As someone who is a little obsessive over the works of Sir Ridley Scott (see my top 10 here), when I found out late last year that his hometown, South Shields near Newcastle upon Tyne, was launching an exhibition honouring its most famous son, I had to go. South Shields is effectively the other end of England from myself, so when this past weekend presented some spare time, I made the long journey across middle earth to check it out for our readers here at So, Is It Any Good?
First off, the exhibition is housed in a relatively new venue called The Word. It’s instantly identifiable, its modern architecture standing out in a town that’s a little bit outdated and in need of a desperate lick of paint. But the industrious surroundings actually add a bit of charm to the exhibition, because it’s rather humbling to think world famous, A-list filmmaker Sir Ridley Scott was born and raised here, and studied at an art college not far down the road. What’s particularly cool, is that students from that college Sir Ridley attended, created various props and costumes from his most famous films for the exhibition. The sentiment behind it is fantastic; not only does it feel like an endearing tribute from his hometown, his legacy has provided a platform to gain some real exposure for these talented students.
The exhibition is composed of six of Sir Ridley’s most famous films. Blade Runner, Thelma & Louise, Gladiator, Robin Hood, The Martian and my personal favourite, Alien. Each film gets a sizable section showcasing recreated costumes and props; huge wall charts detail the making of each film, and little factoids equip you with knowledge that are actually answers to an interactive quiz on the great man. I found myself running from section to section reading them all, determined to chart as top score like it was some arcade coin-op.
So you start off in Blade Runner (well at least you do if you don’t spend 10 minutes with the body spinner at the entrance, like me (see above)). It’s simply Sir Ridley’s most sumptuous looking film, and perhaps the most visually iconic film of all time. Huge graphics on the walls display the film’s neon iconography and mammoth skyscrapers, which are simply defined as “Blade Runner Style…”. Props include Deckard’s Blaster and the Voight Kampff machine he used in the movie. As if Denis Villeneuve didn’t need reminding, a stroll through here would bring to mind what a huge task Blade Runner 2049 is.
I quickly gathered pace through to Alien; yeah, it’s my favourite movie, and yeah, they have a giant 7-ft replica xenomorph! (stowed away in the corner I might add, reminiscent of the titular creature’s ability to pop up when least expected). The presentation for this film, like Blade Runner, is once again lavish, and features such props like Ripley’s flight uniform and a huge metre-tall egg. The exhibition is open until May, and I highly recommend any Alien nerd such as myself to make the trip to check it out.
Not wanting to spoil all that’s on show, other highlights include Matt Damon’s space helmet from The Martian, and faithfully recreated costumes from historical epics Gladiator and Robin Hood. And even though all of Ridley’s films are relatively Adult-rated (trivia for the comments, name all of Ridley Scott’s non R-rated films), a cool little section for kids sits just outside the exhibition encouraging them to draw on Ridley inspired story boards. It’s an inspiring visit for all ages, and goes to show, “Big things have small beginnings” .