The phenomenon that is Ridley Scott holds allegiance to no genre of film-making. His deft touch as a director can be felt across a variety of hugely successful works. Scott’s fabled skill lies in his ability to create such fully immersible worlds of visual pleasure while retaining a very real human quality (often flawed) through which this unique world is experienced. This is particularly and possibly most true when it comes to his works of science fiction.
It all began with Alien in 1979 when studio execs took a chance on a relatively unproven director. In fact the young Scott had only one feature to his name at the time, a remarkably different kind of film set in the Napoleonic era (about as polarized opposite as you can get to science fiction). However it was his strong visual style that drew attention and what followed was an unparalleled phenomenon of box office success, the likes of which had never been seen. This was in part due to the “chest buster” scene of the movie. At the time considered such a shocking and brutal image, it became the topical sequence of the movie.
In 1982 Scott decided to stick to his new found genre and make the Philip K. Dick book “Do Androids Dream Of Electric Sheep” into a movie: Blade Runner. Another staggeringly visual movie again drenched in dark tones of threatening futures. Led by man of the hour Harrison Ford it seemed on paper to be a winning combination. However as is often the case with film, there is no magic formula for success, and multiple set problems and frequent delays and frustrations, particularly on the part of Harrison Ford who describes the making of this movie as extremely unpleasant, led it to be both critically and financially very unsuccessful.
It wasn’t until many years after that Blade Runner began to gain some positive momentum in the critical world snowballing into the work of art it is considered to be today.
1982 marked the beginning of a 30 year leave of absence from the science fiction genre.
And what better way to mark his return than to pick up from where it all began, a prequel (of sorts) to his beloved science fiction baby, called Prometheus.
Not quite a prequel as we understand the word, Prometheus does use the Alien lore but it’s a stand-alone movie too. It also marks Scott’s first venture into the 3 Dimensional realm (possibly one of the best movies to be made specifically in the third dimension yet). Scott’s trademark super wide shots of magnificent landscapes and lavish new worlds lends itself beautifully to the 3D mania that seems to have a stranglehold on modern day cinema. Fear not none believers, Scott knows what he’s doing.
One word of warning though – Ridley Scott’s films (and specifically his science fiction ventures) are notoriously slow burners. The premise as portrayed through pre-release hype often ends up channeling a very action driven feel whereas in truth Scott’s films are, by no means devoid of action, but rather preoccupied with a different emphasis – an emphasis on visual beauty and the slow building of tension all set in a very dark look at what the future holds.
All that said, Prometheus looks set to impress – on every frontier imaginable. Strong actors are a big strength of all Scott’s works and Prometheus is no different. Noomi Rapace (you know that girl with the tatoo shaped like a dragon) takes the lead as Dr. Elizabeth Shaw. If there was ever any lingering doubt of her ability and range as an actor, Prometheus takes care of that. Theron is very understated but captivating as always (perhaps not given as much screen time as we would have liked to see). The same could be said for Idris Elba (the powerful respect-demanding captain of the ship) whose light heartened personality contrasts perfectly with his stoic presence. Fassbender rounds off the list of familiar names with a performance of pure anamatronic menace, perfectly balancing empathy of his condition with the sinister duties of his functionality.
There’s a lot of unknown faces, in particular Logan Marshall-Green, whose performance as Holloway will surely land him some juicy roles in the future. This coupled with the immense and stunning visuals we’ve come to expect from Scott make for a very entertaining movie. And as with all Scott projects I’m sure we can expect a wealth of unseen material to reach the DVD platform – Prometheus for all it’s promise and fulfillment does carry with it a slightly rushed feeling in parts as if certain big scenes may have been quite drastically trimmed.
It’s been 30 years but he’s back and with a new Blade Runner project already announced it looks like the early days will get the re-visit we’ve so desperately been craving.