Hello dear followers! Sorry for my absence as of late. I know, for those of you who took the time out of your day to hit the Follow button, I promised a lot of cool stuff by way of me that I have not yet delivered. Musings on The Fantastic Four trailer and such. Well, life gets in the way sometimes. Changing day jobs. Uprooting the family to a new state. Yaddy Yadda. But anyways, all the cool stuff I promised will be coming soon (hopefully). In the meantime, here's something to hold you over that you'll hopefully like.
The word is out. It's no secret. Hell, even though it was JUST announced you can even call it old news because so many people are covering it. Following a flood of well received concept art images, Fox has officially signed District 9, Elysium and Chappie director [Neill Blomkamp] to helm the latest addition to the massively popular (yet conflictingly received) Alien franchise.
For those keeping track, this will be the seventh outing for the fearsome Xenomorphs as we know them (Alien, Aliens, Alien 3, Alien: Resurrection, Alien Vs Predator and Alien Vs Predator: Requiem), hence my clever rendition of the title: A7IEN. Seriously, can't you see Fox using that as a marketing gimmick at least on the teaser poster. That seems to be the thing now. I site TRANS4MERS, TAK3N and THE EXP3NDABLES. In case you're wondering, I don't count the Prometheus films as Alien installments. Though they do take place in the same universe they tell a different story from that of the Alien franchise. Hell, if you want to get technical a lot of people don't even count the AvP movies so this is actually being considered [Alien 5](movie:1468950). But I just like the look and feel of A7IEN. Now, what Blomkamp and Fox choose to ultimately call the picture remains to be seen. It won't be A7LIEN. It will likely have some kind of subtitle like Alien: Rejuvenation or Alien: Revenge or something like that.
I love the Alien franchise. I would like to say I'm a total fanboy for it but that wouldn't be entirely true. For instance I have still, to this day, never seen either of the AvP movies. I had just heard nothing but bad things about both of them and haven't made the time to sit down with them. Maybe that will change one day but for now I remained unscathed. Also, as I'm not really gamer (especially these days) I have never played Aliens: Colonial Marines or the newer (and from what I understand, better) Alien: Isolation. These are all things that a "fanboy" would have done but I haven't. So I'm just going to say that I love the franchise and take that how you will.
That said, I'm excited that they are returning to Alien proper for more adventures and based on Blomkamp's concept art that he released via Instagram, I look forward to seeing what he does with the property. If you have been living in a cave and haven't seen any of the said artwork, here's a small sampling of it for you.
Now, as with any return to a popular franchise after so many years, there's going to be a lot of hype followed by even more disappointment. The most obvious example is, of course, the Star Wars prequels. Star Wars: Episode I broke records for how far fans will go in anticipation for a long awaited new adventure in one of their favorite film series. So much so that a documentary filmmaker once did a side-by-side comparison of Toys "R" Us employees throwing new Star Wars figures into a hungry mob to aid workers throwing food to a literal hungry mob in Kosovo (please see A Galaxy Far, Far Away for that and other insights into the "Episode I Phenomena"). Now, even though I liked The Phantom Menace and the other two prequels for their entertainment value, it can't be argued that they were a huge letdown for the franchise's legacy and the fan expectation.
Of course, A7IEN (heh heh...I'm still doing it), has a couple of benefits working for it. The franchise doesn't have quite as much of a legacy due to the fact that only two of the existing 6 films are fantastic. Ridley Scott's original Alien and James Cameron's superior follow up, Aliens, raised the bar so high that the subsequent filmmakers just kind of lazily walked under it. The effort was there, though. David Fincher's Alien 3 tried really hard but the storyline just wasn't working. As for Jean-Pierre Jeunet's Alien: Resurrection...well...in retrospect that might have worked better if Joss Whedon had been allowed to direct his own script...but then again, maybe not. Whedon's unique brand of film making incorporates too much comedy for a franchise built on terror.
Now, with this new film that Fox has in the making, we get Neill Blomkamp at the wheel and he's clearly a fanboy. The care that he put into his concept art shows a talented filmmaker who really wants to give this one his all. In fact, rumor has it he doesn't even want to acknowledge the events of anything taking place after Cameron's Aliens. But therein lies the crux that I have been building to.
Is it smart to hand the reins over to a franchise fan who doesn't want to acknowledge the whole franchise?
Well, let's look at the last time that happened...
In 2006, hot off the success of Fox's X-Men and X2, [director] Bryan Singer released Superman Returns for Warner Bros. The Superman franchise had been in development Hell for almost 20 years with such failed attempts as Tim Burton's Superman Lives and Brett Ratner's Superman: Flyby (which was written by Geekdom's new overlord, JJ Abrams). When all of those efforts fell apart, Singer swooped in with his take on the material, which involved a sorta metasequel to Superman II that took place in the present day and ignored the events of Superman III and Superman IV: The Quest for Peace. The result was a well directed film that just fell short because it tried to reinvigorate interest in a 20 year old franchise using the same plot devices and way more nostalgic references than were really necessary. The problem was that today's audience didn't want another 1970s Superman movie. So then we got Man of Steel and, for better or for worse, that's Superman now.
The point being made is that, no matter how talented and innovative of a filmmaker you are, sometimes trying to do a throwback to what you loved as a child just isn't the way to go. I watched the game play trailer and the production videos for Colonial Marines and it truly was a nostalgia goldmine. On paper it was going to be the perfect follow up to Aliens (canon or not) but, as I learned from the people who actually played it, nostalgia wasn't enough. The game that people thought they were getting just wasn't there.
I'm not trying to be the stereotypical Internet nerd who automatically hates every new installment and/or reboot. I can often come off that way but usually for good reason because a lot of the sequels and reboots have, indeed, been quite awful. And I'll be honest, I'm still on the fence when it comes to the work of Neill Blomkamp. District 9 was a very creative and unique piece of cinema but I'm not a fan of found footage and, for that reason, it just didn't sit too well with me. Elysium was better in terms of all around storytelling and art direction but by the end I was still left with little (if any) desire to watch it again. I can't deny the man's talent as a director and storyteller, which is why I am still on board with him jumping into this universe. I hope it's a spectacular film that lives up to the works of Scott and Cameron and does the franchise proud. However, in order for it to be truly successful I feel that Blomkamp needs to go about it a certain way.
And that is...
DON'T ERASE THE CONTINUITY.
As I mentioned before, it's being said that Blomkamp doesn't want to acknowledge Alien 3 or Alien: Resurrection. This seems to be supported by the fact that his concept art prominently features Ellen Ripley (Sigourney Weaver) and a disfigured Corporal Hicks (Michael Biehn). Both characters are, of course, dead in the current continuity with the former, obviously, having been cloned 200 years after the events of Part 3. Though, it was apparently "revealed" in Colonial Marines that the "real" Hicks didn't, in fact, die off camera like we were led to believe. However, it's doubtful that Fox will be looking toward that game for any kind of canon.
As we learned with Superman Returns and, to an even greater extent, the Highlander franchise, erasing continuity because you didn't like a few installments isn't the way to go. The Ripley and Hicks storylines are done. It's sad. But there it is. The best thing that Neill Blomkamp can do is honor the history, incorporate his nostalgia, even revisit some of the locations...but do it with brand new characters. The universe is a big place. Space has been colonized. There is a lot of rich ground for such a visionary director to cover with this franchise.
You can ignore the films that you didn't like without erasing them completely. Predator was a great movie. By far one of the most unique concepts and a terrific blend of science fiction and 80s action. Predator 2 was an entertaining effort but not a very good follow up. It was a sequel for the sake of sequels that did nothing to advance the story. So what happened? Years later we got Predators, which was terrific and horrendously underrated. It didn't erase Predator 2. It just chose to tell a new story, with new characters, in a new part of the universe and only acknowledged the elements that it needed to acknowledge.
So please, Mr. Blomkamp, give us a great Alien movie. Show us your passion for the source material but give us something new to marvel at. Not more of the same. If you want to find a way to incorporate Ripley, that's fine. Maybe do it in a small, subtle capacity. A surprise cameo or a clever twist in the story. But don't give us another movie centered on her. And as much as we all love Hicks...c'mon...he's dead. Do we like the way he died? No. But at least Michael Biehn still got Fox give him his full paycheck for using his photograph in the death announcement scene.
Give us a new group of people sent across space by the Weyland-Yutani Corporation to encounter the Xenomorphs. Maybe find a way to incorporate your talents for social commentary. Honestly, I don't have all of the answers. I just know there's more to tell and after all these years (it's been almost 20 years since the last stand alone Alien feature after all) I think we can do better than another Ripley adventure.
What do you all think?