Ridley Scott : Not A Great Director

That Ridley Scott, eh? What a great director. He has given us Alien and Blade Runner and....well, Gladiator is okay, I suppose.... and Hannibal.....and......er.....White Squall, Black Rain.......Hold on a gosh-darned minute! For a so-called great director, this fella has made some pretty poor stuff. Time to set the record straight.

"What do you
mean 'not great'?"
Here's the problem with Ridley Scott. Ready? He cannot tell a story. Or, more accurately, he cannot tell a story well. He can take a picture alright. Oh yes, his films look very pretty, that's for sure. You know what that makes him? A good photographer. A good director, on the other hand, must have an appreciation of every element of the film-making craft, bringing together everything in just the right mix to create a movie that will captivate the audience. And a large part of that is handling a good story. Scott gets the pretty pictures, but seemingly forgets about the rest of the stuff, like vital plot developments. Oh you disagree? Well, let's look at the evidence.

Ridley Scott's entire reputation rests on two movies he made 30 years ago. Alien is his best movie and is a pretty good horror film. It gave us a great monster, a great heroine and a memorable chest-busting scene. But the reason Scott didn't balls it up is because it does not have a story! It's just a standard horror set-up in which a small bunch of people get picked off by the villain. It's shortcomings were exposed a few years later when James Cameron came along, gave us similar action and horror, but also added backstory, better character development and a plot. Thus, Aliens is a much better film because it has an actual story. And that guy out of My Two Dads.

"Easy, Harrison, please put the
gun down. I promise I'll work
out the story in the edit"
Then there's Blade Runner. Now, it does look great and has influenced countless other sci-fi films, but here's the problem with it. No-one can actually tell you what's going on in it. No-one! They might have their own ideas about it, but they cannot say for certain because the film doesn't give you enough information to know for sure. Even Scott and star Harrison Ford can't agree on the story. Now, admirers of the film say that it is deliberately ambiguous and that is its strength. Wrong. It's ambiguous because Scott never filmed the footage to fill in crucial elements of the story. He has practically admitted this every time he has tried to recut the film to see if he can knock it into shape. At the time of writing, he has now tried this 7 (seven!) times and none of the versions make any sense, because he just didn't work out the story properly first time round. He even had to borrow footage from another movie entirely (The Shining) for the final scenes. Ford actually had to tell him to drop the scene where Jack Nicholson turns up with an axe and threatens to smash everyone's brains out. "It won't work, Ridley," he pleaded, "it's confusing enough as it is."

After those two films, the rest of his output is a mish-mash of distinctly uninspiring stories. Gladiator: a poor man's Spartacus. Robin Hood: a poor man's Gladiator. Kingdom of Heaven: a poor man's Robin Hood. Thelma & Louise: sexist. Black Hawk Down: racist, American Gangster: druggist. What about A Good Year, White Squall, Someone to Watch Over Me, Body of Lies? Exactly! What about them? Can anyone even remember what happened in these films? And let's not forget the terrible Hannibal, the silly Legend and the thundering box-office turkey 1492 : Conquest of Paradise.

GI Jane. A lowpoint. Of everything.
And then of course, there's GI Jane. The scene in which Demi Moore snarls 'Suck my dick!' was recently voted as a lowpoint in the entire history of the movies, and in the history of the world ever. The US Navy made a big deal about the rise in female recruitment in the months following GI Jane's release, but they did not highlight the fact that over a million recruits actually left the Navy in that same period through sheer embarrassment. One Navy SEAL actually stole a Lear jet, kidnapped his family and drove them all into space, rather than allow them to live in a world where GI Jane existed. "I've completed tours in Vietnam, Afghanistan, Iraq and LV-426," said veteran marine Pat Siske, "and I have never seen anything as horrifically bad as GI Jane. Even that Village People song wasn't this bad."

More recently, excitement has been building about Scott's upcoming film Prometheus, in which he returns to the sci-fi genre. The reason for this is clear - he himself realises that he must hark back to the days of Alien and Blade Runner if he is ever to make another good film. In fact, he admitted as much when I met him recently down the pub and confronted him with this theory. After some protestation and an attempt to distract me with a piece of Hovis, he broke down and confessed "It's true, it's all true. I'm a big fraud!", and spent the rest of the night sobbing in the toilets - only the promise of another chance to tinker with Blade Runner could lure him out. Prometheus might be good, but I think the irrefutable evidence discussed here suggests it will be despite Scott, rather than because of him.

So what have we learned today, children? We have learned that Ridley Scott, far from being a great director, is a pretty mediocre one and this is fundamentally due to his inability to tell a story well. Cinema is primarily a medium for the art of story-telling, a practice which leads all the way back through history to when the first cavemen sat round a fire and told stories to each other. Had Ridley lived back then, he'd have been the caveman saying "So there was this man.....no, actually it was a woman.....and she went into the kitchen .....no, actually she went into space......and there she met a robot.....no, an alien......no, a..............hold on, i'll draw you a picture in the sand with this stick. Have we time for me to tell it seven times?"

"Sigh. And I got away with
it for so long"
UPDATE!! Well, well, turns out Prometheus wasn't so good after all. What a surprise.

1 comment:

  1. Anonymous4/11/11

    ROFL You liked ALICE IN WONDERLAND!You have zero credibility.That is all.