Ridley Scott Has Turned Down A Few Superhero Movies: 'Not For Me'  

Imagine, if you will, a movie about a costumed hero flying through the air, shooting laser beams out of their eyes. Now imagine that movie had a title card that read, "Directed by Ridley Scott." I'm sorry. It's probably too early in the morning for such flights of fancy. If you did allow yourself a moment to actually consider what that might look like, though, you aren't alone. Some lonely studio exec is sitting on their piles of money, dreaming of a beautiful sunset shining off spandex, shedding a tear over what could have been.

All that is to say that Ridley Scott, the man who brought us films like "Black Hawk Down," "The Martian," "Blade Runner," "Gladiator," "Alien," Kingdom of Heaven," "Thelma & Louise," and "G.I. Jane" has been offered superhero movies in the past, and he's turned them down, according to a recent interview with Deadline. Scott was speaking about his latest offering, "Napoleon," starring Joaquin Phoenix. The question he was asked concerned critiques of his work, with a joke about these naysayers wanting to have Napoleon as a spandex-covered superhero. It's one of those things that gets brought up in so many interviews, and understandably so. We all want to know if our favorite directors would be willing to take on the popular form of entertainment — such as it is these days — and put their own unique stamp on a genre that has dominated the cultural landscape for a decade-and-a-half.

'I think there's a couple of pretty good Batmans'

In his response, Scott spoke about how younger people are distracted by technology "instead of climbing a tree and go for a swim in the river and even fall out of the tree and break a leg occasionally." I ... I think Ridley Scott is telling us to touch grass. He continued:

"It's all internalized entertainment. There's this idolization of the superheroes, which really is just a comic strip extension. And from that, it's very difficult to write a comic-strip story and carry it out successfully on film. That said, I'm not a superhero fan, even though I used to love the comic strips. 

"I think there's a couple of pretty good Batmans, and that 'Superman' movie by DIck Donner captured the tradition of the comic strip. As we've enlarged upon our capabilities visually, I think funnily enough, everything gets less real and less real. And now it seemed to become an excuse for actors to make a lot of money on the side playing superheroes."

I wonder if I would have had the same reaction to what Scott said five years ago, which is to say that I'm beginning to agree with him about some of it. Many of us have been offended in the past when major directors, like Martin Scorsese, have dissed superhero flicks. However, it's getting harder to defend the glut of what can often feel like the same story over and over again. I certainly can't blame him for the CGI diss. It is getting out of control.

That said, there are many wonderful superhero films out there, and not just the "Batmans" and "that Superman movie by Dick Donner." It's also okay to unabashedly love something that isn't the pinnacle of high art.

'I think Sigourney Weaver's a superhero in Aliens'

Still, Scott has been offered more than one superhero film. As much as the theoretical side of my brain would like to see Ridley Scott do an X-Men movie, the practical side doesn't. The films Scott does do, whether I like them or not (and I generally do with a few exceptions), are often about incredibly heroic people or incredibly villainous ones. In fact, Scott said something similar. When asked if he'd been offered a superhero film that he was "tempted to say yes to," he replied: 

"Yeah, been offered, but just said, no, thank you. Not for me. I've done two or three superhero films. I think Sigourney Weaver's a superhero in 'Aliens.' I think Russell Crowe's a superhero in 'Gladiator.' And Harrison Ford is the super anti-hero in 'Blade Runner.' The difference is, the f******* stories are better."

I won't argue that some of these characters are absolutely superheroes or super anti-heroes. Some of the stories are better. Some are not. We tell stories about people who are extraordinary in some way. We live our 9-5 lives, but we want to see a story about someone who doesn't, or who breaks out of that routine. We want to watch people save the world, in spandex or in a crown. The superhero world has gotten in over its head a bit and yes, films and TV shows have been churned out with less regard to quality than we might want. But, in the end, they're all stories about people doing things that we wish we could do ourselves, whether it's about a king or an astronaut, a criminal fighting for what's right, or even a kid who was bitten by a spider who tries to save the world. 

"Napoleon" hits theaters on November 22, 2023.

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