Latest vs. Greatest looks at directors, actors, actresses, screenwriters and composers to assess the state of their career as it stands. We’ll look back at the latest 10 movies the artist has done, rate them and then average them out to see where they stand today. We’ll also rank their 10 greatest movies and give them the same treatment to compare what they have been doing to their very best work. (A quick side-note: if an artist is/has been a regular on a TV show we’ll also grade the seasons individually; artists need 10 projects to qualify).
Ridley Scott is one of the most gifted directors I’ve ever seen. Ridley Scott is also one of, if not the most, frustrating director I’ve ever seen. No one does the breadth of material he does. Thelma & Louise, Black Hawk Down and Alien were all directed by the same guy. That’s nuts. He has a reputation for his epics; something that spawned out of Gladiator’s Best Picture success. However, he does as many small, star-driven films as he does huge ones. His latest film, The Counselor, while star-studded, is a fairly small film. He’s following that with the epic of epics; taking on the story of Moses with Christian Bale and an adaptation of Joe Haldeman’s The Forever War. In addition, he’s tentatively attached to Paradise, the sequel to Prometheus, and a Blade Runner sequel. Ridley’s 76. He’s 76. When I’m 76, I’m not going to be directing the Pentateuch. I’m going…well…at the rate I’m going 76 is a stretch, but I’m going to say I’m unlikely to be shaping a modern Biblical epic and planning three other huge films.
Ridley makes me nuts. Maybe it’s an off-shoot of the breadth of material he does, but there is no signature Ridley Scott feel to a movie. I know when I’m watching a Spielberg movie (in the last decade it will be because I’m chewing on rock salt and screaming profanities in my head). I know, when I put on sunglasses to fight epilepsy from excessive lens flares that JJ Abrams is near (it really doesn’t bother me, but I love poking him). There are films in Scott’s canon that match up nicely – Gladiator & Kingdom of Heaven; Thelma & Louise & Matchstick Men– but overall there’s no binding agent that says THAT is Ridley.
The genre he’s most known for -and has had the biggest effect on- is undoubtedly science fiction. Alien spawned not just a franchise, but an entire genre of survival creature horror. The influence of Blade Runner on a generation of film makers in undeniable. Here, I have to stop though, because this is the thing that will send most people through the roof: I can’t stand Blade Runner. I have tried! I want to like Blade Runner so much it’s ridiculous. I’ve watched it five times! There are movies I love I haven’t seen that many times. I do not get it. To me, it’s a glacially emotionless slog. However, you cannot deny its legacy and its effect on the genre and I respect that. I can’t try to like it any more than I already do.
Another Scott film which left me cold was last year’s Prometheus. I was incredibly skeptical about returning to the Alien saga. Prequels have, as a rule, been less successful than sequels in the franchise age. The trailers, though, looked so incredible. I went into that film knowing that I was going to see something amazing. I walked out in kind of a befuddled daze. “Whaa…” is still my official Prometheus review. It’s gorgeous. It’s one of the best-looking films I’ve ever seen. I think Michael Fassbender‘s David is a spectacular character. I have no clue what the movie was trying to do, why the other characters did anything they did or what the point was. Too often, that’s been my reaction to Scott’s films in the last ten years and The Counselor was so bad that I’m just done trying. I think he’s lost his way and I hope Exodus is fantastic, but I have no faith in him any more.
SCOTT’S LATEST TEN:
1. The Counselor (2013) ………. 1.75
2. Prometheus (2012) …………… 5.25
3. Robin Hood (2010) …………….. 6.50
4. Body of Lies (2008) ……………. 5.00
5. American Gangster (2007).. 7.00
6. A Good Year (2006) ……………. 5.00
7. Kingdom of Heaven (2005) 8.00
8. Matchstick Men (2003) …….. 8.00
9. Black Hawk Down (2001) .. 10.00
10. Hannibal (2001) ………………… 3.50
RIDLEY SCOTT‘S CURRENT AVERAGE: 6.00
Ridley’s current average is by far the lowest of the three directors we’ve looked at so far in this column and you can see a slow descent from the masterpiece of modern warfare film making (and his best picture aside from Alien), Black Hawk Down to the pathetic Counselor. He draws big stars and promises big things, but all-too-often promises are all the audience is left with.
Let’s look at Scott’s 10 greatest films and get his average score:
SCOTT’S GREATEST TEN:
1. Alien (1979) …………………………….. 10.00
2. Black Hawk Down (2001) ……. 10.00
3. Gladiator (2000) ………………………. 9.00
4. White Squall (1996) ……………….. 9.00
5. Matchstick Men (2003) …………. 8.00
6. Kingdom of Heaven (2005)……… 8.00
7. Legend Director’s Cut (1985) … 7.50
8. American Gangster (2007) ……… 7.00
9. Blade Runner (1982) ………………….. 6.75
10. Thelma & Louise (1991) …………… 6.50
RIDLEY SCOTT’S GREATEST AVERAGE: 8.175
That Scott’s greatest ten films in my estimation have sixes among them, is kind of statement enough. He’s done amazing films. He can be an amazing director. Some of his smaller films (White Squall and Matchstick Men) are overlooked gems. Kingdom of Heaven and Legend were both so badly butchered by studio mandated editing that the theatrical cuts don’t even make sense. If you look at his cut though, both are very good films. American Gangster is Denzel’s film and Ridley can’t take much credit for it. Washington put that movie on his back. Then doubtlessly most would have Blade Runner at a much higher grade which would raise his ‘greatest’ average. My rating is based on the effect the film has had more than the film itself.
Greatness and frustrating misfires are the rule with Ridley. It used to be that you didn’t know which you would get. Lately, the latter has been a pretty sure bet and given what he’s capable of…that’s a shame.