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Why is Ridley Scott the best director of Sci Fi? (The 1st Prometheus trailer is out.)

December 23, 2011

It goes without saying that Prometheus is one of the most frantically anticipated sci fi flicks in a very long time. Director Ridley Scott is perhaps one of the reasons why this is so. While Scott has a wildly erratic history of visually inspired film projects – some unbelievably good; others so-so to awful (Hannibal, Robin Hood?) – his science fiction films are regarded by serious filmgoers and sci fi film geeks as among the finest in the genre; even genre-defining. Examples of these would, of course be Alien and Blade Runner. Even Scott’s non-genre films like Gladiator exhibit a glorious, visceral visual sensibility and Scott’s ability to create a new or influential, downright memorable iconography, lies at the root of why is is, in my opinion, the best sci fi director.

It is barely possible to watch another sci fi movie without seeing visual references to either Blade Runner or Alien, and so, in a film-world filled with crappy, child-friendly sci fi, it makes sense that Prometheus (and a Blade Runner remake (hmmm)) should be made by Scott. Frankly, the sci fi film world desperately needs Prometheus right now, especially after the hippy-friendly blue people of the sentimental Avatar.

With an art background based in the advertising industry, it stands to reason that Scott’s films are visually amazing, even beautiful. And sci fi must always amaze and convince visually – the ability to truly believe in the alien world imagined onscreen is demanded by the genre after all. Scott allows his alien worlds to be horrific, unfriendly and alienating in every respect. He allows space exploration to seem what it would likely be: strange and terrifying. Critics have picked on Scott for allowing the visual to dominate character and performance. This is a misunderstanding of the sci fi film Scott offers. All of Scott’s sci fi films leave deep impressions of often highly realistic, naturalistic performances and characters. Actor’s don’t have to ‘act’ (ie overact) to establish their onscreen characters. Parker and Brett are just as memorable for their overall physical presences, their odd muttered lines in the bowels of the ship, as dying Rutger Hauer’s Roy Batty and his (albeit wonderful) metaphysical monologue about attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion. The naturalism of performances in Alien are a part of why the film succeeds so perfectly: like the memorable visual world it creates – space and planet – the Nostromo IS a real ship, with mechanics, steam and air vents, and populated by real people, not actors.

The first proper trailer for Prometheus was released yesterday to much interest. It did not disappoint, except for being more of a teaser, and it was, quite frankly, very scary. The casting is inspired – a geeky, sexy, feminist dream-combo: Fassbender, Theron, Rapace. Scott continues to offer a sci fi universe populated by strong women, black people, artificial people, like he did in Alien, where these diverse characters really belonged on the ship and it was for the first time utterly natural for women and people of colour to be in space and in positions of authority (as opposed to intergalactic waitresses in beehives). One of the best things he ever did was offer the world the first truly convincing female action star – Sigourney Weaver. Rapace (the Swedish Dragon Tattoo girl) is the first actress who may well be up to the task of filling her shoes. Theron is a great actress too, well-suited to playing a more chilly corporate suit (remember Paul Reiser as the Company man in Aliens? His best role ever!).

The imagery in the Prometheus trailer suggests a story of origins related to the alien form in the derelict space craft found on LV426: the fossilised ‘space-jockey’. The look of the film in the form of this oh-so-abstract trailer suggests both the palette and the horror of Alien. Consider me breathless with anticipation.

  1. pallasathena1 permalink

    Loved your review. You are the best

  2. Anonymous permalink

    Wow, thanks, its cool to be appreciated by one’s fellow bloggers – especially when one is a newbie.

  3. Great review! I also wanted to pass along a nomination for the 2011 7X7 Link Award for your great site. Check out this link to see what’s next for you.×7-link-award-nomination/

    • I worry that I dont have enough posts for all the categories …

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