Director Talk – Ridley Scott

Posted: March 4, 2012 by Daniel Simpson (PG Cooper) in Director Talk

That’s right folks, Ian, Fogs, and I are back, this time we discuss Ridley Scott, director of Alien, Blade Runner, and Gladiator. Check it out!

Ian: PG, Fogs and I are back for another Director Talk. This week we have chosen Ridley Scott as our subject of scrutiny. Ridley Scott made waves in 1979 with the hit Alien, and since then he has been one of the premier directors in the business to this day. So what are our initial thoughts on Scott and his works? Does he deserve the status he has in Hollywood? Is he still one of the top directors working today?

Cooper: In general, I’m a Ridley Scott fan. He’s made some amazing films. However I do think he can be a bit hit or miss. He seems to have long stretches of films which don’t strike a chord with the public and are just average. I should point out though that I’m not as versed in Scott films as I liked to be. I’m hoping with Prometheus, he makes a return to excellence. And I should also point out that despite my criticisms, the Scott films I love, I really love.

Fogs: For me, Alien and Blade Runner are two of the greatest films of all time. They’re SO freaking good that they would elevate an otherwise undistinguished director to consideration amongst the greats. But Scott’s got plenty of other good / great films (Alien & Blade Runner being all time great) Black Hawk Down, Matchstick Men, Kingdom of Heaven, Thelma and Louise… Plus, I wouldn’t argue if anyone wanted to call Gladiator all-time great, or cite it amongst their faves. Add it all up and there are times when I wonder if he’s actually underrated.
Ian: Under-rated. That’s an interesting thought.I suppose you’re right in some regard, but I lean more towards PG’s thinking about Scott being hit-or-miss. His latest Robin Hood movie was a real miss. But the thing is… does Scott have his own distinctive style? I mean, Alien and Blade Runner I think had a certain style to them, but Ridley never really duplicated that, did he? Its not like Hitchcock or Speilberg or Kubrick who have their own stamp on their films through their own distinctive style. I don’t know if he has that. Hes a very ompetant director, don’t get me wrong. But does he put a stamp on films like other auteurs?
Cooper: I don’t know about a distinct style, but all his films have some universal characteristics. All of them are AMAZINGLY well done on a technical level. Art direction, cinematography, editing, it’s always excellent. Even when Scott’s actual storytelling is off, everything is amazing to look at. I don’t know I’d call it style, but in almost all his films that I’ve seen, the actual setting is a key component. Where and when the story takes place is always crucial. His movies also usually have a certain scope and grandness to them. Take Alien, which is a relatively low key story. But when you watch it, it feels larger than life. Gladiator, American Gangster, Robin Hood, and especially Blade Runner also have this sense of scope. The only film he’s done (that I’ve seen) that doesn’t share that grand feel is Matchstick Men, which is still an awesome movie. I don’t know if that counts as a “style” but it’s certainly a trait common to his films.
Fogs: No, I think you could call it his style. He has an emphasis on creating an immersive environment. That’s a choice that he makes that feels a bit like his trademark… He’s big on creating a setting that feels realistic, atmospheric, makes a contribution to the film, etc… even when he misses with the film, he usually succeeds there. That’s one of the things that he does best. He creates a film world that seems alive, and then lets you get lost in it. Even in some of his less remarkable offerings, say “American Gangster” or “Robin Hood”, he still succeeds at creating a very credible world for the characters of his films.
Cooper: I will say, regarding American Gangster, while it is somewhat of a disappointment, I still think it’s a really good movie. It’s just that with the cast and director it had, you expect it to be better.
Ian: Yeah, great points about the immersive environments. He does do an excellent job of recreating time and place. He’s right up there with Mel Gibson in that regard. But I do wonder if I were to ever watch a film by him though knot knowing it was by him, would I know? I’m not sure I would.

Fogs: Well, that’s a valid point, but in total honesty, I wonder how many filmmakers we COULD do that with. If there was some random unseen movie directed by a great in their prime, I bet it would be hard to name the director for MOST directors. Not every director has a tell-tale sign if you will, like say JJ Abrams and his lens flares. For example, if someone didn’t know Spielberg directed “Catch Me if You Can” I bet they’d be hard pressed to guess it was his.

The best we can do is look at the overall body of work they try to present and find commonalities between all the films… their running themes and repeated choices. And to me, that’s something that definitely stands out with Soctt’s works, although his stories are always very solid and he gets great work out of his casts. He even had NIC CAGE acting! LOL
Cooper: Well, one major theme through all of his films is the theme of corruption. Alien, Blade Runner, Gladiator, and Robin Hood all have elements of corruption at the core of their story. In Alien, the deceit and lies told to the crew of the Nostromo and not knowing what Mother really wants with the alien. Gladiator and Robin Hood both have corrupt politician, and Blade Runner? That entire movie looks at how corrupt the future is in so many different ways. I also think there were elements of corruption in American Gangster, but I don’t remember.
Ian: Yeah, I don’t know if a corruption theme is a stamp though.
Say, what are your thoughts on Blade Runner? Its got a massive amount of supporters but also a surprising amount of detractors. I think its one of the most important films of the last 30 years, but man is it dull. I’ve tried to go back to it a couple of times, but I just can’t like that movie.
Fogs: … (blink. blink) …

Cooper: I’m not saying a corruption theme is a stamp, but it’s certainly something that prevails in a lot of his films. As for Blade Runner, I adore that film. The craftsmanship alone is worthy of admiration. But beyond that, I find it a very interesting story full of deep themes. Not to mention it takes place in one of the most amazing worlds ever put on film. I love Blade Runner, one of my all time favourite films.And yet with that said, I totally see why it doesn’t work for a lot of people. As much as I love the story itself, I could see it feeling tired to some. Plus, the film has a very depressing feel, and I know a lot of people find it unpleasant to sit through.

Fogs: … (blink. blink) …
Ian: Alright, it looks like I’m in the minority here when it come to Blade Runner. And yet, I’m odly convinced that I’m right… odd how that works. ;)
Fogs: Wait, wait wait wait wait.
Did Ian call Blade Runner boring? I…
Look, I’m prepping right now to do a Lambcast for Blade Runner as the movie of the month. Which I championed. Which means, I actively campaigned for people to vote for this flick. It is one of my favorite films of all time, and I believe its one of the greatest. Its in my personal top ten. The only exemption I’ll grant is for people who have not yet seen “The Final Cut”. Previous versions of the film – all of them – were not completely under Ridley Scott’s creative control. He never HAD Final Cut UNTIL “The Final Cut”. The differences are remarkable. It’s leaps and bounds over all other versions of the movie. Superior by exponential degrees.
Aside from that, the problem I feel that most of the people probably have with it is they’re trying to make it something its not. They’re looking for an action movie, and its not there. What IS there is a beautiful crafted sci-fi film noir, loaded with themes about technology, God and man, self awareness, Love… I could write a dozen different essays on different themes within it. And I just may before I’m done blogging.

Cooper:Well Ian…YOU’RE WRONG!!!! Just kidding :P. And in all seriousness, I see why Blade Runner doesn’t work for everybody. Ian, I know your moderator, but I have to ask this question. It’s clear Fogs and I think Blade Runner is our favourite Scott film (call me out if I’m wrong Fogs), but what’s you’re favourite Scott film?

Ian: Oh dear, I feel like I’ve stepped on a hornet’s nest here.
I appreciate Blade Runner; I really do. Its a visual spectacle an important science fiction film. But as much as I could describe to you what the film looks like, I honestly don’t think I could put together a play-by-play of the story. And I’ve seen it a couple of times. It just wasn’t that compelling to me. Anyway, I know its an unpopular opinion, but I also know that I’m not even close to being alone in holding that opinion.
As for my personal favourite Scott film, without a doubt it would be Alien. I think a lot of the visual style of Blade Runner has its beginnings in Alien. It gave us a sense of this vast, complex future world, even though we only saw the inside of a spaceship. Its really one of the greats in both the sci-fi and horror genres. It was his first major film, but I think he has yet to top it. Prometheus should be interesting as a return to form for him.
Fogs: Yes, I have to admit that as skeptical as I tend to be about directors returning to their glory days properties, the marketing to date for Prometheus has been exceptional. I’m giddy with anticipation. Have you both seen the TED conference viral video with Guy Pearce? It’s a piece of viral marketing for Prometheus that just came out today.
Cooper: I haven’t seen it yet (though I suspect I will in time). I’m really hyped for Prometheus. I think it looks incredible, hopefully will mark a return to form.

Ian: Alright, I think its about time to wrap things up. So lets finish with these two questions I’ll throw at you. What would your top 3 Ridley Scott films be, and what do you believe is his ‘signature film’? Again, signature film is the film he’s most associated with,

My top 3 would be: 1. Alien
2. Gladiator
3. Black Hawk Down
As for his signature film, I think it would have to be Alien.

Fogs: 1 Blade Runner (the Final Cut)
2 Alien
3 Gladiator
Signature film would be Alien, probably over Blade Runner…
And thanks for being a good sport with my over-reaction on Blade Runner, Ian, you know I like to dish it out when it comes to talkin’ movies ;)

Cooper: Top Three:

1. Blade Runner (Final Cut)

2. Alien

3. Matchstick Men (Criminally underrated)

Signature film? Alien. As much as there’s a hardcore geek following for Blade Runner, it won’t ever find mainstream acceptance like Alien.

Ian: Well, another good discussion with a little bit of controversy! Thanks for the chat guys, and thanks to everyone reading this! Feel free to chime in with your comments. What are your Blade Runner opinions? Am I truly alone out there?
  1. Ric says:

    He is a great filmmaker no doubt and it is hard to argue the obvious masterpieces from his carreer, but I find amongst the top three he is known for I would have to pick Kingdom of Heaven as my one and only Honorable mention. It easily makes my modern Top 10 Modern Epics. Great post.

  2. Fun read… loved the ragging on Ian (sorry, Ian!) over Blade Runner… because while I can see how people could form that opinion, I’m with Fogs and PG on this one. I also found it interesting how all three of you picked Alien as Scott’s signature film, even if it wasn’t your #1 favorite.

  3. […] the original here: Director Talk – Ridley Scott « PG Cooper's Movie Reviews Share […]

  4. Ipodman says:

    Yes, I would consider Blade runner to be boring… but it’s still a good movie o.O

    Ridley Scott is definitely in my top 3 fav directors, Alien is one of the best films of all time!

  5. BrikHaus says:

    Nice write up.

    Here’s my own personal list of Scott movies. Those I haven’t listed are movies I haven’t seen.

    1) Blade Runner
    2) Alien
    3) Kingdom of Heaven
    4) American Gangster
    5) Gladiator
    6) Black Hawk Down

    And as for his movies I was less than impressed with: (in no particular order)

    – Body of Lies
    – Black Rain
    – G.I. Jane
    – Hannibal

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  7. Joel Burman says:

    I think Black Rain is terribly underrated in Ridley’s filmography. Also its great to listen to Ridley on commentary tracks. He is by far one of the best to do commentaries.

  8. le0pard13 says:

    Fantastic read and discussion, guys. Makes me want to pop in a Ridley Scott film on the old player. Oops, already did that (Kingdom of Heaven). Anyway, well done.

  9. Eric says:

    Good discussion, guys. My personal favorite Ridley Scott movie is Alien. If he can capture even half of that experience into Prometheus, I will be happy.

  10. ianthecool says:

    One thing I forgot to bring up during the discussion was the director’s cuts. Why does he have so many? Does he really still not hold enough weight to get his final vision released the the theaters?

    • Thats a good question… why didnt any of us mention that? LOL. :D

      • S says:

        It’s either a marketing thing or more likely Scott’s process is always evolving iteratively; i.e. he’s always trying to get a little better film – mark of genius.

        Alien is best bc original. I like Scott’s smaller influences too as producer for Clay Pigeons.

  11. i have to say, and i’m sure i’m in the minority here, that i prefer the no-frills, down-and-dirty tony scott to the overrated, more prestigious ridley scott.

  12. Jaina says:

    Loved reading your guys thoughts here :D And big thumbs up to Cooper for mentioning Matchstick Man – definitely hugely underrated. While it’s not in my top 5 list of Scott films, it’s still a fantastic little film.

    I agree with your thoughts that Ridley Scott creates fantastic looking films. Everything from the cinematography to the score. He has a hold on the whole film like no other director. That’s probably his stamp.

    My top Scott films?

    1. Gladiator
    2. Black Hawk Down
    3. Alien

    Blade Runner just missed out there.

    Oh and I feel like I have to stand up for Robin Hood – it wasn’t a horrendously bad film. It just wasn’t what everyone was expecting – Gladiator.

  13. Another great look at another great director. Ridley Scott is a fave of mine and I will agree that Matchstick Men is very much underappreciated Cooper.

    Good call on the immersive look and feel of Scott’s movies Fogs. You are right in that. I often wondered what a completely animated full feature by Scott would be like.

    Great job here gents. Oh, and Ian…You gotta finish Blade Runner, man!

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