It is safe to say that few, if any, directors in the history of geek film can boast a pair of back-to-back classics to rival Ridley Scott's Alien and Blade Runner. Released just three years apart, both are near-perfect visions of science-fiction greatness the likes of which the world had never seen before. (To be fair, Blade Runner took a few re-edits to reach its full potential, but the germ of genius was present even in its original, studio-mandated hacked up version.) And it is upon those two films, released more than thirty years ago, that Scott's reputation as a great director is founded, because since then, he's done almost jack-shit worthy of acclaim.
I will cede an argument that Thelma and Louise is worthy of consideration for canonization, but it's an entirely different kind of film than what Scott built his reputation on. Take that away, and sequester the one-two punch of Alien/Blade Runner, and what are you left with? A bunch of flaccid, overrated mediocrity punctuated by bursts of pure, hot garbage. Since the early '80s, Scott has coasted on his reputation as he put out middling films, bad films and outright terrible films, without ever once coming close to the impact of his early work.
Now, there's nothing wrong with peaking early, and I'd argue that in a very real sense, Scott is deserving of nearly every accolade he's received on the basis of those two early, near-perfect sci-fi masterpieces. Alien introduced one of the all-time iconic sci-fi beasties to the world, while sculpting a sci-fi future that was both eminently believable and wholly original. The beat-up, lived-in world of corporate drudgery and blue-collar bullshit in deep space was visionary, and anyone who argues differently should be sentenced to watch that film a dozen times or so until they wise the fuck up and realize what a terrible mistake they've made by failing to recognize its genius from the outset. Blade Runner realized the single best adaptation of Philip K. Dick's work to ever grace the silver screen, and probably singlehandedly broke the Star Wars curse for Harrison Ford. Those two films are unimpeachable masterpieces that rightfully entered the geek canon within minutes of release and never looked back.
After that ... what the fuck happened to this man? Quick, name a single film he's done since that was worth half a shit. Gladiator? Fuck off. Russell Crowe fighting CGI tigers and bloviating a bunch of ahistorical nonsense for two hours wasn't even particularly entertaining, much less worthy of the praise heaped upon it. Black Hawk Down? Just another frothy, action-movie propaganda piece foisted upon the public in the guise of "gritty, real-world filmmaking." There's not a thought to be found in the whole thing, much less anything rational to say about what actually happened in Somalia in a geopolitical sense. The so-called Alien prequel, Prometheus? A putrid swamp of bad writing, pretty set design and absolutely incoherent direction. Ask ten people what happened in that film and you'll get three different answers and seven admissions that they have no fucking idea because they either fell asleep, walked out or were too fucking high to guess.
Beyond that ... well, can you actually name any of the other two-dozen plus movies he directed? And even if you can, can you honestly say that any of them were more than a reasonable, if forgettable, way to kill ninety minutes? Throw in trash like the latest Blblical shitshow Exodus: Gods and Kings and you have a filmography that has no high points, a handful of disposable popcorn flicks and many, many celluloid disasters -- competently shot, not terrible to look at disasters, but disasters all the same. It's okay, though, I forgive him. I love Alien almost as much as I love my children, and I could watch Blade Runner once a week for the rest of my life and never grow tired of it. I just pretend like the rest of that shit never happened and hope against hope that someday, somehow, he'll release another movie actually worth watching.
Wash the terrible taste of Scott's latter-day career out of your mouth with Blade Runner: The Final Cut, screening at midnight Friday, January 16 and Saturday, January 17 at the Esquire. Tickets are $9; to purchase them, visit the Denver Landmark Theatres page.
Find me on Twitter, where I tweet about geeky stuff and waste an inordinate amount of time: @casciato.
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