Ridley Scott Talks 'Prometheus' & 'Blade Runner' Sequels; Reminds Audiences He Doesn't Understand Power Of Mystery

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by Edward Davis
October 12, 2012 12:38 PM
16 Comments
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Ridley Scott is frustrating more than a few times over. The filmmaker, while well-respected and considered one of the greatest living directors in some corners of the world, he arguably has an impressive but uneven career (see our retrospective for that argument), and only a few unimpeachable touchstones to his name. "Alien" and "Blade Runner" are obviously two of them, and having already fumbled pretty hard with his not-a-prequel "Alien" prequel "Prometheus," Scott is attempting to pull off a sequel to "Blade Runner."

In a recent interview with Metro U.K. the filmmaker discussed both the "Blade Runner" sequel and the continuation of the "Prometheus" story which will further veer off course from the "Alien" saga to tell a different kind of tale altogether (or so they say).

“ ‘Prometheus’ evolved into a whole other universe,” Scott said of the way the narrative moves away from the "Alien" origin. Although earlier, he contradicts himself and admits, “...no one else had addressed the [‘Alien’] origin question and I thought that was interesting to tackle.”

“You’ve got a person [Noomi Rapace] with a head in a bag [Michael Fassbender’s David] that functions and has an IQ of 350,” he continued about the conclusion of “Prometheus” and where it could possibly go from there. “It can explain to her how to put the head back on the body and she’s gonna think about that long and hard because, once the head is back on his body, he’s dangerous. They’re going off to paradise but it could be the most savage, horrible place. Who are the Engineers?”

So lots of not-so-subtle hints of what’s next in “Prometheus 2.” Asked about the “Blade Runner” sequel he said, “It’s not a rumor – it’s happening. With Harrison Ford? I don’t know yet. Is he too old? Well, he was a Nexus-6 so we don’t know how long he can live [laughs]. And that’s all I’m going to say at this stage.”

That’s all you’re going to say? It's kind of laughable as Scott's comments only serve to remind us that the filmmaker doesn't seem to understand the power of ambiguity and mystery, like some of the true classics of sci-fi.

First off, yes, Harrison Ford's character Deckard was a replicant -- surprise, surprise if you’re not a hardcore fan who’s known this for years. This isn't exactly new. Scott’s said this several times in the past, going as far back as 2000. Ironic considering the director's cut of "Blade Runner" is far more alluring and opaque (in a good way) with its lack of spoon-feeding voice-over and its dream sequences that seem to suggest Deckard is actually a replicant. But the beauty of "Blade Runner" (besides its incredible possession of mood, tone and atmosphere, still almost unparalleled to this day) is in regards to the uncertain identity of Deckard, something that adds yet another level of mystique to the dystopian story.

But of course, by not letting that remain enigmatic (and therefore beautiful and striking), Scott ruined this surprise ages ago, which frankly separates him from the masters of our time. (For instance, Christopher Nolan is not going to tell you what happens with the totem at the end of "Inception" because that would defeat the point, obviously. Stanley Kubrick didn’t exactly spell out what happened in “2001: A Space Odyssey” either.)

Scott should understand this, but evidently it's not clear at all and instead of creating epics for audiences to ponder for ages, he's seemingly stuck on forging clue-based puzzles with concrete, discoverable answers. “Prometheus” was maddening and uneven, but the various questions it raises were its strength. Who were those guys at the beginning? What was the weird black goo they swallowed, and was it some sort of suicide or sacrifice? What planet was that? How did they tie into the rest of the story? Etc. etc. And one by one, Scott, in various interviews (including this one in particular) has revealed exactly what he meant and what happened (and in the recent “Prometheus” DVD commentary track he basically answers and responds to all these questions in one nice neat package).

Even more, the film’s Facebook page released some cryptic “Prometheus” viral infographic about the etymology of the “black goo” that is a supposed hint and tease at “Prometheus 2” (see below). But really, given Scott’s track record, isn't this just going to be another solvable clue in the next film that some geeks are going to uncover? To the filmmakers, this is probably part of the fun, but to this writer, it once again just re-addresses the fact that genuine masters of cinema would rather let audiences come to their own conclusions about purposefully enigmatic pieces of art rather than spell them out later so fans won’t be... irritated.

We’re not sure what the impetus is, but frankly, it’s rather disheartening. Wouldn’t it be nice to lock Damon Lindelof in a room and say, “Dude, even though we thought ‘Prometheus’ the script was a mess, it hinted and played with some great themes and ideas, how do you feel about Scott letting out the cat out of the bag for almost every secret contained therein?” As a writer who likes to hew close to almost maddening ambiguity (no one would be dumb enough to try and explain the ending of “Lost” for example or even the abstract ending of “The Sopranos”), one would think Scott’s approach is completely antithetical to Lindelof’s.

“Prometheus” is on DVD/Blu-ray now. If you want every single clue revealed, just listen to the commentary track. We promise you it won’t be as satisfying as the questions your imagination raised. Constant complaining, or do we just expect much, much more from the guy who created "Blade Runner" and "Alien"? Or does the emperor truly have no clothes?

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16 Comments

  • John | January 8, 2013 5:01 PMReply

    I dont like ambiguity. I want a begining middle and end. I want it to make some sense. I want a good script with good casting. I can take the odd plot twist but I don't want incomplete arcs or contradictory arcs. I dont want to be toyed with!

  • Houston | October 17, 2012 2:22 AMReply

    Scott mentions on the Prometheus commentary how he's currently working on the Blade Runner script.

  • guest7 | October 14, 2012 6:49 PMReply

    ..." which frankly separates him from the masters of our time. (For instance, Christopher Nolan...."
    -----------------------------------------------------
    lol, like saying George Carlin isn't as good as "The master of our time, Dane Cook."
    smh.

  • John | October 13, 2012 6:15 PMReply

    Wow. You certainly are an angry writer. Amazing director speaks his mind and does the projects he wants AND I'M NOT HAPPY ABOUT IT!

  • WilChambers | October 13, 2012 5:12 PMReply

    If a director says something about a movie, does it make it so? I'm pretty sure we can ignore what sounds like Scott pandering to 30 years of fans' discussions. Besides, depending on which cut you watch, nobody's answered whether Deckard was reprogrammed after he and Batty escaped from off world, or instead was LAPD's best-kept secret.

  • DHE | October 12, 2012 10:54 PMReply

    I was hoping "Prometheus" would be one of those movies that get better with age. Something people could debate about but I have to admit, Ridley is really killing it for everybody. I'm losing confidence on "Blade Runner"

  • Andrew | October 12, 2012 7:33 PMReply

    "Stanley Kubrick didn’t exactly spell out what happened in “2001: A Space Odyssey” either."


    From an interview with Kubrick in 1969:


    "No, I don't mind discussing it, on the lowest level, that is, straightforward explanation of the plot. You begin with an artifact left on earth four million years ago by extraterrestrial explorers who observed the behavior of the man-apes of the time and decided to influence their evolutionary progression. Then you have a second artifact buried deep on the lunar surface and programmed to signal word of man's first baby steps into the universe -- a kind of cosmic burglar alarm. And finally there's a third artifact placed in orbit around Jupiter and waiting for the time when man has reached the outer rim of his own solar system."



    "When the surviving astronaut, Bowman, ultimately reaches Jupiter, this artifact sweeps him into a force field or star gate that hurls him on a journey through inner and outer space and finally transports him to another part of the galaxy, where he's placed in a human zoo approximating a hospital terrestrial environment drawn out of his own dreams and imagination. In a timeless state, his life passes from middle age to senescence to death. He is reborn, an enhanced being, a star child, an angel, a superman, if you like, and returns to earth prepared for the next leap forward of man's evolutionary destiny."


    http://www.visual-memory.co.uk/amk/doc/0069.html

  • Andrew | October 12, 2012 7:37 PM

    Good lord. It would be really helpful if hitting enter actually resulted in blank lines when making comments.

  • tristan eldritch | October 12, 2012 4:23 PMReply

    "But of course, by not letting that remain enigmatic (and therefore beautiful and striking), Scott ruined this surprise ages ago, which frankly separates him from the masters of our time (for instance, Christopher Nolan is not going to tell you what happens with the totem at the end of "Inception" because that would defeat the point, obviously."

    Look, part of the reason why Scott acknowledged that Deckard was a replicant was because (in the directors cut) there is no mystery about this whatever - it's there, plain as day, that either Deckard is a repliant or the director is just yanking your chain. (I think one of Scott's quotes on this subject was "You would have to be an idiot not to get that Deckard is a replicant".) I actually admire Inception, but the real difference between it and Blade Runner is that Inception is just yanking your chain and playing with you - there is no real thematic or emotional weight behind the spinning top mystery. It's just mechanical puzzle solving - Nolan threw in enough hints and clues to facilitate either interpretation. Scott "gave away" Blade Runner because Deckard being a repliant was a definite point he wanted to communicate in the film - Nolan didn't "give away" Inception because there was nothing to give away; it was a deliberately constructed ambiguity whose solution just doesn't really matter in comparison to the process of trying to unravel it.

  • Great Scott! | October 12, 2012 6:16 PM

    ^^ this (what Tristan said) ^^

  • berk | October 12, 2012 2:47 PMReply

    I am really interested in seeing how Scott's direction of The Counselor stacks up with a script by Cormac McCarthy vs. a script by Lindelof.

  • Kate | October 12, 2012 6:33 PM

    The McCarthy script isn't good either.

  • Chris | October 12, 2012 1:21 PMReply

    "As a writer who likes to hew close to almost maddening ambiguity (No one would be dumb enough to try and explain the ending of 'Lost' for example or even abstract ending of 'The Sopranos')" ... Yeah, the ending to "Lost" isn't ambiguous in the slightest.

  • Elizabeth Shaw | October 12, 2012 1:16 PMReply

    We Were Wrong, We Were So Wrong

  • Tyler | October 12, 2012 12:59 PMReply

    Scott going on and on about "Prometheus" as if it were the most genius labyrinth of ideas ever committed to film is getting so old. I don't understand why there's still a conversation going on about this movie at all.

  • justsaying | October 14, 2012 6:53 PM

    been to the theaters lately.... not much to discuss when the only alternatives are "TAKEN 2"...

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