Recently news broke on twitter by director Neil Blomkamp himself stating that he would be moving on to other projects for the moment as preproduction has been halted on his ‘Alien 5’ film to make room for Ridley Scott’s ‘Prometheus’ sequel. Personally I think this move is a mistake. I’m critically biased, though, in that I don’t necessarily love Ridley Scott’s ‘Prometheus’ and have a deep connection to his original ‘Alien’ and James Cameron’s fantastic sequel, ‘Aliens’. But my concern comes from more than just fanboy woes. This ‘universe’, if you will forgive the overused term, of Alien films seems to be at odds with each other as one film is fighting to reinstate the old nostalgia filled canon of yore, while the other wants to build a film series around looming existential questions within the world that the Alien films inhabit.
What excites me about Blomkamp’s installment in the Alien series is that it has the potential to put the spotlight back on the Xenomorphs and showcase just how much of a threat even one of those space raptors can be. I feel that the films that the Xenomorph has been a part of in the last decade (and its own sequels in the 90’s) have only weakened the monster’s image as a large hulking terror that thrives in the shadows (Something I believe the videogame ‘Alien: Isolation’ aesthetically nailed. Check it out!). Both of the ‘Alien vs Predator’ films portrayed the slimey villain in large numbers being taken out quickly by humans or Predators, which is hard to argue against at times as that IS what the predators are there to do. Simply having the two iconic sci-fi/horror villains on the same screen might be a problem of too much excess. An embarassment of riches if you will.
Blomkamp’s iteration was also rumored to be ignoring the events of ‘Alien 3’ and ‘Alien: Resurrection’ a wise choice. This would only solidify the series and reestablish tone that was lost in the transition from ‘Aliens’ to its much maligned sequel sisters of the 1990’s. Having the series revisited by an innovative filmmaker like Blomkamp, who is also a large fan of the series, is something that not only seems to be serving other studios interests well, (ie Marvel Studios with the Russo Brothers and Star Wars with JJ Abrams and Gareth Edwards to name a few) but will also inject a new style with a robust and clear love of the material as well.We also have to consider that Sigourney Weaver isn’t getting any younger. If we want a true sequel that continues with the character of Ripley then we ought to get moving, something the ‘Indiana Jones 5’ property is also likely dealing with considering Harrison Ford’s age as well.
Then there’s ‘Prometheus’. A film that asks many big questions, and answers none of them. A film that feels oddly out of place in the Alien canon it tries so hard to insert itself in. The film commits several sins throughout the runtime in its attempt to both connect itself and yet stand alone. *SPOILERS* The ending in particular is the most egregious error if memory serves correctly. In the final scenes the captain of the good ship Prometheus crashes the ship in an attempt to stop the engineer’s spacecraft to avoid the potential calamity of a biological weapon being released on Earth. This wouldn’t be so bad if this entire story took place on the moon from the original ‘Alien’ movie, but it does not. It takes place on an entirely different moon, which makes one wonder why the marketing sold the movie as a direct sequel setting up shots of the sideways fallen Engineer spacecraft that fell on its side in the exact same fashion that the one on a different moon in the future must have done(?). This wouldn’t have bothered me as much if it hadn’t been for the fact that the moon that Sigourney Weaver’s character Ripley investigates in the first Alien movie is the one that the crashed ship ‘Prometheus’ distress signal is coming from! A fatal flaw in my mind, why would you go out of your way to contradict yourself and name the location of the events of ‘Prometheus’ as entirely different from ‘Alien’, since Ridley Scott made both films, I seriously question this obvious obstruction.
Even Scott himself has said that the movie only has strands of continuity relating to the Alien universe. I could go on, ‘Prometheus’ does some things very well, particularly Michael Fassbender’s portrayal of David the Android, but the film’s story feels muddled, stretched, lazy at times, and convoluted. The scene where the central character ‘Shaw’ has to cut a version of the alien out of herself is pretty intense and enthralling, but there are so many other parts of the film that just don’t coalesce. So, in my opinion, if Ridley Scott wanted to make a film about big existential questions set in space, why didn’t he just create a new property? This easily could have been it’s own film series,and that’s fine! There’s no need to force other intellectual properties to burden themselves with other sets of expectations and tone unnecessarily. Scott has even said his sequel might not even include any version of the eponymous Xenomorph at all! Which begs the question, why make a movie set in the Alien universe without including the famous baddie in some fashion? The current title for that project is “Alien: Paradise Lost” So hopefully they stick to their roots, we’ll just have to wait and see!
If I had my way (Don’t we all wish for that?) I would simply switch the fate of these two films. ‘Prometheus’ didn’t wow me, but here’s hoping Blomkamp can go above and beyond the line of duty and revitalize a franchise both legendary, and a piece of film pop culture.