With the one-two punch of Neill Blomkamp's latest tech-demo with a plot, CHAPPiE, and news that the director is set to bring fourth Alien 5, the fandom of Alien is in a state of uncertainty. Should the technically illustrious though critically shaky Blomkamp revive that tenacious sci-fi name, or should we nuke it from orbit? Alien has already gone through one “Resurrection” that everyone hated, so what other things could possibly go wrong? Let's list them, and determine what to expect from the next outing of everyone's favourite drooling parasite. (The Alien, that is. I don't know about Blomkamp personally.)
Power loaders. Power loaders. Power loaders.
This was likely the first thing that sprung to every cynic's mind. Don't get me wrong; the powerloader scene in Aliens is a fun way to cap off a perfect action film. Though as is the trend with sequels confusing escalation with progress, we run the risk of Blomkamp's love of tech-porn upstaging the very reason we're here, for an Alien film. When Ripley finally dons on the powerloader and goes toe-to-toe (or toe-to-weird stabby extra mouth thing) with the Queen, it's cathartic and empowering. When every character wears a mech-suit and crushes Xenomorphs while cracking wise, I'm watching a videogame with an Aliens coat of paint. If Elysium taught us anything, it's that scaffolding strapped to Matt Damon does not a worthy spectacle make!
Risk Factor? High
Hopefully... The right people are on board to dial Neill back just enough. Blomkamp's work has a beautiful grimy sheen to it, where textures look more real than our own world, and if applied right to the Alien brand, we could see a return of tangibility to our sci-fi nightmares! An improvement from the famously botched effects job on Alien3.
Sigourney Weaver Phones it in
Harrison Ford syndrome is a cruel condition that has plagued aged Hollywood stars ever since I made it up just now. The theory goes that with every film an actor is made to return to an old role, their enthusiasm is diminishes, and the character is weakened. Case and point, did Indiana Jones really remain as eternally cool after you were forced to see him as a tired 65-year old? It's lucky no one's forcing Harrison back for the biggest revival in film hist... oh wait.
Sigourney Weaver is a different case entirely. Her screen presence hasn't wavered; she even starred in Blomkamp's latest, CHAPPiE, and she's shown an attachment and willingness to adapt with the character of Ripley. Hell, she was cool when they killed her off in Alien3, and brought her back in Resurrection as an inexplicably randy clone.
Risk Factor? Medium
Hopefully... Sigourney understands that cramming a performance that worked thirty years ago into a modern production can turn out awkward. It mostly boils down to her personal reason for joining the project, and who knows what that is? Is it nostalgia? Money? Dedication to the series? Money, or even money?
It's Aliens again
Aliens, or as James Cameron calls it, Alien$, is a hugely influential film that shaped many people's conception of the series, or even movie sci-fi itself. Given that this new project is allegedly making the gutsy move of ignoring Alien3 and Alien Resurrection, it's safe to assume that Blomkamp is one of those fans who only really counts the first two films, and was outraged at the decision to kill off Newt and Hicks in Alien3. I can't say I find it surprising. Just look at CHAPPiE. A sweet robot learning the ways of being a “gangsta” and fighting the system? You can't get much further from the brooding nihilism of David Fincher's Alien3. He probably doesn't like Resurrection due to its lack of mechs.
Risk Factor? Medium
Hopefully... The movie pushes a singular idea rather than toys with what's already established. The very premise of dissecting a space jockey ship and seeing the Weyland Yutani headquarters is downright delectable, and if Neill can avoid the temptation to tick the boxes laid out by Cameron, we could be in for a treat.
It's too Gory
There's a moment in the original Alien where the character of Lambert is cornered by the creature, struck with fear. We then cut to Ripley escaping, yet can still hear Lambert's frantic breathing echoing through the Nostromo. Her panic crescendos in a shrill scream, and then... nothing, her life snuffed out at the edge of space by an unknown monster. It's a harsh and dread-inducing moment, and quite possibly the scariest in the series, and we are shown none of it. Conversely, Alien Resurrection sees a man get chest-bursted, and guide the hatchling through the head of another man in a ridiculous (and quite brilliant) orgy of bloody stupidity. My point is that the Alien series has seen its fair share of gore, and is always more effective when it relies on genuine filmic technique instead of corn-syrup. What's the risk Blomkamp will go overboard and turn this into an overindulgent bloodbath? Well. There's a moment in CHAPPiE where Hugh Jackman chops a man in half with robo-scissors.
Risk Factor? Medium
It isn't gory enough
I don't wish to sound like a tasteless teenager whose attention span goes as far as the blood spray after decapitation, but there are some films that live by their ruthless approach to violence. Alien is one of them. You can project whatever socio-philosophical ideas you want onto HR Geiger's design, but in the end, these films are about the fear of something treating you only as prey, and using your body to spawn more of its abominable kind. That premise demands a certain unforgiving visceral flare to the violence, but then again, so did Robocop's, and look at the 2014 remake. Alien would no doubt suffer from being watered down for a younger audience, although that wouldn't be first time that's been attempted.
Risk Factor? Low
Hopefully... Will Neill Blomkamp turn Alien into a vanilla, easily marketable celebration of weak sauce? Well. There's a moment in CHAPPiE where Hugh Jackman chops a man in half with robo-scissors.
It's a [Prometheus](movie:40483) Sequel
The most worrying thing about Alien 5 is that elements have allegedly been changed so as not to conflict with Prometheus 2. Hey Hollywood! You know why the Marvel Cinematic Universe worked? Because no one else was doing it! Prometheus tried to tie up the Alien universe with a nice neat bow and it failed spectacularly. Blomkamp himself is putting a happy face on the situation, stating that the two films can co-exist peacefully, but I can't help but feel that Alien will inevitably become something bigger, more ambitious, and ultimately awkward, unmanageable and recyclable.
Risk Factor? High
Hopefully... Blomkamp retains his disregard for audience desire and expectation. People flocked to District 9 because it felt ever so slightly strange. That said, they slammed Elysium and [Chappie](movie:466720) for the same reasons, but hey, it's what Blomkamp does well. At this point, he can make whatever crazy decision he wants. Focus the film mainly on androids? Set it in down town Johannesburg? Sharlto Copley voices a Xenomorph? Fine! So long as it avoids this homogenising Hollywood nonsense!
It becomes a franchise
You know why I can't call this film a cynical cash-in on a brand that's been dead for years? Because every Alien film is a cynical cash-in on a brand that's been dead for years! That's not a bad thing. In fact, it's integral to what drives these movies. The original Alien was cobbled together by so many talented people. Production was nightmarish, hampered by conflicting visions and studio intrusion, but in the end, they created one of the most iconic products of science fiction and film itself. Fast forward thirty-seven years, and Neill Blomkamp's Alien 5 opens worldwide. It performs well, is generally well received by critics, and before the opening weekend is up, Alien 6, 7, and 8 are announced, all directed by Blomkamp. Would Alien really benefit from going Batman, and being broken down into the “runs” of different directors? I'm not doubting Blomkamp's ability to manage a series of films, but Alien is, by it's nature, collaborative. Filmmakers only get one stab at shaping the series.
Alien is eclectic, porous, and thrown together. That's what makes it both brilliant and infuriating. It's why someone could disagree with everything in this article, and still be an Alien fan, for there is such a range of things to enjoy. If the creative lease to the series is signed over to Blomkamp indefinitely, then that will all be lost.
Risk Factor? High
Hopefully... What with the insatiable serialising beast that is Hollywood today, there's very little hope to be had here. Still, we can always cherish the unforgettable moments these movies have brought us. Like when Ron Pearlman shot a spider for no reason.