Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Ridley Scott Is a Hack

Yes, I have finally said it out loud and, for clarity's sake, I must inform you my tardiness in so doing is most certainly not due to any wavering of opinion glinted by misguided fanboy nostalgia.

I had merely forgotten about him because his movies are so forgettable and he has been so delightfully irrelevant until the recent fusillade of Robin Hood advertisements plaguing my fair city and its otherwise carefree citizens.

Yes, he directed Alien. Yes, he directed Blade Runner. Yes, he directed Thelma & Louise.

I feel the need to point out, however, that he did not write those movies. He did not create those worlds, those stories, or even the characters. Which is not to say he did nothing, as I am well aware of the tasks performed by a director, but directing those movies hardly puts him on the same shelf as Francis Ford Coppola, who at least wrote Apocalypse Now, The Conversation, and Godfather II before deciding to stop making movies that anybody gave a shit about or even the same shelf as two-hit wonder Michael Cimino, who wrote the story for The Deer Hunter and the script for Heaven's Gate before taking a 22-year nap.

Not only that, but I have no special place in my heart for either of the three aforementioned 'seminal' films he directed. They are favorites among many film geeks/historians and feminist theory professors, but they do nothing for me. I have seen them all and never had a desire to see one again.

And so it is no surprise to me that Scott's laughably ill-conceived and wholly-unappealing reworking of the Robin Hood myth was eviscerated today by the fine folks at Movieline.

A selection of gems from their review:
No wonder Russell Crowe, who plays the renowned bandit hero in Scott’s big fat mess of an epic, looks so cranky and numbed-out. Robin Hood isn’t merely misguided, or overly ambitious, or excessively laden with special effects. Its problems are much bigger than that: The picture is simply oppressive in its blandness, a lumbering symbol of everything that’s wrong with big-budget moviemaking these days. Reportedly, Scott may have spent as much as $237 million on this dreary parade float of a movie, but why quibble about the actual amount? The real outrage is that the dollar signs don’t even show.

The picture’s numerous battle sequences are cluttered and imprecise, but worse than that, they’re just plain ugly.

And the story — set in the days before Robin Hood started robbing from the rich and giving to the poor — is all mechanics and no drama. Brian Helgeland’s screenplay (from a story by Helgeland, Ethan Reiff, and Cyrus Voris) is needlessly complicated. The filmmakers obviously think murkiness and unnecessary digressions are the same as depth.

No actor in Robin Hood escapes with his or her dignity intact, with the exception of Eileen Atkins as Eleanor of Aquitaine. [Cate] Blanchett, often a fine and subtle actress, is somnambulant here — she drifts through the movie like a half-awake, half-aware ghost. She also comes off as sexually indifferent to, if not outright repulsed by, Crowe’s Robin. When the two move in for a kiss, their smooching has a perfunctory, “Think of England” quality.

Crowe is playing a quality here — a kind of drab, holier-than-thou dignity — rather than a character, and Scott never calls him on it. He either hasn’t noticed or doesn’t care, but that’s all of a piece with this bungled picture. Scott isn’t a graceful director, and we shouldn’t expect lyricism from him. But any filmmaker telling the Robin Hood story should be able to achieve more than a persistent throb of dullness, which is the best Scott can manage here.

Historically, James Cameron generates a lot of ink for his bloated budgets (think Titanic + Avatar) and uses this free press to feed his bank account until it overdoses, but I think spending $237 million on this inglorious turd (plus over $100 million in marketing costs), will only reward Scott with innumerable mentions alongside Waterworld director Kevin Reynolds (despite the fact that it eventually turned a slim profit), as there is no way in hell Robin Hood is on anybody's wish list this weekend...or ever.

[Incidentally, you will be pleased to know that Waterworld director Kevin Reynolds also directed the previous Robin Hood turd, starring Kevin Costner (which somehow netted $390 million globally, despite sucking). So Scott and Reynolds have even more in common than at first blush! -Ed.]

I would wish you luck this weekend, Mr. Scott, if I did not crave your failure like Cathy craves chocolate.

Why so harsh on the Riddler, you ask?

For your consideration:

"Hmmm...all of my movies have sucked since 1991...what should I do now? No, wait--what would George Lucas do?"

Enter Blade Runner: Director's Cut, Blade Runner: Final Cut, and Blade Runner: This Is Totally the Next-to-Last Cut, I Swear DVD re-issues and not one but TWO Alien prequels.

What else would you expect from a 72-year-old egomaniacal hack?

Seacrest out.



Anonymous said...

odd that you didn't even mention the multi-oscar-garlanded suckfest "gladiator", which seems like the direct precursor to "robin hood".

i wish, though, that you hadn't burst my bubble by posting that review, which made me check rotten tomatoes and see that "robin hood" has only 51% positive reviews. yes, there's a side of me that's a medieval/fantasy dork, but i had been able to happily delude myself into thinking that despite the fingerprints on this one of so many people who were behind so many crap films (the aforementioned spartacus ripoff, "a beautiful mind", "a knight's tale", "mystic river", "the postman", snoozefest "american gangster", etc.), that a big budget robin hood movie made by seasoned professionals would be wonderfully entertaining, and carry on the enduring story's tradition.

and yes, despite your criticism, i would include "robin hood: prince of thieves" (bryan adams's sappy theme song and all) in that tradition just as much as the errol flynn robin hood. i mean, come on - maybe i was a kid when i saw it first, but how do you not love alan rickman's devious, hans gruberish sheriff of nottingham? and that was when we still liked kevin costner, when you could still think of him as eliot ness, or "bull durham"/"field of dreams" kevin costner, instead of the pretentious washout of "wyatt earp", "waterworld", and "the postman" (though, granted, his accent did make it sound like sherwood forest was somewhere near orange county).

oh well. i guess i shouldn't be surprised to see hollywood ruin something else i used to enjoy.

and on that note - stay tuned for Marmaduke, featuring the comedic stylings of the one-time co-writer of "rushmore" and "the royal tenenbaums".

Karl said...

i agree with everything everybody's said.

I've never seen "Thelma and Louise," so I personally date Scott's replacement by a hack replicant to "Blade Runner." I think "Alien" remains his best movie--it was a perfect storm of the right writers, right concept, right designer (H.R. Giger), right unknown lead actress, right time (studios were desperate to replicate the sci fi success of Star Wars) and a director who really pushed things and made a gorgeous movie that portrayed space travel unlike anything seen before. That said, I think the movie falls apart in the 3rd just kind of lumbers to its conclusion. But you know what? a lot of good movies have 3rd act troubles. everything I write does! It's a sign of genius, right???

The Kevin Reynolds "Robin Hood" is a fond childhood memory for me that will stay a fond childhood memory--don't plan on rewatching it, as i'm sure i'd find it embarrassing. Then again, I actually LIKE "Waterworld" and "The Postman," so it's not like I'm some paragon of good taste...

Also, "Gladiator" blew. Always has, always will.

Goodtime Charlie said...

Boys, boys--of course "Gladiator" blew.

Anyone who disagrees will find themselves on my list of those upon whom vengeance will be served in this life or the next.

And, for the record, I didn't like "Thelma and Louise," but it is often cited as "an important film" due to the fact that it involves two female protagonists who act like men--and the fact that they kill themselves in the end.

I liked "Waterworld" much more than "Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves," although Alan Rickman was definitely enjoyable, as always.

Thanks for having opinions.