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‘Pokémon: Detective Pikachu’ Movie Trailer – A Shot By Shot Analysis




One of the biggest surprises in video game and movie news this week has got to be the Pokémon: Detective Pikachu trailer for a live-action adaptation of the Nintendo 3DS game from Warner Brothers and Legendary Pictures, which sees a highly intelligent Pikachu team up with a boy named Tim. Tim is the only one who can understand Detective Pikachu when he talks, and together they set about solving a mystery. Though the film has been in development since 2016, there hasn’t been much anticipation for it. However, since the trailer was dropped on November 12th the hype has increased significantly and for good reason. The trailer showcases the world of Pokémon brought to life on the big screen, and for many of us as fans, a live-action adaptation is something that once seemed impossible.

The trailer is full to the brim with Easter eggs and Pokémon, both in plain sight and slightly more hidden. Here’s everything we caught from the Pokémon: Detective Pikachu trailer.

Ryme City

The first shot of the trailer is an establishing shot of Ryme City, where Pokémon roam free rather than being made to stay in their Pokéballs. As well as hearing a small musical interlude (which is recognizable as the main theme from the original Pokémon games), we get a major look at several Pokémon roaming freely about the city. From those wandering on the ground, we see Charmander, Dodrio, and a perching Braviary; further in the background, you can spot a Venasaur, and what looks like a Bouffalant. In the sky there are several flying Pokémon going about their business — one that bears a distinct resemblance to Pidgeotto, or possibly Fearow, is seen along with a Comfey and Flabébé. There are also multiple signs in the city, with references such as a Berry Universe sign (berries being a popular food product for Pokémon). Some Pokémon included on the signs are Wooper, Sylveon, Victini, Pettilil, and Swirlix. On the left, there also seems to be a building with Pokéballs adorning it, perhaps depicting a healing centre, which are common sites in the games used to help to bring Pokémon back to full health.

Lucy and Psyduck

Next up we get a shot of a character called Lucy, a journalist with a pet Psyduck. There are also some parade balloons in the background of Gengar and Jigglypuff. Ryme City is known for its annual Pokémon Carnival, so it’s a safe bet to assume that the balloons will be a set piece for the carnival. You can also spot some parade workers dressed in outfits similar to Gengar and Squirtle. One of the more hidden Pokémon Easter eggs in this scene is a small Spoink bobblehead shown in Lucy’s car.

Tim’s Room

Tim’s bedroom is shown in the trailer, and there are tons of Pokémon references seen here in various posters for Pokémon Battles — not surprising, as it is noted that he was once an aspiring Pokémon trainer. A large Rayquaza adorns Tim’s bedroom wall, and the name Rayquaza is also plastered on a poster on the back of his door. Underneath, we see several more posters. A Charizard is shown on a Championship poster for a battle at the Cerulean Arena, and a similar one is shown on another wall with Blastoise. The Cerulean City setting is particularly noticeable to fans of the first generation of Pokémon. Based in Kanto, the setting for the first generation of games, Cerulean city is where Misty’s water gym resided. There is also a poster for a battle between first-gen Pokémon Hypno and Dragonite. A Johto Sports Club poster — Johto being the region from the second generation of games — advertises Articuno versus Steelix. Charizard pops up again in another poster for what looks to be a three or four-way fight between Charizard, Blaziken, and two more Pokémon who are harder to spot.

Tim also has a large pair of Pikachu ears acting as the headboard for his bed, making Pokémon fans everywhere slightly envious.

Detective Pikachu, I Presume

Finally, we get our first proper look at the hero of the story, Detective Pikachu himself. Looking cute, cuddly, and so very fluffy, Pikachu is about as close to realism as you can hope for when it comes to yellow, electric, mouse-like creatures with red cheeks and lightning bolt tails. This Pikachu is super smart and voiced by Ryan Reynolds, who gives off some serious Deadpool vibes as he threatens to electrocute Tim. Their connection becomes clear as it’s shown that Tim is the only one who can understand him. Other humans can only hear his classic voice when he attempts to communicate with them, and the original voice of Pikachu, Ikue ?tani, returns to her iconic role to provide it. I, for one, am looking forward to the surreal switching between the original Pikachu voice we know and love with the sassy and somewhat gruff tones of Ryan Reynolds.

The Market

The trailer continues to a marketplace scene, where we see that Tim really is the only person who can understand Pikachu, as we see passers-by only hearing his sickly sweet Pika Pikas. It’s also a scene that showcases more Pokémon ambling around, as we see another Dodrio and a trio of Emolgas hanging out to the left. There’s also what looks to be a small group of Joltiks on one of the market stalls to the right.

Charmander Lights it Up

In a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it shot, you can see that a Charmander is using its tail to light up the stove for a market vendor. It’s a glimpse at how the Pokémon in this world are very much involved in the lives of the humans, working together with them as companions.

More Marketplace

One last shot of the market shows another Venasaur to the left and a pink bipedal Pokémon to the right which looks like an Audino. It’s fun to see the Pokémon just going about their business on a busy street, interacting with and co-existing with humans.

Missing Pokémon

Some missing posters showcase a missing Pancham and Squirtle. It’s reminiscent of a missing pet poster, and you can see the name of Squirtle’s owner, Chelsea, suggesting that the bonds between the Pokémon and humans are going to play a significant part in the film.

Where the Bulbasaur Roam

A herd of Bulbasaurs and some Morelull are shown leading Tim and what looks like an injured Pikachu in the next scene. The Bulbasaurs’ appearance completes the roundup of the classic Pokémon that the player could choose from in the very first Pokémon games — the others being Squirtle and Charmander (and Pikachu in Pokémon Yellow). It’s a nice nostalgia blast to see all of the originals come to life.

Jigglypuff Is Not Impressed

Our next big reveal is the one and only Jigglypuff, standing on a table as a man snoozes next to her. She’s holding her microphone, which could double as a marker pen (like in the anime Pokémon series), and she’s looking less than pleased. This could be another reference to the anime, as Jigglypuff would often get annoyed when people would fall asleep when she was singing, and would retaliate by drawing on their faces with her marker. Classic Jigglypuff. Directly behind her, there is also another Pokémon battle poster, this one advertising Machamp versus Primeape.

Charizard Rages

We finally get to see Charizard in action in the next scene, as he appears in what looks like an underground arena. His roar creates a burst of flame, and he seems to be standing in a similar pose to the one seen on his original Pokémon card.

The Greninjas

A trio of Greninja — who later are seen chasing Pikachu — seem to be the bad guys in the trailer, but it looks like they could be playing the role of henchmen to the real villain.

Underground Arena

We then see Tim and Pikachu at the arena, and get a very quick glimpse of a Pancham along with a Squirtle. Could they be the ones from the missing posters? There’s also a Rufflet to the left of the shot, and they all appear to be observing a battle of some kind (most likely a Pokémon one).


Another Pokémon that can easily be missed in the trailer appears in this scene, and it seems to be an Aipom behind Tim. You can briefly see him running around the corner to the right, but he is obscured by the exploding rubble.

Road Trip

A close up of Psyduck and Pikachu shows the great detail that has gone into bringing these characters to life. You can see the vibrant colours and the detail of Psyduck’s feathers and Pikachu’s fur as they seem to be embarking on a road trip with Tim and Lucy. It’s a nice touch to see them so lovingly crafted.

Ground Breaking

The ground rises up Inception-style in the next scene, which may suggest a very powerful ground or rock-type Pokémon at work. The large scale of the shifting earth could be multiple Pokémon at once, or perhaps one of an unusually large size.

Mr Mime 

The Pokémon that the internet has been freaking out about is the eerie Mr. Mime. His fleshy, humanoid style is unnerving, to say the least, but in my opinion, he’s always been a disturbing Pokémon. I’m not a fan of the humanoid Pokémon type in general, but Mr. Mime has always seemed a little bit more out there. In the anime, a Mr. Mime ends up moving into Ash’s house and living with his mum. It’s all just a little bit weird, so I don’t see a difference here. He has always been plain peculiar, and I think this creepy version depicts that pretty well. Here we can see him using his signature psychic barrier move to block Pikachu while telling him — through the art of mime — to shove it.

Psychic Psyduck

It looks like Psyduck is expelling a large psychic blast in this scene that rings out for miles around. Tim, Lucy, Pikachu, and Psyduck appear to be in the same wooded area as when we see the ground rising, so could Psyduck’s energy have something to do with this? It’s also very cute to see Lucy carrying Psyduck around in a baby carrier on her back.

A Pikachu Sized Snack

The last big shot of the trailer shows a poor Pikachu looking like he is about to be gobbled up by Charizard. I’m hoping that won’t be the case, as children and adults alike may be somewhat disturbed if Pokémon are shown munching on each other. What I like about this shot is the detail we see on Charizard. You can see his orange scales, his sharp fangs, and the drool dripping from his mouth. He genuinely looks intimidating, the way a Charizard should be. Even his blue eyes give him a more menacing appearance. It’s another great take on a classic Pokémon.

Pokémon: Detective Pikachu

I am personally quite excited about this movie, despite some of the negativity that has been reported on it. Some believe that the Pokémon do not look right or that they look odd, but in comparison to their original designs, the ones they have shown so far have been reasonably accurate. Pokémon are weird creatures in general; they’re Pocket Monsters — the clue is in their name. These are abnormal beings, and while yes, some are adorable (Pikachu, I’ve loved him for so long) and some are horrifying (Mr. Mime = nightmare fuel), they are all individual and quirky beings. As someone who grew up on the Pokémon franchise, that’s one of the things I loved about it. The weirdness, the cuteness, the freakiness, and most importantly, the way I still found them loveable and wanted to catch ‘em all (yes, even you Mr. Mime. Stay away from my mum though). From what we see here, it looks like this movie could harness what has always been great about Pokémon to create a truly unique and funny story, and maybe even start a live-action film franchise. Here’s hoping it keeps the heart-warming nature of Pokémon as we know it.

Pokémon: Detective Pikachu is set for release on May 10th, 2019.

Antonia Haynes resides in a small seaside town in England where she has lived her whole life. She's a simple girl with a passion for zombies, writing, film, television, drawing, superheroes, Disney and, of course, video games. Her ideal day would consist of junk food, fluffy pyjamas and video games because quite frankly going outside is overrated. Follow her on Twitter on @RainbowMachete



  1. Jules

    November 16, 2018 at 7:42 am

    To the girl who is right in thinking going out is overrated when there are more exciting things to do in a fluffy pair if Jim jams …..

    I just loved this. You brought it out alive!
    Have you considered a career in a colour supplement as an Ace reviewer?

    • Antonia Haynes

      November 16, 2018 at 8:18 am

      Thank you! I’m glad you liked my ramblings! I will always defer to fluffy pjs at all times 🙂

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‘Weathering With You’ Isn’t Quite the Storm It Wanted to Be

Makoto Shinkai’s Weathering With You delivers a gorgeous film that doesn’t quite resonate as much as it wanted to.



Weathering With You Hina

Climate change and global warming have been topics of concern and discussion for years now, with melting ice caps and rising ocean temperatures being some of many signs. Director Makoto Shinkai — acclaimed the world over for his 2016 work Your Name — aims to show just how at the mercy humans are to the weather with his newest animated film, Weathering With You. Although he presents a visually stunning depiction of Mother Nature in all her various moods, Weathering With You ultimately lacks the storming power it seeks to bear upon its audience.

Tokyo has been having a particularly rainy year, seeing precipitation almost every day and nary a sight of the sun or clear blue skies. It’s during this unusual time that high school boy Hodaka arrives in the metropolis seeking escape from the suffocating life he had on his island. The young teenager naturally has trouble finding his bearings on his own in the oftentimes unforgiving hustle and bustle of the city. It’s in these early scenes that Weathering With You has some of its strongest moments, depicting the uglier side of Japanese society not often seen in anime, while also highlighting Hodaka’s strength of character to make it on his own. 

Weathering With You Hodaka and Hina

As Hodaka gradually carves out his own place in the city, he eventually has an encounter with a young girl named Hina. Matching her sunny and cheerful disposition, Hina has the ability to make it stop raining and have the sunshine in very localized spots by praying to the sky. In a place where the rain never ceases, it’s easy to see why Hodaka latches onto Hina to use for the greater good (while also making a little pocket change along the way).

“The hand-drawn rain is downright mesmerizing in all its forms — fierce and calm — while the sunshine that follows seems to hang in the air caught by the leftover humidity.”

Gloomy skies and damp grounds can take their toll on one’s mood and psyche, which someone who lives in such a climate can surely relate to. Even the briefest moments of sunshine revitalize us and give a glimpse of the “light at the end of the tunnel.” Hodaka and Hina’s “100% Sunshine Girl” services to those in need of that light boldly underscore that fact, and make for a strong argument for how the weather affects us all beyond its objective physicality, along with providing some much-appreciated levity to the story. 

That power of weather is beautifully illustrated by CoMix Wave Films’ stupendous animation efforts. The hand-drawn rain is downright mesmerizing in all its forms — fierce and calm — while the sunshine that follows seems to hang in the air, caught by the leftover humidity. Tokyo itself isn’t to be outdone either, with its streets running the gamut between peaceful neighborhoods to grimy and dark back alleys with dilapidated buildings. The animation is punctuated by the return of Japanese band RADWIMPS, who create numerous memorable tracks to complement the wild swings in mood that weather can elicit.

That makes it all the more unfortunate, however, that the greater narrative is so weak.

The progression of Weathering With You is made painfully obvious right from the outset of the story — so much so that it’s hard to wonder if it’s actually the set-up for a bait-and-switch. As a result, much of the first half of the film is simply waiting for the other shoe to drop, making it difficult to really settle in and become intimate with its characters. 

Weathering With you Hodaka and Hina

This would be less of an issue if the cast had smaller interactions that were a delight to watch, but they fall short in that regard as well. All of the characters have a charm to them for sure — with Hina’s younger elementary school brother, Nagi, putting modern playboys to shame being a particular standout — but the story never quite makes a compelling case as to why they are as close as they are, especially Hina and Hodaka. They’re fun enough to watch be together, but don’t quite make that emotional attachment with the viewer that the story wants to create.

That lack of an emotional connection is distinctly felt in Weathering With You’s second act, when unnecessary confrontations and bizarre plot directions converge to create an artificial sense of stakes amidst a central conflict that would have been fine on its own. What’s meant to strengthen the impression of the characters’ bonds instead cheapens it, undermining the already faulty progress the first half did make. The result is a narrative that’s hard to care about, although its ending does leave the viewer with some potentially interesting questions to ponder.

Weathering With You is far from a bad movie, however. It has a clear direction and vision with a message to say about our climate crisis. The characters are endearing enough, and there are a handful of heartfelt scenes because of that. It also cannot be understated just how drop-dead gorgeous the animation is. The story, however, is simply too straightforward for its own good, resulting in an experience that is at times enjoyable, and at others plain boring.

And that’s only when being judged in a vacuum on the movie’s own merits. When compared to Shinkai’s recent masterpiece that is Your Name, it’s hard to see Weathering With You as anything but a disappointing follow-up. That’s perhaps the film’s greatest weakness, but fortunately, it’s one that Shinkai’s next work won’t have, and we can still look forward to it because of that fact.

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Let’s Remember Why ‘Tremors’ is a Beloved Cult Hit

The monster movie that breaks new ground.



Tremors Movie Review

Tremors, 30 Years Later

Thirty years ago, this week, one of the best films of 1990 was released.

Tremors didn’t make a big splash in theaters. The film ended up grossing $16,667,084 at the domestic box office, which while making a profit due to its $11 million budget, was still below projected numbers. To be fair, this was a film about carnivorous subterranean worms— and it didn’t help that it was dumped in the cold of winter during what is arguably the slowest time of the year for the box office. Thankfully, however, Tremors found a second life on VHS where it became one of home video’s biggest success stories. More importantly, Tremors become a beloved cult hit.

The Script

Much has been said about the cast of Tremors which I’ll get to shortly, but what stood out the most watching it again, is the screenplay from S.S. Wilson and Brent Maddock, who both previously penned Short Circuit and Batteries Not Included. Sure, Tremors is a B movie, but it also boasts a tightly-knit script in which every scene; every action; every story beat; and every line of dialogue sets up a chain of events that gives every character a motive and reason to react the way they do. And despite one poorly executed sequence (I’m referring to the pole-vaulting montage), Tremors is a lean, mean movie without an ounce of fat to be found anywhere else.

Tremors Pole Vaulting Scene

The plot isn’t complex per se, but there’s something oddly comforting in the simplicity of it all. Tremors takes place in the Nevada desert near a small town called Perfection with a population of only 14 residents who are left to defend themselves against the deadly subterranean creatures. It’s the perfect setting for a monster film since the town itself is isolated. And with only one road leading to civilization, the openness of the desert landscape enhances the desolation of it all. And since the town of Perfection is so far removed from the rest of society, it soon becomes clear that nobody will ever come and save them. Instead, the townsfolk must work together; overcome the odds, and destroy the creatures. And when that fails, they must attempt to scale the rocky mountaintop where the worms are unable to travel underground. It’s getting there that becomes the problem.

Val and Earl - Tremors

Val and Earl

At the heart, and at the center of the eccentric cast of characters is Kevin Bacon and Fred Ward playing Valentine McKee and Earl Bass, a pair of modern-day cowboys working as handymen who become would-be heroes when they stumble upon the shock-sensitive killer worms. Over the years, the two actors have become less renowned for their comedic roles, but Tremors if anything, showcases their talent and range. And while Kevin Bacon with his sexy smile and pretty boy looks is by far the biggest star; it’s their irresistible chemistry that brings their characters to life. They make such a great comedic team and if you replaced Ward with any other actor at the time, there’s no guarantee that Tremors would have been this much fun to watch.

In fact, the two actors work so well together that Fred Ward provides a much better foil for Kevin Bacon than Finn Carter’s Rhonda, a.k.a. the underwritten love interest who is assigned to travel to the town and monitor the seismology readings in the desert. Not long after Rhonda arrives, the people in the town start disappearing – or worse, they end up dead, leaving very little time to establish any chemistry between her and Val— thus making the big kiss, in the end, feel a little out-of-place. But don’t blame the screenplay writers— the original ending of Tremors featured Val and Earl riding off into the sunset, with no hint at any potential romance between Val and Rhonda. Unfortunately, test audiences were not pleased and somehow the producers convinced the filmmakers to quickly reshoot the final scene— just another one of many examples of why studios should not rely on any focus group to provide feedback. In the end, the love interest feels somewhat lost in the shuffle.

Tremors Kevin Bacon and Finn Carter

The Gummer Family

It doesn’t take long before it becomes apparent that there’s something unnatural roaming the desert and feeding on human flesh. Once Rhonda checks her readings and determines that the threat is coming from underground, Tremors begins to slowly open up and introduce us to the supporting cast which includes Reba McEntire and Michael Gross as the Gummer family, a pair of overzealous, gun-crazy survivalists. McEntire and Gross are so good here, they essentially steal the spotlight from the rest of the cast. In one of their most memorable scenes, the two are forced to take shelter in their basement and defend themselves against one of the giant man-eating worms— and just when it looks like they are going to run out of ammunition, the camera pans left to reveal the bunker holds enough guns and firepower to accommodate a small army. It’s just one of many examples of how Tremors takes a simple concept and maximizes it for full effect.

As much as Tremors is remembered today for the performances of Bacon and Ward, it’s the work of the entire cast that brings the movie to life. It really is great casting considering the small budget, and everyone pulls their weight, serving up the quick-witted dialogue in a way that makes it all feel more natural– and yes that even includes Robert Jayne as the annoying teenage brat, Melvin Plug. I especially like the performance by Victor Wong, a character actor who had roles in films like 3 Ninjas and Big Trouble in Little China. Here he plays the ill-fated Walter Chang who is killed in a scene that features some of the film’s best special effects.

Director Ron Underwood

Tremors was the first movie Ron Underwood directed and by far his best. Now known as a go-to director for many successful TV shows, Underwood keeps things moving briskly and finds new clever ways to draw out tension with impressive camera work, especially the shots that show the point of view of the creatures as they stalk their victims. Along with Cinematographer Alexander Gruszynski, Underwood frames his exterior shots in a way that constantly reminds viewers how small the town is and how isolated it is. It’s also worth noting how difficult it is to shoot a horror movie outside in the middle of the desert where you can never truly escape the sunlight, and yet director Ron Underwood uses the setting to his advantage and frames his actors in such a manner that the landscape emits a general feeling of emptiness, which both mirrors the town’s small population and the people themselves who are desperate for a change.

Tremors evokes the populist spirit of ‘50s and ’60s B-movies without ever resorting to parody, nor does it ever feel familiar. Instead, Underwood reinvigorates its genre tropes with a finely balanced combination of horror and humor— and despite its tongue-in-cheek script, Underwood never allows it to venture into full-on camp. There is tension and suspense in every one of the action scenes and like many classics that came before it, Tremors focuses less on its oversized monsters and more on their victims and how these people react to attacks by these giant creatures. Even in the bright daylight, Tremors manages to create enough suspense to keep viewers at the edge of their seats.

Tremors 1990

Creature Design

Apart from taking inspiration from classic monster movies, Tremors owes a lot to Steven Spielberg’s Jaws— so much so, that the original title for Tremors was actually Land Sharks. Much like how the shark in Jaws travels underwater while stalking its prey, in Tremors, the 30-foot-long carnivorous worms known as Graboids, travel underground. And like Jaws (arguably the quintessential B movie), the creatures in Tremors are rarely seen. Instead, the largely invisible creatures can burrow fast enough to devour the entire town if given the opportunity— making them deadly and genuinely menacing.

Another clever inclusion by the screenplay writers was the idea to have these Graboids respond to seismic vibrations. While blind and unable to track their prey’s scent, they do have acute hearing, which means any slight movement or sound can cost you your life. In arguably the best scene of the entire film, Kevin Bacon’s Val is left to stand completely still and silent while the worm-like creatures who circle his feet reveal their razor-sharp fangs as they desperately search for their next victim.

Tremors 1990 Michael Gross

It’s a credit to the creature design that I never once questioned the reality of the Graboids. Along with a team of over 50 visual effects wizards, the filmmakers were able to bring their creations to life with a mix of old school prosthetics, animatronics, and computer-generated imagery. Tremors may be at times funny, but this isn’t the sort of film that has viewers pointing at the screen and laughing at obviously cheesy effects. Make no mistake about it: the monster effects by Tom Woodruff and Alec Gillis (who previously worked on Alien and The Terminator) is truly impressive, especially given the limited budget they had to work with.

Tremors Creature Design


The one and only aspect of Tremors that I’ve never liked was the music heard at the start and at the end of the film. To my surprise, I later learned that composer Ernest Troaost’s musical score for the film went mostly unused since the studio didn’t like it and, later they hired composer Robert Folk to write a new score. Only a few of Troost’s country-themed songs made it into the final cut and sure enough, they are the songs I dislike. That said, Folk’s compositions perfectly match the visuals and heighten the suspense during the film’s most action-packed scenes.

Tremors 1990


Tremors wasn’t in any way groundbreaking since it borrowed liberally from many other monster movies, yet somehow the film became such a hit, that it spawned four direct-to-video sequels (Tremors 2: Aftershocks, Tremors 3: Back to Perfection, Tremors 5: Bloodlines and Tremors: A Cold Day in Hell)— a direct-to-video prequel (Tremors 4: The Legend Begins), and even a television series. More so, the success of Tremors resulted in many copycats but none of them (save for James Gunn’s Slither) have been able to perfectly match the potent mixture of sharp dialogue, deadpan humour, and horror.

It’s easy to see why Tremors ultimately became a success and why it remains a fun and engaging experience, decades later. The plot is fully realized constantly keeping things exciting. It has plenty of spectacular set-pieces, thrilling action scenes, and plenty of quotable throwaway dialogue. Along with the charismatic cast, superb direction, great script and terrifyingly real effects, Tremors stands the test of time. Many have tried to match Tremors but most have ultimately come up short. Movies like this come around once every few years.

  • Ricky D
Tremors Movie Anniversary
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The Career of Tony Scott and His Influence on the Film Industry



The Career of Tony Scott

In the late 1970s and 1980s, composer Giorgio Moroder was often accused of trying to replace the orchestral movie soundtrack with high-energy, synthesizer-heavy disco-pop laid on with a trowel in movies like Thank God It’s Friday (1978), Flashdance (1983), Scarface (1983), and Top Gun (1986). I remember a magazine story on Moroder which quoted one of his many critics as saying, “The day the music died, Giorgio Moroder was brought in for questioning.”

I think some people had the same opinion about movies and Tony Scott. Full disclosure: I’m one of them. But it would be greatly unfair to Scott, who died in 2012, not to admit that, for good or for ill, his 1980s feature work had an enormous impact on commercial filmmaking.

The younger brother of Ridley Scott by seven years, he was gifted – like his brother – with an outrageously good eye; a taste for the visual strong enough to earn him his master’s degree from London’s Royal College of Art (which he’d attended on scholarship no less). But painting didn’t pay well, so he joined with his brother in Ridley Scott Associates where, from the 1970s into the 1980s, he applied that eye to moving pictures, directing thousands of commercials, some of them still-talked-about all-time classics in the U.K.

His first feature was the visually sumptuous, dramatically wispy attempt at erotic vampirica, The Hunger (1983), and it was such a lambasted flop it’s a surprise Scott’s feature career didn’t end right there. But three years later, producer Jerry Bruckheimer tapped him to direct Top Gun and movies would never be the same.

It was a perfect marriage of sensibilities (along with Michael Bay, Scott would remain one of Bruckheimer’s go-to directors). Bruckheimer, whose youthful interest in photography had led him to his own career in commercials before turning to movies, had the same affinity for striking imagery as Scott.

The timing of the union was just right, too. MTV was only five years old, and the non-stop near-abstract visuals of music video were not only still hypnotically novel, but on their way to becoming the defining visual sensibility for a new movie-going generation. With Giorgio Moroder (another ideal wedding of sensibilities) supplying a Pop’s Top Ten-nish soundtrack, Scott put together montages that were, essentially, music videos woven into the narrative of the film (some critics carped that the whole movie was little more than an extended music video).

Top Gun 1986

Striking visuals, a pulsing, toe-tapping score, and a super-patriotic story that made a hero of a young, cocky, mouthy, go-my-own-way fighter jock made for a flick which hit a big, fat sweet spot with MTV’s first generation of ticket-buyers: Top Gun scored a whopping $176.7 million domestic. I did the math: at today’s ticket prices, that would translate to almost $390 million. Love it or hate it, you have to respect that kind of box office muscle.

Top Gun set the template for Scott: high-octane visuals, rapid-fire editing (often at the hands of Chris Lebenzon), an MTV-friendly soundtrack, and a story simple enough to absorb without having to pay too much attention.

It also set the template for so many of the box office winners of the next few decades, movies that moved fast, piled on the action, featured characters who were often little more than catchphrases with biceps, offered music video fodder (at least back when MTV still played music videos), and where plausibility – even under Hollywood’s extremely elastic definition of the concept – was irrelevant. Think Lethal Weapon, Speed (1994), Twister (1996), and anything by Michael Bay.

The Career of Tony Scott

Though his brother Ridley often took the same rap of favoring looks over substance, their styles, though both highly visual, were strikingly different.

Ridley’s films — good and bad – play out like classical music: stately, elegant, unrushed, somber.

Tony’s movies are rock ‘n’ roll: fast, loud, exhausting, sometimes painfully bright.

It’s hard to imagine Tony doing something as subdued as Ridley’s Napoleonic-era The Duelists (1977), or even pulling off the brooding sci-fi Gothicism of Alien (1979). By the same token, Ridley would have seemed a poor fit for Top Gun or all the running back and forth in Crimson Tide (1995).

Despite being regularly slammed for his storytelling, Scott did care about plot and character. Explaining the failure of Days of Thunder (1990) – Top Gun cloned to the NASCAR circuit – Scott diagnosed the problem as having started production without a finished script. “(You) always have to get a story,” he said, “and you’ve got to get character first…”

Tony Scott's Days of Thunder

But it wasn’t a sentiment that quite squared with his execution. In an Entertainment Weekly story about a trending flimsiness in big-screen storytelling, The Fan (1996) screenwriter Phoef Sutton told the story of shooting the movie’s climactic baseball game in a torrential downpour. Sutton and others tried to argue Scott out of it pointing out that baseball games are called on account of such weather. The rain stayed. Said Sutton: “…I don’t think Tony cared about the plausibility of it.”

In his later years, he seemed to be trying to reach for the kind of substance his early films were often accused of lacking, but he remained better at taking a good picture than giving it meaning. Enemy of the State (1998) was entertaining enough, but it was like Coppola’s The Conversation (1974) with the poetry removed and replaced with explosions and chases; Spy Game (2001) was an anemic John LeCarre wannabe; The Taking of Pelham 123 replaced the local color which had made the original so memorable with a needlessly busy yet flavorless plot.

Like his brother, Tony also produced, and in those projects, one could sense an ambition to do something of substance. There were such laudable efforts as the HBO movie RKO 281 (1999) about Orson Welles’ fight to make Citizen Kane; The Gathering Storm (2002), another HBO feature, this about Churchill’s attempts to prep England for WW II; Gettysburg (2001), a cable documentary about one of the most pivotal battles of the Civil War; and the lovely, elegiac (if sadly little-seen) Western, The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford.

Though Scott would continue to turn out some respectable earners in his later years (Déjà vu [2006], The Taking of Pelham 123, Unstoppable [2010]), after the 1980s, he’d never hit Top Gun heights again, and, in fact, after Beverly Hills Cop II (1987) only ever crossed the $100 million domestic mark one more time with Enemy of the State (1998). Perhaps the problem was that Scott’s eye-tickling rat-a-tat-tat style had, by the 1990s, become so widely copied that his often dramatically weak films had little else to offer; the trendsetter had become just another member of the pack.

But give him this. Few filmmakers make a lasting impact. Most directors and most films come and go, cinematic mayflies fluttering around the box office for a few weeks before disappearing. The same can’t be said of Tony Scott. Love ‘im or hate ‘im, it’ll be a long time before anyone forgets him.

– Bill Mesce

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