Ridley Scott says 'Sci-fi films are as dead as Westerns'

August 31, 2007
Source: TimesOnline

Blade Runner

You may know him as the guy who brought us Maximus in Gladiator, or maybe as the guy who made Black Hawk Down, but his first two science fiction films are heralded as some of the greatest in cinematic history - Alien and Blade Runner. Since Blade Runner debuted in 1982, Ridley Scott has never returned to science fiction, and in a recent article over at TimesOnline, he was quoted as saying "sci-fi films are as dead as westerns." Can that really be? Are both of those great genres, sci-fi and westerns, dead forever?

When asked to elaborate as to why they're dead, Ridley responded with the answer that sums up most of Hollywood.

"There's nothing original. We've seen it all before. Been there. Done it," he said. Asked to pick out examples, he said: "All of them. Yes, all of them."

"There is an overreliance on special effects as well as weak storylines," he said of modern sci-fi films.

Ridley made the case that Stanley Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey was the "the best of the best" and that every sci-fi film since 1968 has borrowed from Kubrick's brilliance. Of course the arguments will never die when it comes to ranking sci-fi, and in my own personal opinion, 2001 isn't my favorite. It may be one of the greatest sci-fi films technically ever made, along with Blade Runner, but my appreciation goes towards a selection of other sci-fi gems and maybe even some guilty pleasures.

If you haven't had a chance and are a fan of sci-fi at all, then you need to see Sunshine, Danny Boyle's latest adventure in filmmaking. If anything, that's a prime example that sci-fi isn't dead, it's just waiting to be taken advantage of by the right people. I would even be hard pressed to say that mainstream filmmakers should stray away from sci-fi, only because they're likely to butcher what could be a good story and simply repeat what we've seen before, as Ridley said.

In terms of the future of sci-fi, there's at least two strong contenders for a possible return. There's the upcoming Rendezvous with Rama from author Arthur C. Clarke, which if still in the hands of David Fincher (Se7en, Fight Club, Zodiac) could yet again prove that sci-fi has a chance to survive. And there's also James Cameron's Avatar, which is poised to change the way we watch movies forever, a testament to showing that technological change in cinema comes through sci-fi.

Even looking at westerns, they're attempting to make a comeback as well and I've been encouraging interest. Both 3:10 to Yuma and The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford are making their debuts in the coming months. It's been 15 years since Clint Eastwood's Unforgiven and I won't go as far to say these two will bring about the return of westerns, but they will make a formidable attempt.

What is undeniable is that interest has died off and there just isn't an abundance of these genre films. That's not to say it's totally dead, but it is to say that when a film like Sunshine or Rendezvous with Rama comes out, it will be in limited theaters and not playing everywhere. It's a tough equation because on one hand you can make the argument that by showing it everywhere the interest will then increase, but on the other hand it would be a risk to show it everywhere if it's not going to fill the theaters.

As long as every so often a brilliant filmmaker comes along and makes a fantastic sci-fi or western film, I'll at least be satisfied. It will keep the flame burning, and maybe if it hits on the right note, turn that flame back into a bonfire. I'm hoping that Cameron's Avatar may be the big push to bring sci-fi back into the limelight, but if anything it will only open the door for more half-as-good sci-fi tentpoles and nothing original. Ridley Scott may make his convictions and claims, but it's up to the new filmmakers (like Danny Boyle) and new visionaries in Hollywood and beyond to be the ones to prove that a genre isn't entirely dead.


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Science fiction is my favorite genre so I totally disagree with him. Children of Men and Sunshine prove him wrong.

Ethan on Aug 31, 2007


Sorry but Sunshine is empty crap. A few soulless cgi, pathetic sillyness and inattentive viewers (everything! is explained) makes no great scifi. Ridley Scott is right. SciFi today is only an excuse für dumb storys with illogical action sequences. Just my 2 cent

Max Monroe on Aug 31, 2007


p.s. you can thank george lucas for that. He startet i all, 30 years ago...

Max Monroe on Aug 31, 2007


SciFi isnt dead. Theres just too much crap out there. Sunshine was excellent. Children of Men was scifi but not in the spaceships and lasers sense. I also think Tombstone was the last great western. Love that film.

Heckle on Aug 31, 2007


I can't say I completely agree with Scott either but I think he's really stretching when he says that “There's nothing original. We've seen it all before. Been there. Done it," he said. Asked to pick out examples, he said: “All of them. Yes, all of them." Without a doubt, they all borrow from each other but his statement makes sci-fi look worse than the rest of the bunch when in fact, I've heard it argued that ALL modern film is essentially the same. I'm married to a man who still argues that he's seen it all, that they're all the same and that every idea is a remake of some other and in essence, he's right. There are only so many stories we, as humanity, can tell. There are only so many feeling and emotions that we can feel and that limitation is apparent in all of our art, including film. Still, I think it's particularly disrespectful for him to lump all sci-fi into one group when his quote could much more easily be applied to modern horror films. That said, I congratulate him for not shrinking from an honest answer.

Marina on Aug 31, 2007


mr. scott is pretty much full of crap on this one...I'd rather see a dozen "unoriginal" sci fi movies then A Good Year again

chrisg on Aug 31, 2007


It's funny Scott would make this statement as he is pushing his NEWER version of his Sci-Fi masterpiece... again. I know that I'm in the small minority of fans that actually prefer the theatrical version of Blade Runner, so I just hoping Scott can hold on to some of what was great about the original BR. Who says there is nothing original left?! Just update every film ever made... that's the ticket!

TheGuyInThePj's on Aug 31, 2007


Ha, this is also particularly funny because one of his upcoming projects is "Blood Meridian" and it just so happens to be a western.

Zach on Sep 1, 2007


Ridley Scott is an absolute legend but I have to admit, his comments are startling to say the least. Two words to end this argument: The Matrix.

Matt on Sep 1, 2007


Alex, don't forget "Interstellar"(2009). I'm very excited to see what happens with younger bother J. Nolan script, when directed by a living legend... Spielberg.

TheGuyInThePj's on Sep 1, 2007


Realy hope not, but there is too much rubish for the good stuff to shine through

The unknown stuntman on Sep 1, 2007


Brilliant recent Sci-fi: Minority Report, The Fountain, Children of Men, The Matrix, Dark City, Gattaca. One potentially brilliant sci-fi film coming soon that hasn't been mentioned is Spielberg's Interstellar.

source188 on Sep 1, 2007


woops! Interstellar was already mentioned.

source188 on Sep 1, 2007


I think Ridley is talking out of his arse on this one; particularly, as mentioned, his Blade Runner Ultimate Cut (or whatever) is due out on DVD this year. Maybe Ridley himself is out of ideas in general -- look at A Good Year, what a load of garbage. Sci-Fi is far from dead. We just haven't seen many good ideas made into movies lately.

Mark on Sep 2, 2007


It's like when Sean Connery said he would stop making movies because there are no good directors out there anymore-him and Scott are just talking about how they feel about themselves and not what the state of the films are out there. Historically, how many really good sci-fi films come out every year? There is usually one good one that is followed by a bunch of imitators-ie:The Road Warrior, Star Wars, Alien-but that is what set's sci-fi apart from most popular genres-in order to make a good one it has to be really visionary and unique. Is the drama dead or the teenage comedy? Look at the box office and the critiques and I would say certainly not. A million of those types of films come out every year. Children of Men, The Matrix, Jurassic Park, Event Horizon and Signs are great examples of great and recent sci-fi films. Maybe sci-fi is so mainstream these days that it we don't regard it as such anymore.

Unlived on Sep 2, 2007


It's quite surprising to hear a comment like Mr Scott's for the following reasons: 1) It's coming from Mr Alien & Blade Runner, which themselves revolutionized the genre. 2) SF was a dead genre until Star Wars came by (2001 being the exception to the rule) 3) SF is all-encompassing: hard SF, space opera SF, comedy SF (think MIB), metaphysical SF (2001 again), etc. etc. If there's one type of cinema that will never be able to run out of "originality" - unless humankind as run its course - it's SF.

Alex C. on Sep 4, 2007


Sci-Fi cannot "die" because it's part of the human condition to want to describe the ways things could be in the future.

Michael Critzz on Sep 4, 2007


AVATAR!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Will rule them all!!!

REAL6 on Oct 24, 2007


Star Trek is about to prove him wrong! Maybe he's just ckickening out of making Rama!

Malcolm on May 4, 2009


Genre, in many cases, is intended to serve as a mirror of society, that is, they tend to address problems that their larger audiences are encountering at the given time. Science-fiction's rise to power in the 50's and 60's was the result of political upheaval, McCarthyism, and a general distrust of government. In an era where (US) government has recrafted itself to be a "transparent" and technologically involved entity, I think it opens up the door for a whole new brand of Science Fiction that addresses the modern issue of "Buddy Government" or even acknowledges Aldous Huxley's "Brave New World," where people would rather lead a life of perverted happiness (soma, or in our case, Facebook, etc.) than read Shakespeare.

Connor Towle on Oct 10, 2009

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