Posts Tagged ‘Ridley Scott’

With English director Tony Scott’s passing on Sunday Hollywood has lost a powerhouse director/producer and a much revered colleague. Brother of Ridley Scott, Tony Scott began his career in television commercials alongside his brother, before making the leap into Hollywood feature films with vampire flick The Hunger starring David Bowie, Catherine Deneuve and Susan Sarandon. In 1986 Scott jettisoned himself to success with Top Gun and continued to make a name for himself in action with Beverly Hills Cop II, Days of Thunder and the Tarantino penned True Romance (arguably the apex of his career). Scott made testosterone-driven, yet beautiful films. He worked well (and often) with actors including Tom Cruise, Denzel Washington, Gene Hackman and Christopher Walken creating action films with real character and heart. Most recently he had directed Unstoppable and produced several television series, as well as the ambitious, albiet divisive sci-fi Prometheus with his brother Ridley.

THE HUNGER (1983)

TOP GUN (1986)

TRUE ROMANCE (1993)

ENEMY OF THE STATE (1998)

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As this review was published following the release of The Dark Knight Rises we would first and foremost like to express our sympathies to all of those affected by the Aurora premier tragedy.

Returning to the Batman franchise for the final time Christopher Nolan offers up The Dark Knight Rises. Dredging the emotional depths of Batman Begins and blending in the thrills of The Dark Knight, Batman’s final stand is a muscular epic, which successfully pulls its own monumental weight.

Bruce Wayne/Batman’s (Christian Bale) story picks up eight years after his battle with The Joker (Heath Ledger) in The Dark Knight. Grief stricken at the loss of his sweetheart Rachel Dawes, Wayne has abandoned his playboy reputation and become a mythic recluse to the people of Gotham. When terror attacks rock Gotham Wayne considers revisiting the Bat suit, but his loyal butler Alfred (Michael Caine) fears Wayne’s own self-destructive tendencies may lead him to defeat.

Alfred Hitchcock once said “the better the villain, the better the film”. Christopher Nolan’s challenge for The Dark Knight Rises was to apply Hitchcock’s theory, in the shadow of Ledger’s show stealing Joker. This time Nolan opts for muscular terrorist Bane (Tom Hardy), a criminal mastermind constantly pumped with a strength serum via an intimidating facemask. He is a considerable threat to the fragile Wayne, with a deep-seated conviction against Gotham’s culture of corruption. He plans to nuke Gotham city and wipe the slate clean.

While lacking some of the infectious charisma of Ledger’s Joker, Tom Hardy’s Bane is wholly compelling. Hardy personifies the character with bulging muscles and an air of worldly wisdom: he is well spoken, yet he phrases with an accent inspired by Traveller and bare-knuckle boxer Bartley Gorman. Hardy’s Bane is an odd proposition, but he is a convincingly vengeful outsider; this makes him all the more dangerous to tattered billionaire Bruce Wayne.

As well as staple characters like Commissioner Gordon (Gary Oldman), Fox (Morgan Freeman) and Alfred, Nolan introduces other characters to ultimately explore Batman’s scarred psyche. Selina Kyle/Catwoman (Anne Hathaway) challenges Batman to delve deeper inside himself to fight Bane. Blake (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) stands out as a young cop who revitalises Batman’s responsibilities. Daggett (Ben Mendelsohn) exploits the corporate weakness of Wayne Enterprises’, while Wayne entrusts the seductive Miranda (Marion Cotillard) to look after his interests.

But all is not perfect upon Nolan’s return to Gotham. In spite of the film’s apocalyptic intentions, there is a sense that it has been heavily toned done to achieve the 12A rating. When Bane and Batman brawl we expect serious bloodshed, but the fight scenes feel unmistakably muted making Batman’s peril less immediate. The script also sidesteps some serious logical concerns, in favour of narrative pace, and key characters are given fatally insufficient screen time for the same reason.

Another aspect that leaves an empty feeling is the complete lack of The Joker. While the character need not have appeared portrayed by another actor, many references to Batman Begins and The Dark Knight occur in flashback; Heath Ledger’s Joker should have too. The character made a sincere impression on Batman and we feel his presence, but cannot acknowledge it.

In spite of its flaws however, The Dark Knight Rises is a true cinematic accomplishment. Christopher Nolan has graced us with a mature blockbuster with a majestic scale reminiscent of Fritz Lang’s Metropolis and Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner. Nolan has also achieved the essential with this film: he has returned the resonance to Bruce Wayne and to Batman. The Dark Knight’s ironic flaw was that the villain ultimately undermined the hero. With The Dark Knight Rises Batman sincerely captures our hearts and minds like he never has before.

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Few films evoke such wild anticipation as Ridley Scott’s Prometheus. Not only does the film see the seventy-four year old director return to the science fiction genre for the first time in thirty years, but it also sees him return to the territory of his seminal 1979 film Alien; perhaps the film that defined him as a director. Not a fan of sci-fi, Scott took on Alien knowing the scope of his vision would make for a truly striking space-set horror, but with the part-prequel, part-spin-off Prometheus Scott has much bigger fish to fry – the very origins of mankind. What he achieves is thrilling, intriguing, but bound to be divisive.

From the outset it was difficult to know precisely what to expect from Prometheus. As the marketing team released more footage and posters, the film’s cryptic evocation of humankind became recognisable, but simultaneously so did its resemblance to Alien. It was as if Prometheus was promising to provide new theories for human existence, as well as the outlandish organisms of Alien (designed by Swiss surrealist H.R. Giger, who provided murals for Prometheus).

In narrative terms, Prometheus resembles its predecessor surprisingly closely, but its thematic focus is different. Instead of the space age blue collar workers of the previous film, we are introduced to scientists and researchers, eager to discover and communicate with an advanced species well versed in space travel. Aboard their space ship named Prometheus the scientists are lead by Elizabeth Shaw (Noomi Rapace) and her boyfriend Charlie Holloway (Logan Marshall-Green). Their mission is funded by Weyland Industries, represented by the icy Meredith Vickers (Charlize Theron – on frosty form). Conflict arises when the scientists suspect that Weyland Industries have ulterior motives for locating extraterrestrial life.

The film is brilliantly cast, particularly with Michael Fassbender representing android-kind as David, an existentially complex being like those in Scott’s Blade Runner. The problem arises however when we realise that the ensemble are simply not as well drawn as the characters of Alien; this lets slip cliché lines and superficial drama that ticks plot boxes. Fortunately, Scott’s choice cast guide us through the scripting superficialities with aplomb. There too is occasional comedy, courtesy of Prometheus’ captain Janek (Idris Elba) and even Fassbender himself.

The film is at its most intriguing when the crew encounter the Alien-esque world, for which is it most anticipated. Scott utilises the alien species’ ability to conceive, birth and evolve rapidly to amp up the horror, as he did in his previous film – this is a welcome return. While the varying creature design in Prometheus does not live up to Giger’s achievements for Alien, the film still continuously provokes our curiosity, before rewarding us with a violent dose of horror. Despite his interest in the loftier themes of existence, Scott still knows that his job as a director is to shock, move and entertain.

But what of the film’s answers for man kind? And how does this fit with Alien? To say too much would be irresponsible for viewers to-be, but Scott tells a tale that does away with Darwinist theories and revels in a compelling fiction for which you must be willingly suspend your disbelief. He also evokes a new horror that will inflect future viewings of Alien; evidence in the evolution of the Xenomorph (Alien) species itself.

As to be expected with a story that has taken thirty years to follow up, not all audience members will feel satisfied. Some audience members will wish they knew less, others will want to know more (and for those a Prometheus sequel feels due). As for audience members who have not seen any of the Alien films, Prometheus will thankfully not alienate them. For this viewer though, Prometheus is the most compelling Alien instalment since the 1979 original.

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