So ALIEN 5 (I like to call it Alien S-2 since it seems to be an Aliens sequel) is apparently on its way from District 9 director Neill Blomkamp, and all indications suggest it’s going to put some strange pressures to the already twisted canon storyline of the Alien franchise.
For my part, I’m always in the mood for new Alien material. I’ve lately been revisiting Alien: Isolation, the first game to really “get” Alien,” by replaying it over at my Twitch stream channel, twitch.tv/philhornshaw (also on YouTube here). And I’ve been reading the new trilogy of Alien novels released last year. It’s been on my mind.
Blomkamp has said he wants to turn his focus on Alien and Aliens, and while he’s clarified his comments to say that he doesn’t mean to overwrite Alien 3 and Alien: Resurrection in the continuity, at current it sounds like he’s probably making a direct sequel to Aliens. All of this is wildly speculative and very preliminary, since everything can change between now and the actual release of the movie — that said, concept art and the apparent involvement of Sigourney Weaver and Michael Biehn all point toward “something something something Aliens.”
I’m rather down with that, but aside from the foregone conclusion of an orbital nuke joke, it’s going to be tough to slip into the continuity of existing Alien films and have them feel like they make sense. The franchise has never been super good about continuity, if we’re being honest: James Cameron made up all kinds of crap for Aliens, advancing the universe 57 years, creating the more complete xenomorph life-cycle, inventing and (apparently*) killing Ellen Ripley’s daughter Amanda and suggesting that in 57 years nobody discovered aliens again (or at least they didn’t live to tell anyone about it).
Alien 3 tweaks things more by instantly murdering everyone in the previous movie that fans had taken a liking to, throwing in the most present form of Evil Corporation Weyland-Yutani we’ve yet seen, and ending with Ripley’s death.
And then there’s Alien: Resurrection, which jumps another 200 years and supposes, like Aliens, that no one ever again encountered the creatures. The only way to return them to the universe again is by cloning Ellen Ripley.
Those are just the hoops through which Blomkamp has to jump when it comes to the films. If he’s sticking with what 20th Century Fox has said constitutes franchise canon at least recently, he also has to contend with Alien: Isolation, which throws Amanda into the mix with the aliens and makes them responsible for destroying a space station, and with Alien: Colonial Marines — which saves Hicks from his apparent death in Alien 3.
The franchise canon is generally a bit … flexible, we’ll say, but fans and viewers still expect some form of decent continuity with the previous movies, at least, if Fox isn’t looking to reboot it altogether. And it seems as if reboot is not the plan, if Weaver and Biehn being (at least potentially) involved is any indication.
A reboot might be best, though. There are a lot of confines within which to work based on previous Alien projects, and since curation of the overall canon has been haphazard, starting fresh might be the right choice for further exploring the franchise and its world.
The other benefit of a reboot: a fresh take on some of the series’ themes. I’m not a big fan of corporations in general, but if there’s one thing Alien stories need no more of, it’s time spent on the super-evil megacorp Weyland-Yutani. Where Alien portrays the company as uncaring-to-murderous and Aliens pairs “uncaring” with “swamped with bureaucracy” — so swamped that it’s not even particularly aware of what happened with LV-426, placing all evil banality at the feet of one executive in Carter Burke — the rest of the movies turn WY into a satanic greed figure.
That’s fine, except it happens over and over and over and over again, in nearly every Alien story, from movies to games to comics to books.
It’s a tired tune and it could use some fresh instruments, especially given the real-world political climate of recent years. There are interesting ways to explore themes of corporate greed, the expendability of workers, and the ethical considerations of exploring, colonizing, and potentially pillaging the universe — and Alien could stand to try out a few new ones.
* I say “apparently” because Amanda Ripley stars in Alien: Isolation, which is reportedly part of the canon now, and suggests Carter Burke’s explanation of Amanda Ripley-McLaren’s life and death is potentially inaccurate or straight-up false.
(Images: Neill Blomkamp’s Instagram account.)