Ridley’s Blade Runner Blues

Some interesting comments from Ridley Scott during recent interviews whilst doing the press for All the Money in the World (or ‘The One That Erased Spacey’).  Interviewed by New York magazine’s Vulture website the subject turned to the recent BR20149 and he seemed to blame the film’s box office failure on the film’s length:  [Whispers] “I have to be careful what I say. I have to be careful what I say. It was fucking way too long. Fuck me! And most of that script’s mine…  I shouldn’t talk. I’m being a bitch.”

br2049It set me thinking. I mean, Ridley may have a point about the film’s length- its 163-minute running time clearly put off some viewers, but would it have made it a better film? To me, the pace of BR2049 is part of the film’s appeal- its leisurely pace is that of a tone poem, a sad study of what is human, what is real. And it must be remembered that a chief criticism of the original Blade Runner, even today, is its perceived slowness, something I consider one of its successes.

But Ridley’s words made me think just as much of his last few movies. I recall on one of the behind the scenes docs, he made a telling comment that one has to be careful in the editing room of rewatching a film too much, of losing objectivity. I can’t quote him exactly, but he said something along the lines of ‘even the best jokes wear thin once you’ve heard them too many times’, and that it is too easy to over-cut a film, and cut some good stuff out, not because it isn’t working but simply because of over-familiarity, of seeing it too much, and it can actually hurt a film, cutting too much.

I remember watching Ridley’s Kingdom of Heaven at the cinema and being thoroughly disappointed by it- it was empty-headed pretty nonsense, every bad habit of Ridley’s thrown into one vacuous historical epic. And yet his directors cut of Kingdom of Heaven, restoring really important footage, is simply brilliant, and is one of his best films (in fact, I’d rate it right up there behind Blade Runner and Alien, and like Billy Wilder’s The Apartment or Hitchcock’s Psycho,may be remembered as Ridleys last great movie).

The irony is, that theatrical cut of Kingdom of Heaven didn’t fare particularly well at the box office and got a general savaging from the critics, so what did that shorter cut achieve? There are numerous times when I have eulogised about how great the film is, to be scoffed at by others, and I have to ask them what version they saw. Its like there are two seperate movies with the same title and cast.

Thankfully, this is not true of BR2049; we got its directors cut and the critics loved it and I’m sure when people finally get around to seeing it on home video/streaming they will be pleasantly surprised by it or reconsider it on subsequent viewings. Sure, some will rally against it pace and length, as its more a ‘seventies movie than a present-day movie in some of its sensibilities.

God knows I’m a huge fan of Ridley’s work and have defended him so many times- I can always find something worthwhile in most of his movies, indeed even The Counsellor, which is widely pilloried, is a pretty good film to me, particularly in its extended cut.  I do find it annoying these days though, how how a film is perceived can often depend on which version one saw. In the old days, there was only one version of Gone With The Wind, Citizen Kane, West Side Story or Casablanca (barring regional censorship). We didn’t need two or three seperate versions to tell a story.

Moreover, I do wonder if some of Ridleys comments stem from his ire at BR2049 being perceived by some as being actually superior to his original. Maybe he has been stung by such views, or the lavish critical praise for it in the wake of less-favourable reviews of his last few movies. Maybe I should take a leaf out of Ridley’s book….  I shouldn’t talk. I’m being a bitch.



6 thoughts on “Ridley’s Blade Runner Blues

  1. It’s an interesting comment for him to make because I’ve heard hardly anyone who actually saw the film complain about its length. Yeah, it may well have hurt its box office (fewer showings per day; casual punters put off) but that’s a different matter to its quality. Perhaps I’m inferring too much from his few words, but it sounds like he feels vindicated — “I said it was too long and look what happened” — but, frankly, I don’t think he is.

    It may well play better for some people at home anyway — if you’re prepared to binge four or five or more episodes of a serialised TV programme, an under-three-hour film is a walk in the park.

    1. I’m sure you’re right about home viewing aiding BR2049. After all, people enjoyed HBOs similarly-themed Westworld and that was pretty slow over ten episodes. Here’s hoping anyway.

  2. Matthew McKinnon

    Another rambling, opportunistic, nonsensical interview from Ridley Scott. I’m inclined to put his bullshit down to old age, but the way he still constantly grasps at whatever seems to be the zeitgeist (CGI Ripley a possibility after Rogue One? Blade Runner 2049 a box office flop – he has the answers! Etc etc) is totally in character.
    What a horrible charlatan.

    1. True, he seems to be in the media doing interviews all the time these days, its a wonder he finds time to make movies- or maybe he should spend more time actually making the movies, or making fewer of them. His comments regards BR2049 really did spark my ire though. Usually I rather roll my eyes on most of his ramblings but these latest comments got my blood rising. He should have been defending it and questioning the public’s taste, I mean, he was a producer on the damn thing. Even if he stepped backwards to give Villeneuve some freedom, it’s not as if he was washing his hands of it. I’m sure had it been a hit he’d have been helming the third one.

      1. Matthew McKinnon

        Oh god. Your last sentence. I hadn’t even considered that.
        But yeah. Talking about all the different directions it could go in. Inflating his involvement in 2049. I can almost hear it.

  3. Imagine, BR2059, the inevitable Alien tie-in. Wallace Corp. bought out by Weyland, Nexus 9s used on a deep space mission, they discover a derelict, bring something back…

    Maybe BR2049 not setting the box-office alight is a blessing, really.

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