No matter how flamboyant, hard-hitting or flute-fingering synthetic protagonist David's (Michael Fassbender) antics are in Prometheus, Alien: Covenant and beyond, there will always something lacking in Ridley Scott's Alien prequels. Put simply, there's an Ellen-Ripley-sized-hole in the franchise as a result of Scott's decision to explore the narrative prior to the character's debut. Ripley is Alien, and for many the series will never be the same as long as Sigourney Weaver doesn't feature in it.
Neil Blomkamp's pitch to pursue Alien 5 as a re-imagined, re-telling of Ripley's story post Aliens (1986) gained traction for promoting a swift sidestep the much maligned events in Alien 3 and Alien: Resurrection, instead featuring an older and undead version of the alien-massacring icon. Now that story arc seems to have been thrust through the airlock into the vacuum of space, it seemed likely Ripley would never return to the big screen. Until now.
When answering a question from Instagram user LuisNostromo on whether Ripley could ever feature in the #Alien prequels, Scott confirmed that it is "feasible" she'd appear in the future thanks to the added help of CGI to make Weaver look younger. The 79-year-old director explained that due to current timeline constraints, a long-awaited return could still be at least two movies away, but teased that — due to the prequels eventually matching up with the original Alien (1979) — Ripley may be revealed as "someone's daughter," bridging the gap between old and new.
How The Alien Timeline Makes It Possible
In the Alien timeline, Prometheus is set in 2091, followed by this year's Alien: Covenant, set in 2104. Eventually, the prequels will go full circle and link up with the original Alien, which is set in 2122. In that same timeline, Ripley was born in 2092, making her just one-year-old at the time of #Prometheus, 12-years-old by Alien: Covenant, and 30-years-old during the original events aboard the xenomorph-gatecrashed Nostromo.
In terms of her parentage, this raises an interesting question — if Scott intends on a big reveal, she must've been conceived during the events of Prometheus, leaving only a selective number of characters from that film and #AlienCovenant who could be responsible. Although Scott denied rumours around the release of Covenant that the prime candidate, Daniels (Katherine Waterston), is Ripley's mother, the director has u-turned on creative decisions in the past.
Regardless of who her parents are, the two additional sequels Scott mentions will take place between 2104 and 2122, a period where Ripley will be aged between 12 and 30 in the Alien timeline. Narratively, any inclusion of her character is severely restricted, as the events of Alien have been set in stone for close to four decades. This means any story in the prequels needs to fit in with Ripley's occupation as a Warrant Officer aboard the Nostromo, the U.S commercial starship launched from Earth.
The Alien Prequels Aren't The Right Place For Ripley's Return
In theory, this news should be something worth celebrating. After all, who wouldn't be excited at the thought of Weaver returning, 20 years after Alien: Resurrection? The only trouble is, it's not clear if Scott can be trusted to weave any new material into Ripley's story without taking something away from the original. Prometheus was underwhelming and overly convoluted, and its follow up, Covenant, was full of questionable plot points and stupid character decisions.
The concern is Scott may include Ripley to appease fans, but in doing so, may also do a disservice to the character. There's no avoiding the fact that due to the timeline, Ripley will have to be younger, but will Scott go through with costly CGI to bring Weaver on-set and roll back the years? If he does, will Ripley lose some of the impact? If he doesn't, he could opt for the same option Rogue One used for Carrie Fisher, and use a different actress combined with digitally enhanced footage... an option that should never, ever be realized.
Rogue One is a prime example of how — when executed well — a prequel can enhance its predecessor, by humanizing the Rebellion's struggle prior to A New Hope and adding an extra layer of nuance and making events before the original trilogy more relatable. With Alien, it's hard to see how the same effect can be achieved; Ripley was born on a colony on Luna, the Earth's moon, and by the time of the prequels would be starting her career as a co-pilot with the US Merchant Navy.
Linking the parallel events of Ripley's story and David's mission to visit the Engineers' home planet won't be easy. The trouble is, with Covenant, Scott has already dipped his toe in that particular pool, revealing that the xenomorphs originated as a byproduct of experiments by David himself, placing the entire conception of the one of cinema's most intriguing species down to the artificially intelligent demigod — a plot-point that disappointed many fans.
As mentioned earlier, Ripley is Alien. But that doesn't mean that the character —who was integral in revolutionizing the representation of action heroines in Hollywood and became a feminist icon — should be repackaged for Scott's sequels for the sake of it.
Unless Alien 5 becomes a reality, one resurrection is enough.
Is including Ripley in the Alien prequels a good idea? Or should Scott avoid meddling with the character's story?