Ridley Scott’s Nissan: “Turbo Dream” Commercial (1990)

As a filmmaker who works as prominently in the commercial world as he does in the theatrical narrative forum, director Sir Ridley Scott unsurprisingly boasts several Super Bowl spots to his name.  These supersized, lavishly-budgeted works of advertising represent something of a pinnacle for the form, enduring in the cultural conversation for far longer than the football game they were meant to supplement. Commercials tend to be generally regarded as a relatively disposable form of entertainment— something to be skipped over, muted, or missed completely while one uses the bathroom. It’s a different story for Super Bowl commercials, and as such, the jobs tend to go to high-profile helmers like Scott.

In 1990, Scott was hired to direct a spot for Nissan called “TURBO DREAM”, meant to advertise the new Nissan 300ZX to a captive Super Bowl audience.  The concept is rather simple, pitting the 300ZX against a motorcyclist, a Formula 1 car, and finally, a fighter jet, only for us to find that the Nissan can outrun them all.  True to form, Scott uses the opportunity to fashion a futuristic, highly-imaginative world from scratch, transforming the race track into a cyberpunk facility from which the Nissan must escape.  Bringing his signature visual aesthetic to bear in a highly exaggerated form, Scott employs a deep, sun-baked contrast that reduces his color palette to searing bands of black, whites, orange and blues.  His characteristic silhouettes and lens flares whip by so fast that they approach abstraction. Music-video style rapid-fire editing further complements the feeling of delirious speed, teetering on the knife’s edge of control.  

“TURBO DREAM” no doubt made quite an impression during its Super Bowl debut, giving a glimpse of what the coming decade would have in store for action aficionados.  Indeed, the kinetic style on display here, fashioned and perfected by both Ridley and his brother Tony, would become the dominant aesthetic of blockbuster action cinema throughout the 1990’s, adopted by testosterone-laden acolytes like Michael Bay and Simon West.  Despite its relative inconsequence to Scott’s overall career, “TURBO DREAM” nonetheless offers the 80’s zeitgeist-defining filmmaker an opportunity to revise and update his style for the coming decade and beyond.

NISSAN: “TURBO DREAM” is currently available on YouTube via the embed above.