A king has his reign, and then he dies – it’s inevitable. ~ Prometheus
After months of teasing and taunting, Ridley Scott’s latest film, Prometheus, lands in theaters this week. The legendary filmmaker has been directing features for over 30 years, but his recent output has been less than stellar.
Is Prometheus a return to form for Sir Ridley?
Ridley Scott has long established a flair for big budget, high-end productions, and his attention to visuals, composition and details is impeccable. Prometheus, his return to the sci-fi genre, has generated palpable buzz from all quarters – from fan boys in the know, to straight-up genre fans, to the uninitiated and curious.
Scott’s career began with television commercials in the early 1970’s. His emphasis on visual style was clearly evident with his 1977 feature film debut, The Duellists (based upon Joseph Conrad’s The Duel), which The New York Times praised as “one of the most dazzling visual experiences.”
But Scott’s most significant contributions to date must be his next two films after The Duellists – the ground-breaking horror sci-fi classic, Alien (1979), and the visionary cyber-punk precursor, Blade Runner (1982). Both films redefined expectations for the genre and after these brilliant cinematic presentations, Scott’s name was cemented as a legend and visionary artist.
But after this powerhouse trio of films, where does one go?
For the remainder of the 1980’s, Scott produced serviceable, but lackluster films, such as Legend (1985) – all of them were visual feasts, but admittedly, they seemed to miss their emotional core.
Thelma & Louise (1991) was the standout from his films during the 1990’s. Its female power dynamics were propelled by the strength of Susan Sarandon and Geena Davis’ performances and Callie Khouri’s Academy Award-winning screenplay.
Scott struck Oscar gold again in 2000 with the big and bold Gladiator – winning several Academy Awards, including Best Picture and Best Actor (Russell Crowe). Gladiator was a visually breathtaking film that went down easy through its exotic settings, dramatic story and magnetic performance by Russell Crowe.
But after this Oscar highlight, Scott’s recent portfolio disappoints. American Gangster (2007) showcased two strong performances (Denzel Washington and Russell Crowe), but Scott’s last two films – Body of Lies (2008) and Robin Hood (2010) – were misfires for the filmmaker.
Ridley Scott is clearly a talented filmmaker, who presents bold stories and concepts wrapped up in brilliant visual renditions. Unfortunately, many of Scott’s recent films simply pale when placed alongside his brilliant beginnings. Is Prometheus a return to form for Sir Ridley?