August 1, 2009

Ridley Scott Returns To His Roots

As Hollywood continues to churn out a never ending cycle of sequels, remakes and "reboots" its becoming more and more difficult to find movies to get excited about, but something appeared in the trades a couple of days back that I thought was interesting: Ridley Scott has signed on to direct a prequel to Alien.

Scott, of course, directed the original film back in 1979, one of his first feature films, and it's now widely regarded as a classic of the Sci-Fi genre. Scott then left the franchise and let other directors (James Cameron and David Fincher among them) take a crack at the sequels until earlier this year he announced he wanted to return to the series, though just as a producer. His original plan was to have German commercial director Carl Rinsch helm the prequel, but the studio wasn't on board with this idea, and for awhile, it seemed they were at a stalemate.
I thought Rinsch was an inspired choice for the franchise. His commercials - which can be found on /Film, one of my favorite destinations on the 'net - were endlessly creative and always fused with a cyberpunk vibe that seemed aligned with the world of Alien. I can only speculate as to why the studio didn't feel he was the right guy for the job, but the fact that Rinsch is dating Ridley Scott's daughter likely set off some alarm bells for the studio who perhaps felt they were being force-fed this guy for nepotistic reasons. I don't think that argument is fair, because the guy definitely is a skilled director who has a good track record of fusing dazzling visual effects with compelling visuals, but perhaps his "in" with Ridley Scott actually hurt him in this case. So the studio said no and said they would green light an Alien prequel, but only with Ridley himself as the director. What I find amazing is that the same studio that thought so little of the Alien franchise that they let two shitty low-rent Alien vs. Predator films get made that diluted the value and prestige of their property are now suddenly holding it in such high regard that they wouldn't approve a director handpicked by the series' creator. But I digress.

What I think is interesting about this project is having the same director revisit the property thirty years later. This is not totally unique, Alfred Hitchcock actually directed a remake to one of his own films, and there's recent examples of filmmakers remaking english language versions of their own movies; but in this case, an Academy Award winning director is returning to the property he cut his teeth on as a young filmmaker, and he's doing it in a genre that will be most effected by the leaps and bounds made in visual effects over the last 30 years.

I'm certain there were limitations due to budget and technical proficiency that Scott faced in 1979 that her certainly won't be dealing with now. It's not just that, but as a story teller, he's approaching this from two very different places in his life. Alien was very much a story being told by a filmmaker new on the scene, developing his style and his voice and trying to make a name for himself in the industry. Now, in his seventies, knighted as Sir Ridley Scott and with an Academy Award on his mantle and resume filled with successes, he's coming at this from a very different place. Finally, after Scott made Alien and Blade Runner, he left the science fiction genre altogether. With those two films, he has a pretty impeccable reputation within Sci-Fi, and he's putting that on the line with this new project. I'm interested to see what he comes up with.

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