The past few years haven't been kind to sci-fi fans. Hollywood's long tradition of big budget sci-fi epics has been dialled back in recent times. OK, so there was Avatar and Gravity - but there wasn't much else. Except Prometheus, a movie many would rather didn't exist. More on that in a moment...
But it seems the tide is finally turning. Every man and his C3PO has got their panties in a twist over [Star Wars: Episode VII — The Force Awakens](tag:711158) and the new trilogy and spin-offs that will follow, whilst Matt Damon leads the cast of The Martian in October. There's an appetite for science fiction once again, and where there's demand, Hollywood has supply.
Alien - the pinnacle of sci-fi
Star Wars aside, it's possible that no sci-fi franchise has a cult following as large or passionate as the Alien series. The first movie (1979) and sequel Aliens (1986) firmly established Sigourney Weaver as the first lady of sci-fi, whilst deftly blending traditional sci-fi tropes (adventures in outer space, the threat of other life forms) with the horror genre, to create movies far darker and considerably more brutal than Star Trek or Star Wars.
But inevitably, Alien 3 and Alien: Resurrection could not maintain that quality, and the franchise quietly died after 1997. Until now.
Is Alien 5 safe in Neill Blomkamp's hands?
The news that Alien 5 was on the way was met with a bittersweet reception - on the one hand, Neill Blomkamp is considered one of the most promising young directors in Hollywood. On the other, some things are sacred, and Alien has already been tainted with two disappointing films too many.
What we know so far
Alien 5 is the first movie in the franchise to have begun life on Instagram. Kind of. A post Blomkamp made regarding an idea for the movie caught the eye of somebody important, and the project took off from there.
By far the most important factor of this sequel is that Ellen Ripley is back. Sigourney Weaver is on board to play the iconic heroine once again. The actress actually worked with Blomkamp on his most recent movie Chappie (which received dismal reviews, but hey - everybody has a bomb on their resume. Everybody except Fincher, anyway) - so the necessary chemistry between director and star should already be in place. In fact, whilst working together on Chappie, Blomkamp actually consulted Weaver on the story for Alien 5, and she helped to shape it. Which makes sense because, well, she's Ellen Ripley.
Another crucial aspect of the sequel - it's going to disregard the pesky third and fourth movies, and act as a follow-up to Aliens. That's a bold move which suggests Blomkamp has a big vision for this movie. If his confidence is reflected in the script, the fans are in for a treat.
What about Prometheus?
At this point, it might be easy to post a shrug gif captioned "what about Prometheus?", but let's talk seriously for a moment about the much-maligned Ridley Scott movie.
Prometheus, you may remember, is set in the Alien universe and acts as a kind of prequel to Alien, although there are no shared characters. Considering Ridley Scott got his big break and cemented his place in the sci-fi hall of fame when he directed Alien, the expectation laid on Prometheus was pretty much sky high.
This viral teaser focused on the android David (Michael Fassbender, excellent as always) hinted at something incredible.
But the film itself was almost universally seen as a disappointment. The script was a mess. Characters behaved in ways that made no sense. Idris Elba was reduced to a bit part, and Charlize Theron, playing an ice cold bitch in Meredith Vickers, was not given full opportunity to play her villainous hand. Prometheus wanted to marry horror with epic space opera, but it achieved neither.
And yet, witness the effort Scott put into the viral videos, like this one in which Guy Pearce plays a younger Peter Weyland (the ancient version of Weyland in the movie is comically buried under a mountain of prosthetics). Scott didn't go into this project without a vision - something just got lost in translation.
Which suggests that there might be hope for Prometheus 2.
So what do we know about Prometheus 2?
Although (spoilers!) many of the crew of the Prometheus didn't make it out of the movie alive, Noomi Rapace and Michael Fassbender are both expected to return for the sequel. (Fassbender's David was memorably beheaded.) Beyond that, we don't know much - but now that Scott has got The Martian out of the way, his schedule is free to begin work on Prometheus 2. Expect it in 2017.
Probably the most pointed question surrounding the film is whether it will be a worthy entry into the Alien cinematic universe or, like Prometheus the first, a fun but ultimately failed experiment. There's a sense that Ridley Scott is not to be trusted with this franchise, which, considering he's responsible for the film that started everything, is a huge shame. Personally, I have faith in his ability to put his vision on screen in a coherent fashion.
The bottom line is that, until you're in the cinema and the film has begun to roll, you can never be sure of what you're going to get. But in Alien, Scott and Blomkamp have one of the all-time great sci-fi stories to play with - and that can only bode well for Alien 5 and Prometheus 2.