Why The Counsellor is Ridley Scott’s last chance

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After over a decade of failures, Ridley Scott needs to prove his worth with one of the surest Hollywood properties of 2013.

When I was but a wee boy, I had a pet rabbit. He was black and white and called Ziggy. Sadly, his teeth started to grow inwards. He couldn’t eat properly anymore. The vet had to put him down. He had to die because he was suffering and there was no way to stop it. I say this because it’s much like the situation Sir Ridley Scott now finds himself in. Now, I’m of course not advocating a trip to Switzerland, but Ridley Scott’s predicament does contain some similarities to that of Ziggy. Whilst he obviously doesn’t need to die, maybe his career does. Maybe the suffering needs to end.

Ridley Scott’s life as a big daddy player teeters on the brink of oblivion. Back in 2000, this would have seemed unthinkable

Ridley Scott’s life as a big daddy player in the upper echelons of director society-land teeters on the brink of oblivion. He’s sitting in the last chance saloon, bleeding from the wounds of 999 cuts and twirling a bloody knife. On the bar before him is a script for The Counsellor. His do or die film. Back in 2000, when Gladiator came out, a situation like this would have seemed unthinkable. How could the director of Alien and Blade Runner decline to such an alarming extent? But it’s the truth. Whilst old messrs Spielberg and Scorsese have undoubtedly dropped their level since the turn of the millennium, they’re still making better than average films, occasionally even the odd great film.

Scott, however, hasn’t even made good films. Only Liverpool FC have fallen from greatness to aggressive mediocrity faster than Ridley Scott. The thing is though, when Liverpool collapsed it was funny, while Ridley Scott’s descent is just plain sad. The man who helped define the sci-fi genre, reduced to such Hollywood generics as Body of Lies and Robin Hood. Films so devoid of identity and creativity they belong in his brother’s credits. After all, Sir Ridley makes films, not movies. Or at least he used to.

gladiator

The thing is, it’s not even hard to see where it all went wrong. There’s not a slow reversal in the spectrum; the transition is as clear as day. After Gladiator, Ridley Scott started to regress, no doubt about it. Who knows why. Maybe he just reached his maximum potential with Maximus. Or maybe that Best Director snub hurt him more than he let on. Whatever way you look at it, Gladiator was his last great film, maybe even his last good film.

Prometheus was a messy, confused stab in the dark at philosophical science fiction

And it is sad to see a director of such importance and stature as Ridley Scott so obviously falling further and further behind. It was a bit like watching Schumacher’s comeback for Mercedes: a titan of his profession trying desperately to cling onto previous glories, but seeing them slip agonisingly through clutching and clawing fingers in a, sometimes embarrassing, attempt to relive the past.

Prometheus was Scott’s attempt to stop his free-fall and try to restore some of the credibility he’s been shedding faster than the hair of a bernese mountain dog. It was the perfect platform to launch his comeback: a return to the sci-fi genre he helped create. A return to arguably his greatest film. That’s what he’s come to now. When you’re lost or devoid of confidence, you retreat to what you know you can do, or where you’re most comfortable. He probably should have asked how that approach went for Spielberg or Lucas first, though. Prometheus was a messy, confused stab in the dark at philosophical science fiction that ultimately had no answers to the multitude of questions it asked. To put it bluntly, it was shit.

prometheus michael fassbender

A director like Ridley Scott will never find it hard to get a film made; he’ll never see himself cast onto the heap of past Hollywood golden boys. But you do get a feeling that there’s not really any coming back from another failure. If Ridley Scott can’t even make a half decent film from what’s supposedly meant to be his bread and butter with Prometheus, how is he ever going to make a good original film again?

Pitt, Fassbender, McCarthy; in purely superficial terms, The Counsellor seems like a sure thing

That’s why The Counsellor is so important. On purely aesthetic and superficial terms, it seems like a sure thing. Pitt, Fassbender, Bardem, Cruz, Diaz and a script by Cormac McCarthy; not even Roland Emmerich could screw up a film with that much talent in. It’s why Ridley Scott just cannot afford to fail with this film if he still maintains hopes of being taken seriously.

It could seem harsh to judge a man’s future on the fate of one film. But with Scott it’s not just one film – it’s a list full of Hannibals and A Good Years and Kingdom of Heavens. Much like my deceased rabbit, sometimes the humane thing to do is to just put them out of their misery, to stop their suffering. Not even the most sadistic of people would like to see Ridley Scott slowly stabbing his career to death. But maybe, just maybe, if The Counsellor is a success, then perhaps we’ll get to see 20th century Scott live once more. Maybe.

 

Featured image: 20th Century Fox

Inset images: Universal; 20th Century Fox

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