Ridley Scott Criticism - Essay

Harvey R. Greenberg (essay date fall 1986)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Greenberg, Harvey R. “Reimagining the Gargoyle: Psychoanalytic Notes on Alien.Camera Obscura, no. 15 (fall 1986): 86-109.

[In the following essay, Greenberg discusses the qualities of the central monster in Alien, rating it among the most frightening in film history, and examines the significance of the monster as a symbol of “capitalism's depredations.”]

I admire its purity … a survivor, unclouded by conscience, remorse or delusions of morality. …

Ash, Science Officer, the Nostromo

If Hair proclaimed the Age of Aquarius, Close Encounters...

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Peter Fitting (essay date November 1987)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Fitting, Peter. “Futurecop: The Neutralization of Revolt in Blade Runner.Science-Fiction Studies 14, no. 3 (November 1987): 340-54.

[In the following essay, Fitting explores the contrasting messages regarding the use and misuse of technology in the film Blade Runner and Philip K. Dick's Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, the novel on which the film was based.]

My grand theme—who is human and who only appears (masquerades) as human?

Philip K. Dick, Comment (1976) on “Second Variety”

Is it still necessary to state that not technology,...

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Simon Cunliffe (review date 11 March 1988)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Cunliffe, Simon. “A Real Man.” New Statesman 115, no. 2972 (11 March 1988): 38.

[In the following review, Cunliffe explores the theme of the vulnerability of the family in the context of “the zeitgeist of AIDS-and-Reagan America” in Someone to Watch over Me.]

Ridley Scott's new film, [Someone to Watch over Me,] its title taken from a George and Ira Gershwin lyric, is a cracking good thriller. And, like other contemporary Hollywood movies, it filters its taut, suspenseful plot through the zeitgeist of an Aids-and-Reagan America—making comparison with Fatal Attraction initially irresistible.

Mike Keegan (Tom...

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William Fisher (essay date autumn 1988)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Fisher, William. “Of Living Machines and Living-Machines: Blade Runner and the Terminal Genre.” New Literary History 20, no. 1 (autumn 1988): 187-98.

[In the following essay, Fisher identifies an emergent genre of “multinational, commercial avant-garde” films which he labels the Terminal Genre. Fisher comments that Blade Runner represents the highest achievement of this developing genre.]

The possibility of finding likeness in diversity has always been a safety valve on the critical apparatus—“when in doubt, subsume it under a rubric.” Now, on the other side of long debates on the subject in film studies, we understand “genre” to...

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Peter Ruppert (essay date 1989)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Ruppert, Peter. “Blade Runner: The Utopian Dialectics of Science Fiction Films.” Cineaste 17, no. 2 (1989): 8-13.

[In the following essay, Ruppert argues that Blade Runner is critical of the dominant social ideology in late consumer capitalism, observing that the film expresses ideological ambiguities which arouse the spectator's desire for an alternative to the status quo.]

Since first envisioned by Thomas More as an imaginary site that playfully maps out the possibilities for a rich and rewarding collective life. Utopia has been systematically undermined in its own form and survives today in a variety of grim and menacing visions (Orwell,...

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Thomas B. Byers (essay date autumn 1989)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Byers, Thomas B. “Kissing Becky: Masculine Fears and Misogynist Moments in Science Fiction Films.” Arizona Quarterly 45, no. 3 (autumn 1989): 77-95.

[In the following essay, Byers comments that Alien, Blade Runner, Fritz Lang's Metropolis, and Don Siegel's Invasion of the Body Snatchers include several moments of “startling misogyny,” arguing that such instances of cinematic textual excess express “both the instability of male identity and the vulnerability of male hegemony.”]

The four classic science-fiction films to be discussed here—Fritz Lang's Metropolis (1926), Don Siegel's Invasion of the Body Snatchers...

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John L. Cobbs (essay date 1990)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Cobbs, John L. “Alien as an Abortion Parable.” Literature/Film Quarterly 18, no. 3 (1990): 198-201.

[In the following essay, Cobbs asserts that images symbolizing abortion act as a central leitmotif of Alien.]

Ridley Scott's 1979 thriller [Alien] was greeted with no particular fanfare by the reviewers, and if there was a critical consensus it was that the film was at best watchable pabulum—reasonably professionally handled visually and enjoyably scary, but without significant nuance to qualify for discussion as art. Jack Kroll's comment was typical: “It's about time someone made a science fiction thriller that thrills, that has no truck...

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Pat Dowell (review date 1990)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Dowell, Pat. “Black Rain: Hollywood Goes Japan Bashing.” Cineaste 17, no. 3 (1990): 8-10.

[In the following review, Dowell contends that Black Rain is an expression of American economic insecurity in the face of a perceived Japanese economic superiority.]

One of the many television news stories after the California earthquake in October 1989 examined Japan's quake readiness. There, if a temblor strikes, children know what to do “by rote,” according to the network reporter, who would have undoubtedly said “by heart” if these had been spunky American kids or Frenchmen or Laplanders or anybody but the next generation of profit-hungry...

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Suzanne Moore (review date 2 February 1990)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Moore, Suzanne. “Sun Rises in the East.” New Statesman and Society 3, no. 86 (2 February 1990): 44.

[In the following review, Moore notes how Scott portrays American individualism in contrast with Japanese collectivism in Black Rain.]

Is it really fair to compare a film made in one of the poorest countries in the world with a $37 million production by one of Hollywood's flashiest directors? No of course not. But Yaaba, made in Burkina Faso, a country with no filmmaking infrastructure will have to compete with Ridley Scott's Black Rain. Such is the democracy of the marketplace.

In fact this week's releases seem deliberately...

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Ridley Scott and Amy Taubin (interview date July 1991)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Scott, Ridley, and Amy Taubin. “Ridley Scott's Road Work.” Sight and Sound 1, no. 3 (July 1991): 18-19.

[In the following interview, Scott discusses the filming of Thelma and Louise, the movie's role as a feminist film, and his future projects.]

Its high spirits and dazzling good looks notwithstanding, Thelma and Louise suggests that the situation of American women is dire indeed. When Louise (Susan Sarandon) comes to the rescue of Thelma (Geena Davis) and kills the man who's attempting to rape her, few in the audience feel that murder is unjustified. And when Louise rejects Thelma's suggestion that they go to the police with a despairing,...

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Janet Abrams (review date July 1991)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Abrams, Janet. Review of Thelma and Louise, by Ridley Scott. Sight and Sound 1, no. 3 (July 1991): 55-6.

[In the following review, Abrams comments that, despite Thelma and Louise's apparent celebration of feminine freedom, the film actually expresses an oppressive attitude toward women who “take their lives into their own hands.”]

Trapped in a claustrophobic marriage to carpet salesman and giant-sized infant Darryl, Thelma Dickinson is coaxed into joining her friend Louise Sawyer, a harassed coffee-shop waitress, on a weekend spree [in Thelma and Louise]. The trunk of Louise's car overloaded with Thelma's luggage, they set off in high...

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Elissa Marder (essay date September 1991)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Marder, Elissa. “Blade Runner's Moving Still.” Camera Obscura, no. 27 (September 1991): 89-107.

[In the following essay, Marder discusses the interplay between artificial and organic beings in Blade Runner and examines questions of filmic representation regarding the relationship between human spectators and visual technology.]

In the decade that has elapsed since Blade Runner's first commercial release, Ridley Scott's 1982 science-fiction film has been retroactively hailed as one of the most powerful and influential examples of cinematic postmodernism.1 Despite the fact that Blade Runner has achieved almost canonical...

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Richard Alleva (review date 13 September 1991)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Alleva, Richard. “Over the Edge?” Commonweal 118, no. 15 (13 September 1991): 513-15.

[In the following review, Alleva comments that Scott's skillful portrayal of two strong female protagonists elevates Thelma and Louise into “a cultural milestone.”]

Scarfed and sunglassed like Jackie Onassis, the two women drive their Thunderbird convertible through the Southwest toward Mexico. They chug little bottles of Wild Turkey whiskey, bang on wheel and dashboard to the beat of the country and western music that blares from the car radio, and sing along raucously when they're not making spontaneous whoops of joy. A casual observer might take these two for...

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David Desser (essay date 1991)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Desser, David. “The New Eve: The Influence of Paradise Lost and Frankenstein on Blade Runner.” In Retrofitting “Blade Runner”: Issues in Ridley Scott's “Blade Runner” and Philip K. Dick's “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?,” edited by Judith B. Kerman, pp. 53-65. Bowling Green, Ohio: Bowling Green State University Popular Press, 1991.

[In the following essay, Desser explores how Blade Runner reworks motifs and mythic themes from John Milton's Paradise Lost and Mary Shelley's Frankenstein, focusing particularly on the themes of redemption and transcendence.]

A number of critics have claimed that some...

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W. Russel Gray (essay date 1991)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Gray, W. Russel. “Entropy, Energy, Empathy: Blade Runner and Detective Fiction.” In Retrofitting “Blade Runner”: Issues in Ridley Scott's “Blade Runner” and Philip K. Dick's “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?,” edited by Judith B. Kerman, pp. 53-65. Bowling Green, Ohio: Bowling Green State University Popular Press, 1991.

[In the following essay, Gray notes that the plot of Blade Runner finds its origins in the hard-boiled detective fiction of the 1940s, asserting that the film is both energized by the traditions of, and contributes to the revitalization of, the detective genre.]

“You don't get anything for nothing,...

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T. J. Matheson (essay date fall 1992)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Matheson, T. J. “Triumphant Technology and Minimal Man: The Technological Society, Science Fiction Films, and Ridley Scott's Alien.Extrapolation 33, no. 3 (fall 1992): 215-29.

[In the following essay, Matheson argues that Alien offers a pessimistic vision of man's relationship to modern society in the face of advancing technology.]

When Ridley Scott's film Alien appeared in 1979, critics were generous in their praise of the picture's technical merits but felt that however impressive its machinery might be, the film was less than an artistic or intellectual success. In the main, reviewers agreed with Jeffrey Wells that the film lacked...

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Peter Wollen (review date November 1992)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Wollen, Peter. “Cinema's Conquistadors.” Sight and Sound 2, no. 7 (November 1992): 21-3.

[In the following review, Wollen characterizes 1492: Conquest of Paradise as a re-evaluation of the myth of Christopher Columbus, portraying Columbus as a visionary maverick and national hero.]

Ridley Scott's film about Columbus, 1492: Conquest of Paradise revolves around the first sight of land after the long voyage. The screen is covered in clouds, which drift slowly away, like gauze curtains, to reveal a lush green tropical landscape, filled with trees, foliage and plants. Later in the film, Columbus recalls this image as one that will stay with him in...

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Philip Strick (review date November 1992)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Strick, Philip. Review of 1492: Conquest of Paradise, by Ridley Scott. Sight and Sound 2, no. 7 (November 1992): 41-2.

[In the following review, Strick comments that, despite a dull and plodding narrative, the cinematography, soundtrack, set design, and costumes in 1492: Conquest of Paradise are impressive and skillfully constructed.]

[In Ridley Scott's 1492: Conquest of Paradise,] Fernando, son of Christopher Columbus, recalls how his father proved to him that the Earth is round. Convinced on this basis that the riches of the Orient could be reached by sailing West from the Canary Islands, Columbus then sought Church support for his...

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Richard Alleva (review date 20 November 1992)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Alleva, Richard. “Goodbye, Columbus: Ridley Scott's 1492.Commonweal 119, no. 20 (20 November 1992): 20-1.

[In the following review, Alleva criticizes 1492: Conquest of Paradise as a confused production that lacks a unifying vision of Columbus and his achievements.]

Perhaps it was inevitable. Making a movie about Columbus for this year of all years was bound to unnerve any filmmaker. Yet it's impossible to forgive what Ridley Scott has delivered. 1492: Conquest of Paradise exudes desperation, panic, and the sort of hysterical rhetoric that is born of desperation and panic.

The soundtrack by Vangelis epitomizes the...

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Joe Abbott (essay date 1993)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Abbott, Joe. “The ‘Monster’ Reconsidered: Blade Runner's Replicant as Romantic Hero.” Extrapolation 34, no. 4 (1993): 340-50.

[In the following essay, Abbott examines Blade Runner and Mary Shelley's Frankenstein as two texts that attempt to address the implications of artificial life.]

It was a bold question, and one which has ever been considered as a mystery.

—Mary Shelley, Frankenstein

The “bold question” to which Victor Frankenstein makes reference in the early pages of Mary Shelley's Frankenstein is the question of the origin (or...

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Mark Kermode (review date May 1996)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Kermode, Mark. Review of White Squall, by Ridley Scott. Sight and Sound 6, no. 5 (May 1996): 64.

[In the following review, Kermode describes White Squall as a dramatically flawed hybrid of film genres that is ultimately unsatisfying.]

Connecticut, 1960. Against his father's wishes, Chuck Gieg travels from home to join the crew of the school ship Albatross in Port St. George, Bermuda [in White Squall]. He is joining a group of 13 teenage boys who have enlisted for a character-building cruise under the command of ‘Skipper’ Christopher Sheldon. Early in the voyage, Gill fails to help rescue Chuck from tangled rigging ropes due to...

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Raphael Shargel (review date 22 September 1997)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Shargel, Raphael. “Gender and Genre Bending.” New Leader 80, no. 15 (22 September 1997): 20-1.

[In the following review, Shargel faults G.I. Jane for paying lip-service to a strong female protagonist, while the film's overall tone is exploitative towards women.]

Halfway through G.I. Jane, Master Chief John Urgayle (Viggo Mortensen) interrogates Lieutenant Jordan O'Neil (Demi Moore) in a rather unconventional fashion. He ties her hands behind her back, slaps her repeatedly across the face and rams her body through a door. When O'Neil tries to fight back, the Master Chief, infuriated, pummels her with such force that she can hardly stand. Not...

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Robert Ashley (review date November 1997)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Ashley, Robert. Review of G.I. Jane, by Ridley Scott. Sight and Sound 7, no. 11 (November 1997): 42-3.

[In the following mixed review, Ashley observes that Scott's direction expresses ambivalence about the patriotic message in G.I. Jane.]

Lt. Jordan O'Neil works for US Navy intelligence [in G.I. Jane]. Her boyfriend is a high-ranking intelligence officer. Senator Lillian DeHaven is leading a campaign to force the Navy to allow women into their elite combat unit, the Navy SEALS. Needing to find a candidate who can get through the punishing training programme and still look good for PR purposes, DeHaven chooses O'Neil. She agrees and heads for the...

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Kenneth Turan (review date 5 May 2000)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Turan, Kenneth. “Russell Crowe's Muscular Performance, Stylish Battle Scenes and Rich Atmosphere Help Cut through the Shortcomings of Ridley Scott's Gladiator.Los Angeles Times (5 May 2000): F1.

[In the following review, Turan offers a generally positive assessment of Gladiator, noting that the film spends “too much time on predictable plot twists.”]

Gladiator delivers when it counts—but then and only then. Like an aging athlete who knows how to husband strength and camouflage weaknesses, it makes the most of what it does well and hopes you won't notice its limitations. With someone like Russell Crowe in the starring role, it...

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Leslie Felperin (review date June 2000)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Felperin, Leslie. “Decline and Brawl.” Sight and Sound 10, no. 6 (June 2000): 34-5.

[In the following review, Felperin asserts that Gladiator is Scott's best work to date, observing that the film functions as an allegory that expresses an implicit criticism of the contemporary American mass entertainment culture.]

The Encyclopaedia Britannica imperiously dismisses the Roman philosopher-emperor Marcus Aurelius as “a historically overrated figure, presiding in a bewildered way over an empire beneath the gilt of which there already lay many a decaying patch.” In Ridley Scott's magnificent new action film Gladiator the patch has become...

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Brenda Cooper (essay date fall 2000)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Cooper, Brenda. “‘Chick Flicks’ as Feminist Texts: The Appropriation of the Male Gaze in Thelma and Louise.Women's Studies in Communication 23, no. 3 (fall 2000): 277-306.

[In the following essay, Cooper argues that Thelma and Louise effectively undermines traditional Hollywood misogyny by appropriating the cinematic “male gaze” that has been utilized in the past to subjugate, objectify, and trivialize women.]

When Thelma & Louise (Scott, 1991) hit cinemas in the summer of 1991, it was met simultaneously with harsh criticism as well as enthusiastic acclaim by women spectators. In the years since its release, Thelma...

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Neil McDonald (review date April 2001)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: McDonald, Neil. “Dr. Lecter, I Presume.” Quadrant 45, no. 4 (April 2001): 59-62.

[In the following review, McDonald compares the novel Hannibal to Scott's film adaptation, noting that the film achieves a moral and dramatic complexity that is lacking in the novel.]

Filmmakers saving a major writer from betraying his own creation? Unbelievable! Not really, because this is what screenwriters David Mamet and Steve Zaillian and director Ridley Scott have done in Hannibal for Thomas Harris, the author of the original novel.

When the book was published in 1999 director Jonathan Demme and screenwriter Ted Tally—both of whom had won...

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David Thomson (essay date April 2001)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Thomson, David. “The Riddler Has His Day.” Sight and Sound 11, no. 4 (April 2001): 19-21.

[In the following essay, Thomson discusses Scott's major strengths and weaknesses as a filmmaker, focusing particularly on Hannibal.]

In a recent interview for American television's 60 Minutes, Ridley Scott was about as enthusiastic as his gruff, laconic manner (and advanced age) would allow. He confessed that he was having a tremendous time, better than ever, getting up every morning to make movies. Could there be anything more fun in life? In fact, the man is 61; in effect, he seemed half that age. Is that the secret to carrying on in his very tricky business...

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Kim Newman (review date April 2001)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Newman, Kim. Review of Hannibal, by Ridley Scott. Sight and Sound 11, no. 4 (April 2001): 48-9.

[In the following review, Newman offers a negative assessment of Hannibal, arguing that the plot is not compelling and the characters are underdeveloped.]

Ten years after the consultations with serial killer Hannibal Lecter that led to triumph over murderer Jame Gumb, FBI agent Clarice Starling is involved with a bungled shoot-out that leaves five dead [in Hannibal]. Paul Krendler, Clarice's long-time enemy in the bureau, gains leverage over her as she is blamed for the operation. Wealthy paedophile Mason Verger, disfigured by Hannibal, is buying...

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Andrew Stephen (review date 11 February 2002)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Stephen, Andrew. “War Comes Home.” New Statesman 131, no. 4574 (11 February 2002): 22-3.

[In the following review, Stephen criticizes Black Hawk Down for feeding into many dangerous American myths about foreign policy and military intervention.]

Even going to the movies is different here in the US nowadays. Waiting for the main film to begin last Monday, I watched two ads for soon-to-be-released films with gung-ho US militaristic themes. Then followed the silent invocation “God Bless America”, in appropriate colours, flashed up in huge letters on the screen. It reminded me of Fox Television's coverage of the Superbowl the day before: not only was...

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Manohla Dargis (review date 12 September 2003)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Dargis, Manohla. “A Veteran of Epics Directs Smaller Men.Los Angeles Times (12 September 2003): E14.

[In the following review, Dargis characterizes Matchstick Men as “a minor interlude between Scott's usual major endeavors,” noting that Scott seems more comfortable directing epic-scale productions.]

A self-consciously modest film from an immodestly talented director, Ridley Scott's Matchstick Men comes equipped with a major star (Nicolas Cage), a ripe second banana (Sam Rockwell) and the regulation pretty face (Alison Lohman).

The script was co-written by Ted Griffin, who hatched Steven Soderbergh's Ocean's...

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