No doubt most of you have seen the 1979 masterpiece Alien by Ridley Scott. If you haven’t you really should. If you’re a fan of scifi and horror, especially slow-burning Lovecraftian horror, I can’t recommend this film enough. So when I heard that Scott was returning to the universe he and the amazing H.R. Giger had crafted thirty years ago I was stunned, excited, apprehensive, and somewhat confused. I was stunned because this would be like James Cameron returning to the Terminator franchise after all these years. I was excited because Scott has been going all out on historical dramas recently and hasn’t done much scifi which is a pity since he has an amazing talent for creating detailed, believable future worlds. I was apprehensive because it sounded like a prequel. Not only that, the Alien franchise has been very poorly served in recent years. I know that this is Ridley Scott we’re talking about here but I couldn’t help but wonder if I wanted to go back into this universe again considering the mess others had made of it. And I was confused because when asked about the project, Scott consistently gave tantalizing hints that the film would involve the world of Alien yet he adamantly refused to elucidate whether this was a prequel, a sequel, a reboot, or what. It seems now that it is indeed a prequel to the original story and this point is only hammered home by the trailers that have finally come out. So why am I excited?
Well first of all, this may finally inject some much needed dignity into the franchise. The Aliens vs. Predator series has really removed anything frightening or ominous about the Xenomorph and replaced it with a well-lit, boring, by the numbers elimination game. The original Alien was cleverer by far, playing with our fears of bodily integrity and violation (raped or made host of a foreign organism). The second film took this and turned it into a well-honed action, sci-fi film that played with conceptions of gender. Our hero Ripley does what an entire platoon of Space Marine bad-asses can’t. The third and fourth films began slipping (The third can’t really be blamed on the director, David Fincher, since he was forced to start filming even as the script went through multiple rewrites. It’s a miracle or a testament to his skill the film turned out as well as it did.). The fourth wasn’t bad but retread the same waters without adding anything to the mythology. A fun film? Oh hell yes (plus really great cinematography in the style of Delicatessen and the City of Lost Children which strangely enough also starred the always awesome Ron Pearlman.) but maybe not a necessary one. Finally though, we have the return of the visionary who started this horrible, slimy, face-hugging ball rolling. I know that sometimes having someone come back to material they made a while ago doesn’t always end well (i.e. Star Wars) but I have a feeling that Scott really could tell an interesting story with this material. Is it a story that really needs to be told? We know that the Nostromo responded to a strange signal on a dead planet and that hell breaks loose soon after. Do we need to know what happened before that? How critical is it that to our appreciation of the film and the already established mythology?
If this were any other situation, I’d think that this film may be giving us information we don’t need. But you know what? Because this entire back-story had already been in mind when the first film was shot, I am really curious to see what this universe would have looked like if Scott had had the opportunity to put all his ideas to celluloid. As you can learn here, a chunk of the xenomorph’s origins was intended to make it into the very first film but had to be cut. Additionally, I appreciate when someone takes the time to create detailed, consistent worlds and I’m curious to see where this film will take us and what it will show us. In a way this feels like a film for the fans who want to experience more of the world as Scott had originally intended it to be. I’m sure that’s part of the reason I’m so eager to see this film. The original presented just a slice of what felt like a complete, complex, and believable world, one populated with horrifying and brutal monsters and creatures of mystifying origins. I’m looking forward to diving back into this world of unknown and dangerous cosmic knowledge and learning what else may be hiding in the shadows of this barren, but not lifeless, planet.
Plus, who doesn’t love alien wing-wong?