Ridley Scott, or Sir Ridley Scott depending on how you feel like addressing him, made a fairly provocative comment at the Venice Film Festival on August 30th. The occasion was the 25th anniversary of the release of Blade Runner, in yet another director's cut, in anticipation of a 5 (five!) disc DVD release of the same this fall by Warner Brothers. (The previous link includes some reviews of the newest version at the Venice festival, including EW's Owen Gliberman's comment that Blade Runner is "the only science-fiction film that can be called transcendental." Hey, Owen, what about this Fritz Lang classic, or this Russian masterpiece, or even this small-scale but extremely effective version of the Ursula K. Leguin novel ... eh, what's the use.) To get back to the original point about sweeping generalizations, Scott was in a no doubt expansive mood, and started to discuss the great films of sci-fi.
Here's how it went down, according to The Times of London on-line. In Scott's opinion, science fiction films are not just dead, they're "as dead as westerns...there's nothing original. We've seen it all before. Been there. Done that." Scott celebrates 2001: A Space Odyssey as the pinnacle of sci-fi and says that "over-reliance on special effects" and weak story lines are the culprit. Responses from the blogosphere came fast and furious; one correspondent, Donald Smith, pointed out that Shane Carruth's small-scale film Primer had been "low-key and highly intelligent" while being completely without high-tech bloat. What I haven't been seeing is someone making the point that Blade Runner is film noir dressed in a sci-fi costume, just like Scott's other famous sci-fi film Alien, is a monster movie set in outer space. When it comes to the essential matter of sci-fi -- what humans are, where we are going, and when will we cease to exist -- Scott is only slightly interested ... especially when compared to the Philip K. Dick novel upon which Blade Runner is based. Watching it, you have to recall Pauline Kael's comment that almost everyone in the film would flunk the Voight-Kampff empathy test that ferrets out skin-jobs. As the director of such a high-tech, low-emotion film, is Scott really in a position to nail shut the coffin of an entire genre?