As with all artists, Ridley Scott
has ups and downs. He’s got his blind spots when it comes to screenplays, as so many moviemakers do, but his vision is so clear on so many aspects of filmmaking. There is an essential lack in his work that keeps him from making the leap from the list of directors I really, REALLY like to the much smaller list of those I see as the great artists of the medium. Things like Brett wandering off to be killed in ALIEN and Camron Diaz having sex with a car in THE COUNSELOR. There’s a spark lacking in his movies, a certain American energy that someone like Tarantino has an over-abundance of (which is all Q.T. has got).
I hate seeing people putting Scott down so casually. His first three movies are still among my favorites (that’s DUELLISTS, ALIEN, BLADE RUNNER). He’s done several others almost on that level, and some late-career movies I think are underrated and near-great–PROMETHEUS and THE COUNSELOR. The dumb stuff in PROMETHEUS is the most explicit example of Scott’s misjudgments, but the good stuff in the movie is so very good.
The ALIEN franchise was really hurt when Scott listened to “fans” and made COVENANT with the original alien. The origin of it now being linked to humans through David is a terrible miscalculation. Scott said he changed his plans when he read online reaction, and COVENANT fails for me because it’s like Scott tried to do two different things, based on what he THOUGHT people wanted.
The hard fact is the alien just isn’t as shocking as it was in ALIEN. Even the much-loved ALIENS turns them into the horror equivalent of STAR WARS stormtroopers. They’ve lost their specialness. I think Scott was on the right track when he created different mutations in PROMETHEUS, because the aliens are NOT the core of the story–they were in ALIEN, but that’s over. What created them is the focus in PROMETHEUS; in COVENANT, the focus is David. He’s a good character but I liked him better when he was a being with his/its own agenda that conflicted with Shaw’s.
PROMETHEUS did something I never thought I’d see in this franchise–feature a lead character different but just as interesting as Ripley. And now she’s been tossed aside in favor of David, who was far more interesting as a supporting player.
COVENANT was amazing in its own way, for me: A Ridley Scott ALIEN movie that bored me.
He should do another, but really do what he wants to do to repair the damage of COVENANT, and possibly rescue it by putting it in context. The aliens are like any slasher movie monster now, no longer scary. But they can be something else, in a science fiction story that puts the franchise in a SF framework that rescues it from the poor choices that threaten to swallow the whole, messy series.
I hope he does this.