Ridley Scott‘s decades-long career tends to be marked with persistent characteristics, regardless of which genre he chooses to tackle at any given moment. One of the most prominent features found in the very best of Scott’s movies is undoubtedly the precedence of strong characterization. And likely, commentary about the human condition as a whole finds its way into the fabric of his feature films somehow.
On the big screen, Scott frequently demonstrates a knack for enveloping audiences into different highly curated worlds. Sci-fi classics such as Alien and Blade Runner represent part of an auspicious beginning to Scott’s film career by dealing explicitly with rebirth, identity, and agency. Thelma & Louise is a sharp and sparkling ode to the road movie genre while it celebrates women’s choices, no matter how fraught they are.
Gladiator is as much about spectacle as it is about the political undercurrents pulsing through the movie. American Gangster is proof that Scott can make a crime film to technical perfection, but that it will be even more memorable for the characters (and the actors who embody them) that live among the underbelly. Even The Martian, a mostly comedic venture about a man stuck in space, depicts the strength of will when humanity bands together to save one of their own in the face of impossible odds.
Now, according to The Hollywood Reporter, we can look forward to Scott taking his humanistic directorial vision to the small screen with Raised by Wolves, a TNT show that has been given a straight-to-series order. Penned by Aaron Guzikowski (Prisoners), who will also serve as showrunner, the original sci-fi vehicle will tackle a broad range of subjects, including colonization, artificial intelligence, and religion.
Raised by Wolves follows two androids who are raising human children in a colony set up on a brand-new world. Yet, belief systems are beginning to clash and religious differences threaten the group’s stability. The androids soon become aware of just how precarious it can be to take control of humanity’s principles.
Scott isn’t particularly green to the world of TV. In fact, he has long been a prolific producer of noteworthy series such as Numbers, The Good Wife (and its spinoff, The Good Fight), and The Man in the High Castle, just to name a few.
Raised by Wolves wouldn’t technically mark Scott’s first foray into small screen directing, either. Apart from helming sporadic episodes of various British shows during the 1960s – for example, The Informer and Adam Adamant Lives! – Scott’s efforts to get the pilot of Showtime’s The Vatican off the ground in 2013 fell through.
Essentially, Raised by Wolves will be Scott’s first substantial directorial debut on TV in the United States. What better way to do it than dive head-first into a story so steeped in world-building and ethical quandary? All the things that make a Scott movie great.
The series also marks Scott’s definitive return to the sci-fi genre in something that isn’t an Alien movie, which is in itself promising given that the last installment of that franchise is simply too predictable as a whole and just okay at best. Nevertheless, you could arguably count more dramas and thrillers in Scott’s filmography compared to straight-up sci-fi productions. But his pioneer status in the genre is unmatched.
As Scott personally explicates in his statement about Raised by Wolves:
“I’m always searching for new frontiers in the sci-fi genre and have found a true original in ‘Raised by Wolves’ – a wholly distinct and imaginative world, full of characters struggling with existential questions: What makes us human? What constitutes a family? And what if we could start over again and erase the mess we’ve made of our planet? Would we survive? Would we do better?”
For Guzikowski’s part, his writing resume has some hits and misses, but his work is a much surer bet when proficient filmmakers are also involved. Prisoners, his first and best script, was stuck in development for a long time before thankfully ending up an absolute masterpiece. In the artful hands of Denis Villeneuve (Blade Runner 2049), the thriller is an unrelenting ride of suspense and dread that takes a potentially prosaic story and elevates it through suffocating atmosphere and intense performances.
Several years later, Northwest director Michael Noer created a similarly hair-raising cinematic experience with Guzikowski’s Papillon screenplay. This adaptation of the 1973 classic actually still stands up adequately on its own in spite of its iconic predecessor. The film is largely bolstered by highly-charged, charismatic leads found in Charlie Hunnam and Rami Malek, who maintain investment in their respective characters’ plights.
Guzikowski’s attempt to create a TV show resulted in the ambitious drama that is SundanceTV’s The Red Road, but the series is ultimately more of a mixed bag. The slow-burning storytelling encourages characters to formulate strong personalities thanks, once again, to a magnetic cast (particularly Jason Momoa). That said, there’s not enough compelling narrative per episode for these people to truly flourish.
Moreover, Guzikowski penned the Mark Wahlberg movieContraband, which is ostensibly an action thriller but is neither exciting or engaging. The more pedestrian elements of the script are glaringly obvious as the film plods on.
So, aren’t we lucky to have Scott behind the camera for Raised by Wolves? His involvement is what gives the series a real edge because if he can grip us so inexorably in two-hour onscreen packages, watching something week-by-week would be a thoroughly captivating experience.
If what Scott says about Raised by Wolves is true, the series will definitely work over our brains and morals, posing vital thematic concerns that need the longer runtime of a TV production to appropriately unpack. Guzikowski can be a fine screenwriter, but a good sense of cinematic style will definitely take this show a long way.