie going crowed with short attention spans do not appreciate that.
Robin Hood had a MAJOR rewrite in the story, originally it was conceived as Nottingham if I remember and was to be focused on the sheriff of Nottingham as a more complex and justifiable character ala Malificent. Studio execs were scared of that for there pockets and scraped the thing for a ordinary gritty Robin Hood story.

There's a gaping chasm of difference between "leaving the audience with questions" in a meaningful intellect-challenging sense, and cavernous plot holes tied together with a silken thread of Fridge Logic.

Maybe its just because its Sir Ridley that we now expect gold all the time. Despite people saying that Exodus (which I've not seen) and Prometheus (which I did enjoy) being below par, he's still my favourite director out there, just slightly ahead of Tarantino. All the "great" directors make errors of judgement in their careers. Even the once untouchable Spielberg gave us War of the Worlds and *shudder* A.I.

Its Ridleys attention to the little details that make him stand out to me.

What happened to Ridley Scott? The thing that brings down great artists, ego. Once one assumes they are good at their art, that they know what they are doing, they will make shit.

It's always better to assume your shit, that way you'll ask for and listen to the opinions of others on your work and you'll critically examine your work. Once you have a big ego, you'll not seek or listen to the opinions of others and you will not critically examine your own work, then you will make shit.

Gladiator was one of the biggest wastes of time in history. Robin Hood was way better (although not good enough to classed as mediocre)

I have always felt his best movies were the first three--The Duelists is a great, underrated movie--and they're the only things I have in my collection. Pretty much everything else I've seen by him, competent or not, has been missing the 'spark' and unmistakable character of a truly great director.

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