It’s amusing to speculate about how certain directors continue to maintain pride of place in the Hollywood hierarchy absent the commercial or (far less important) critical returns that would justify their perch. The old dictum “you’re only as good as your last picture” appears to apply far less universally than one might think. Like fellow dourpuss Michael Mann, Ridley Scott has had a less than enviable track record over the past decade: one monster (Gladiator) and one medium-sized hit (American Gangster) have been complemented by a series of abject flops (Kingdom of Heaven, Matchstick Men, A Good Year, Body of Lies). That this grim legacy hasn’t weighed him down more can perhaps be attributed to the uniquely evaporative nature of his stodgy, elephantine aesthetic. Breathing a viscous cloud of money, groaningly stuffed with high-priced talent on both sides of the camera and apparently unlimited resources, the films of Scott the Elder (even the half-decent ones) nevertheless seem to wisp away the moment they end. Cloaked in a gloomy aura of faux-respectability, Scott’s brand of high investment/low impact filmmaking makes him something of an anachronism in the quick-hit mentality of contemporary Hollywood. Like Mann, this former trendsetter of the slick and ultramodern now seems like the last of the puffy Hollywood dinosaurs inexplicably kept alive by big-studio life support, a George Stevens for the 21st century. Read Andrew Tracy’s review of Robin Hood.