Ridley Scott: A Champion of Women, from Prometheus to Alien-Guest blogger Krystyna Hunt

The recently released Prometheus, directed by Ridley Scott is a strange and baffling mix of deep questions, sublime art direction and set design, superficial plot and amateurish screenplay and casting.  It is yet another riddle of its director.  Ridley Scott has created both great wonder of cinema and great clunkers, sometimes both in the same films.


At first glance Ridley Scott seems to be a man’s director.  He is interested in manly subjects like outer space, horror, ferocious bloody death, war and conflict, action and mayhem. He has a large and devoted following in the male sphere, probably only third after The Star Wars and Star Trek sagas.


But he has shown an astonishing sensitivity towards women.  You could say that with Alien in 1979, he broke the mold of women never being cast as action heroes, or having the courage and vitality of a man.  He proved that a leading lady did not have to be glamorous but could still be riveting and sexy.


Except for Carrie Fisher’s Princess Leia, in the Star Wars series, (which was still kind of a girly role), women were in action adventure films merely for sexual titillation.  Usually, because of their physical weakness or penchant for glamour the woman was either caught by the villain and had to be rescued by the hero, or sprained her ankle when running and had to be carried by the hero.  Women in adventure films were either trouble or boring.


The two women in Prometheus played by Noomi Rapace and Charlize Theron are the strong, vibrant, tough survivors we now take for granted in adventure films.  No more sprained ankles or lost earrings. 


In Alien, Ridley Scott cast the sublime Sigourney Weaver.  She played Lt. Ellen Ripley, a sweaty, hard-working, hard-fighting foil to the Alien invasion – the only one who could take the creatures on. She went on to appear in all the Alien sequels and had herself major stardom and an important career.


Ridley Scott’s next film in the history of women’s evolution was Thelma and Louise in 1991.  The leads were 2 wounded-by-men women, who in their flight from men across the country became heroes to male and female audiences alike. The stars, Susan Sarandon and Geena Davis were both nominated for Best Actress Oscars.


Next was G.I. Jane in 1997, starring Demi Moore as Lt. Jordan O’Neil. This had a mixed box office and critics’ reaction.  Although ground-breaking in its story of a woman training to be a Navy SEAL, the film may have been too much for audiences to take.  Demi Moore was renowned for her beauty and asking an audience to pay to see a film with a shaved head while she struggles to compete for a place in a military unit that most men would not be able to get into was not very appealing.  Ripley was forced by circumstances to react to the Alien.  No one could blame her for dropping her femininity.  But Jordan O’Neil chose to compete with men directly, to out-man them so-to-speak, on their own terms, for no specific reason other than she wanted to.  Audiences were uncomfortable and stayed away.


Ridley Scott went on to greater things with his best-received movie, Gladiator.  He sank to his greatest low with Robin Hood, oddly enough starring the same actor, Russell Crowe.  However,Hollywoodcaught on to what he innovated and women stopped being portrayed as empty-headed distractions for guys doing guy things – at least in films that want to be taken seriously.


And now Prometheus, launched in 2093 is responsible for a woman and a robot going on to search for the origins of mankind.  Lt.Ripley on the Nostromo is set to follow Prometheus’s path and discover the Alien some 10 years later.


Krystyna Hunt is a film critic who explores how women are portrayed in the movies on her blog, Cherchez La Female




prometheusMy impressions of Prometheus are that the story-line in all Aliens sub-sets of movies must follow a checklist of prescribed events. The crew must be unaware of the evil lurking amongst them, and then suddenly be overcome by a strange and hideously grotesque alien life form. The theme of destruction from within is always coursing through the action sequences. We are always waiting for that horrible “thing” to come out of someone’s body. And knowing this, the good story-teller builds on the suspense. The horror is found in the evil that is like a plague surrounding the crew.

We know from the “get-go” that this crew is doomed. We are along for the ride to find out the “how” and the “why” and the “when”. The what and the where are all givens.

So…this movie is pretty good. Notice that I refrain from using the word “Great”. There could have been, as is the case with the cowbell, “more Charlize Theron”. She is one of the most interesting characters and is under-utilized. Guy Pearce is all but unknowable under the surprisingly fake looking old man makeup.

The captain, of the Prometheus ship, played by Idris Elba,plays his role perfectly and is also under-utilized.  Michael Fassbender is wonderful as David, the Robot. He dominates the first scenes, which are a clever little homage to 2001: A Space Odyssey. The cinematography in the opening shots is truly beautiful. The movie slides from here.

One of the strongest characters in the Alien trilogy of films is always the woman who must battle the Alien. This was masterfully played by Sigourney Weaver in two of the three Alien films. In Prometheus, the scientist/astronaut Elizabeth Shaw, played by the unknown actress Noomi Rapace, is the least memorable or interesting of all of the major characters. Rapace is the one that is tapped to carry the weight of much of the latter part of the film.  Apparently this role was the one Charlize Theron had intended to play originally. It was a big mistake, in my opinion, to switch the parts.

There are some interesting sequences, but the choice could have been better if Charlize Theron’s rather vapid character was given more heft. The Robot is an interesting character study, and that promising psychological fission is left largely unfulfilled as the action progresses predictably onward.

This is a good idea for a movie. The BladeRunner sequel that Director Ridley Scott is reportedly working on also sounds like a fantastic idea for a movie. But sometimes a great notion sounds better on paper. In this case, there is an okay movie about some forgettable characters that could have been something other.