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Dissecting the Director: Ridley Scott

05.29.2012by: Marcey Papandrea


Ridley Scott is perhaps one of the best known film-makers working today, he has been actively making films steadily for a good 40 years and is still going strong. He surely is one of the most successful British directors, making a lot of bank at the box office. We are no stranger to his works, which stretches through a wide range of genres. He has been nominated for Best Director three times at the Academy Awards for THELMA & LOUISE, GLADIATOR and BLACK HAWK DOWN. The award nominations and wins donít stop there either, we have had plenty and it isnít hard to see why. But for all his successes there are some misses, so is Ridley Scott as fantastic as his reputation states? Itís time to take a closer look Ö


Get Alien on DVD here
Get Alien on Blu-ray here

When it comes to Scott and his works, I think it is very much tailored to individual tastes. I am sure everyone has their own ideas and feelings for what they believe is his best film. I think that is the beauty of his films, they are so different; they speak to so many different people, on many levels. So what does this humble writer think is his best film? It really came down to two different films, two very iconic films, and when I made my decision it really came down to what affected me the most, and what meant more to me. ALIEN or BLADE RUNNER? Well folks, I had to go with ALIEN, it is the film that really got his name on the map and it is one of the most beloved sci-fi films of all time.

So why does this film mean so much to me, and why do I think it is his best? Overall quite simply, I think it is his masterpiece, even in its theatrical cut the film is a superior effort. It gets everything right, and I honestly cannot state any flaws what so ever. Scott knew exactly what he was doing with this, and how he was going to achieve it. Listening to his commentary is extremely insightful and it actually really opened my eyes a lot more to it. So if you have yet to hear it, grab a copy and check it out.

I donít think I need to go into details about the plot, I am sure you have all seen the film. A crew of the ship Nostromo pick up a signal, investigate and come across one of the nastiest aliens in cinema history. It is a slow burn and tension filled epic, set in the confines of a space ship with nowhere to go and no one to help. The first time I saw the film, I was around 12 years old, it was something I had always wanted to watch but I was never allowed to. When ALIEN 3 came out, I did sneak a few peaks at that, and I really wanted to see the original and I wondered what could be so bad about it that I wasnít allowed to see it. There is a lot I can take, but this really is one of the rare white knuckle type of films, even having seen it many times, itís still suspenseful and there are some scenes that are still truly shocking (I think you know which I am talking about, Scott didnít even tell the cast what was going to happen for authenticity).

The acting in the film is fantastic, everyone is genuine and convincing, the tension feels very real between the characters and it just feels like something special every time I watch it. The set designs and the look of the creature is bar none some of the best weíve seen, and it isnít hard to see why itís a favourite. The film develops at the perfect pace and the payoff is simply fantastic, with a top job from Sigourney Weaver in her best known role as Ripley.


Get Hannibal on DVD here
Get Hannibal on Blu-ray here

Just like deciding on the best, worst work is just as interesting to decide on with Scott. I did a survey to see which films that people thought were his weakest, and like with the best, the responses were varied. It again proves that everyone gets something different out of his work, so for me what do I consider his worst? I did have to think about this, and a few re-watches were in order, but once that was said and done it was more than obvious what fit the bill. 2001ís HANNIBAL for me is the worst thing he has done, and I actually struggle to get through the film, in fact my re-watch took two goes to get through. Now Iíd say WHITE SQUALL, G.I JANE and ROBIN HOOD are also prime candidates for worst but I can actually sit through these films and be mildly entertained, with HANNIBAL I really get nothing from it.

The film is a sequel to SILENCE OF THE LAMBS, based on the book by Thomas Harris. Now I havenít read the novel but I understand Harris wasnít too happy with writing it and thus made it quite insane, and that insanity does cross over to the film, and it does not work at all. For me this all really made no sense, and the character of Hannibal (once again played by Anthony Hopkins) does not really ring true at all. Sure many years have passed, and heís not the man he was previously, but nothing just seemed really off about him. But it wasnít only him, Clarice Starling is back (this time with Julianne Moore taking over for Foster who wisely turned it down) and while at first her character seems intact, she also does not ring true. Characters like Mason Verger (an interesting performance by Gary Oldman) are just so absurd, sure his vendetta makes sense but what he wants to do is incredibly stupid and laughable, this isnít SNATCH folks. Inspector Pazzi (the always fantastic Giancarlo Gianni) was perhaps the only real intriguing character, and his actions kind of make sense. The way he goes out is a pretty cool scene, it does feel very B-grade though, but as a gore hound it worked.

The film has that classic Ridley Scott visual style, but it feels almost too good for what this is. It is a B or C-grade horror film, and not a very good one. I know it isnít as insane as the book, but perhaps the book shouldnít have been adapted. It really doesnít feel like it belongs with SILENCE, MANHUNTER or RED DRAGON. Hannibal shouldnít be the focus and it is apparent here, it is really apparent and that is why heís memorable in those other films (even though his role was made bigger in RED DRAGON the film, heís still not the entire focus). The character wasnít even played by Hopkins in MANHUNTER and heís memorable there, understated and it works. Having a film all about him just doesnít work, that isnít really what he was meant for. HANNIBAL RISING is not a good film either, and it again suffers that same problem. I understand the character is interesting, he interests me but keeping that air of mystery works for him and hence the failure.

Watching the film it seems as though Scott didnít have too much of a care factor, I didnít feel that he put his all into it and I canít say I blame him. This doesnít work for me on any level, and it is a huge disappointment. If I had to give it some positives, the performers try their best and it felt like they wanted to make it work. The visuals are impressive for what this is, and the make-up for Mason Verger are pretty top notch. Other than that, I canít really say anything else good about it, so HANNIBAL you are his worst in my eyes.


Get Gladiator on DVD here
Get Gladiator on Blu-ray here

Scott is a man of trademarks, there is no doubt about that. Perhaps these days, one of his best known trademarks is his relationship with Russell Crowe, the pair have made quite a few films together starting with GLADIATOR. I actually like the pairing, I think they work well together, GLADIATOR was of course a huge success and I think AMERICAN GANGSTER was also a top job with them. Scott really likes to be involved with casting his films, and heís known to go after actors with a strong theater background. It makes sense because his films have a certain theatrical feel to them, on a much more epic scale, and for me that seems like a pretty smart choice and it works.

I find it quite interesting and impressive that Scott actually does his own storyboards, and I think he has done with on a majority of his films. You can see the effort he puts in by doing them himself, he has that clear vision, and I get the impression he is a perfectionist. He is a very visual guy, and those visuals always stand out and certainly tell a story, I actually think some of my favourite come from BLACK HAWK DOWN. We also canít deny that BLADE RUNNER looks amazing, and the vision with that film is simply stunning and just so detailed.

Other trademarks include the use of Hans Zimmer for the score, he uses the two camera ĎVí set-up frequently and uses impressive backdrops. The man is also basically the Ďgodfatherí of the Directorís Cut, with many of his films have several cuts, with BLADE RUNNER having perhaps the most and then its final cut. The man has a clear style, and he knows how he wants to do things.


Get Kingdom Of Heaven Director's Cut on DVD here
Get Kingdom Of Heaven Director's Cut on Blu-ray here

There are several films of Scottís that could be considered under the radar, but which do I think is worth mentioning? This was actually a no brainer for me to choose as I think this film is a near masterpiece in its Directorís Cut which isnít as widely seen. I speak of KINGDOM OF HEAVEN, a film I actually really liked in its Theatrical Cut. I could tell that the film wasnít quite complete, so I was overjoyed when it was announced that a Directorís Cut was getting released. The cut is over 3 hours long, it is an epic and it feels so complete and just so fantastic. It was better than I had hoped for, it is superbly edited and every scene that is there has a purpose.

I found the story extremely interesting, it is what attracted me to the film in the first place, having a passing interest in crusades. I felt that Scott was the right man for the job, and that feeling proved correct because I donít think anyone else could have crafted this in such a beautiful and respectful way. Even in its shorter version, the respect shown to those involved was strong and apparent, and after watching the film in the theater with my father, this is one of the things that struck out at us and we were more than impressed with that. On a visual scale, this is grand, the recreation of the battle is unbelievable and you feel every bit of blood spilled. Scott knows how to shoot a battle, he wants to place you there, and with this film you damn well are right there! It is actually not easy to watch but at the same time you are drawn to what you are seeing, you canít take your eyes away.

The casting for this film was extremely interesting, Orlando Bloom isnít the leading man I would have picked but surprisingly heís great in this and it is easily his best role. He wasnít the first choice but I think the role went to the right man, and he really brings everything, just a shame we havenít seen this passion and fire in the actor since. Liam Neeson is never a letdown and heís perfect for his smaller role and it was a nice choice. I loved the casting of Edward Norton as the King who suffers from leprosy, his face his behind a mask and Norton delivers the performance with his voice and body language, very well done. I also really liked the work from Alexander Siddig, Eva Green and David Thewlis.

The Directorís Cut may be a long one, but trust me it is worth watching every second of it, it honestly doesnít feel that long because it is paced and flows perfectly, This is an epic, itís an interesting and well told story, and I certainly think it is one of his most underrated films and one I think should be seen.


Preorder Prometheus on DVD here
Preorder Prometheus on Blu-ray here

One of the years most anticipated films is Scottís PROMETHEUS, it is his return to the sci-fi genre. The wait is almost over, so check out the synopsis.

In the distant future, two superpowers control Earth and fight each other for all the solar system's natural resources. When one side dispatches a team to a distant planet to terraform it for human colonization, the team discovers an indigenous race of bio-mechanoid killers. Ridley Scott, director of 'Alien' and 'Blade Runner,' returns to the genre he helped define. With PROMETHEUS, he creates a groundbreaking mythology, in which a team of explorers discover a clue to the origins of mankind on Earth, leading them on a thrilling journey to the darkest corners of the universe. There, they must fight a terrifying battle to save the future of the human race.


Get Blade Runner on DVD here
Get Blade Runner on Blu-ray here

Say what you will about Ridley Scott, but the man has had an impressive career and heís had more hits than misses in my eyes. I am a fan of his, I find him quite fascinating and I really appreciate the effort and lengths he goes to for his art. I enjoy most of what he has to offer in all the different genres heís taken on. Sometimes heíll come out with something like MATCHSTICK MEN and itíll be such a pleasant surprise, itís nice when a director can go outside the box and surprise me. He continues to surprise me and I am excited for what is coming next and I sure hope he can pull it off. The man has talent, and he keeps things interesting, I know my film life wouldnít be as interesting without Scott, so I thank the man.

Is there a director you hope to see Dissected? Feel free to send Marcey your suggestions to [email protected]

Extra Tidbit: Ridley Scott began his career directing TV series episodes before he went on to THE DUELLISTS and then ALIEN.
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