A blueprint for repairing the ailing reputations of xenomorphs and Engineers.
Times are tough for the Alien franchise. While the Xenomorph remains one of the most iconic movie monsters of all time, it hasn’t been featured in a truly great movie since 1986’s Aliens. Ridley Scott, who directed the first (and still-amazing) Alien movie way back in 1979, was supposed to fix the franchise’s reputation in 2012 with a prequel, Prometheus, but fan-reaction to that movie has been down-right hostile.
But, never one to back down from giving the public movies they don’t want, 20th Century Fox is now producing an Alien prequel trilogy set after Prometheus. And after that, Neil Blomkamp may finally get the go ahead to work on his planned sequel to Aliens.
Even if there hasn’t been a great Alien movie in almost 30 years, the announcement of a new addition to the series always gives fans some hope it will be good because the Xenomorphs are just so freaking awesome and terrifying. And the prequel trilogy and Blomkamp movie could return the series to greatness if they’re just produced with a few things in mind.
The Engineers: Who Cares?
Alien begins with the discovery of a long-deceased extraterrestrial who had been killed from a Xenomorph bursting out of his chest. This creature was nicknamed the “space jockey,” by fans, and the source of quite a bit of fiction outside of the films. It was fun to speculate what this species was, where it came from, and why he was sending out a warning signal about the Xenomorphs. However, no one was really clamoring for this species to have an entire separate franchise devoted to it.
Prometheus is actually not nearly as bad as you may have heard. Take away the Alien connection and it’s a perfectly passable sci-fi movie, but seeing 10-foot tall aliens stomping around drinking black liquid was not the origin story that anyone wanted to see. It makes the Star Wars prequels look like The Godfather trilogy in comparison. With the sequels to Prometheus abandoning that title for closer connections to the Alien series, hopefully Ridley Scott will also focus these movies on the Xenomorphs and Weyland-Yutani Corporation more than the Engineers. Hinting at where the Xenomorphs came from can be a much more effective story-telling device than showing fans every step of the process. And what fans really want to see are Xenomorphs scaring the hell out of people and bleeding acid, not giants and black gunk.
Keep Only the Good Continuity
The Engineers have been part of the Alien franchise from the beginning, and they’re somewhat intriguing, so bringing them up in prequels isn’t a terrible idea in and of itself. The issue was how they were presented. If only a few dead Engineers are shown in the Alien prequel trilogy, hinting at what they were up to, that’s more than enough of a connection to the later movies.
Continuity issues are more a problem with any Alien sequels. To put it bluntly, Alien 3 and Alien: Resurrection are terrible movies. And if you want to get into the Alien vs. Predator series, those films are nearly unwatchable. Blomkamp apparently has the right idea with his sequel, which will take place after Aliens and ignore the two movies that came after it. Better yet, this movie will feature a grown-up Newt and set her up to take over the franchise from Sigourney Weaver. And from the extremely-promising looking concept art, it looks like the Alien Queen will return and Ripley will be donning some sort of xenomorph spacesuit. It’s a tragedy that Fox is putting this movie on hold for a direct sequel to Prometheus.
Less Sci-Fi, More Horror
While reaction to new Alien movies has been fairly tepid over the past three decades, at least one of the video games have been much more positively received. Few games have received more praise than last year’s Alien: Isolation, and that’s for a very simple reason: the game will scare the crap out of you. It requires a lot of hiding and stealth as you’re stalked throughout a ship by a single, unbeatable xenomorph.
Even though Aliens is a great movie, it did begin the series’ decline by focusing on action and science-fiction over horror. Watching space marines mow down hordes of xenomorphs is overdone now, and there wasn’t anything that special about the spectacles of Prometheus’s alien world. What the next Alien movie very badly needs is to bring back that tension of the original movie, of a crew in the middle of nowhere that can’t escape an invincible creature that could be hiding behind every corner and which is slowly picking them off one by one.
What the series needs to remember for Alien: Covenant or the Blomkamp sequel is its original tagline, “In space no one can hear you scream.”