In 2015, we have been drip-fed a wild array of sound-bytes, half-quotes and teaser articles about the Alien series of movies, Prometheus prequel trilogy, and possible future instalments. At times it has been hard to keep up, and so we thought we’d take a look at the history of the franchise in order to put some of the comments in context and try to make some sort of sense from the assortment of recent news articles.
The Original Alien Quadrilogy
Fans of the Alien franchise have had a bumpy journey since the release of Ridley Scott’s original suspense-horror-sci-fi movie Alien in 1979.
James Cameron’s action flick sequel, Aliens, which came seven years later, was quite a departure from the feel of the original, yet had so many merits, both as a standalone movie and as an extension of the storyline, that it expanded the franchise without alienating existing fans (no pun intended). The Alien series had become one of the very few movie franchises ever created from which genuine debates could happen over which of the movies was the “better” of the two.
In 1992, a further six years later, David Fincher’s third installment, Alien3 was destined to split opinion. Returning to the suspense and defenseless hopelessness of the original Alien movie, and even filming outdoor portions of the movie on the beaches of Seaham in Ridley Scott’s native north-east England, Alien3 was a clear hat-tip to Scott, and a roadsign for further additions to the franchise that the series was about suspense, horror and sci-fi, and that any resemblance Aliens had to an action movie was purely circumstantial in the grand scheme of things.
While the theatrical release of Alien3 was almost universally panned, even by Fincher himself who has disowned the movie, the 2003 “Assembly Cut” featuring more than 37 minutes of restored footage that was created without further involvement from Fincher, has gradually begun to win fans back since its inclusion on the 9-disc Alien Quadrilogy DVD box set.
The “Assembly Cut” of Alien3 gained so much attention that the actors were invited back to rerecord the audio for the re-introduced scenes for the release of the Alien Anthology BluRay boxset in 2010. In the Quadrilogy box-set version of Assembly, the “new” scenes had noticeably poorer audio quality than the rest of the movie, having originally been cut from the theatrical release before ADR overdubs had even been recorded for those scenes.
The fourth movie in the series, Alien: Resurrection, penned by Buffyverse/Firefly creator Joss Whedon and directed by Jean-Pierre “Delicatessen” Jeunet, was largely a disappointment to fans of the franchise, fans of Whedon, and fans of Jeunet alike.
Although the box office takings remained as high as previous movies in the franchise (not taking inflation into account), Resurrection had been the most expensive movie in the series to produce to date, costing between $60m and $75m to make, and making around $160m from the box office.
Prometheus And The Prequel Trilogy
When it was announced that Ridley Scott himself would be returning to create a prequel trilogy, fans of the franchise rejoiced. Finally the series would be returned to the hands of the creator of the original vision, and we would see the worthy addition to the Alien franchise that many fans had been waiting for since 1979.
Instead we got Prometheus, a visually-stunning movie, packed to the brim with wooden acting, bad science and irrational behaviour from the protagonists (scientists thinking it’s a good idea to reach out and touch the alien creature they’ve just discovered, the “I’m going to perform surgery on my own midriff and then go for a run” scenes, not to mention the final brief conversation between the aforementioned self-sewn-up-athlete and the ship’s captain… “Hey, I just met you, and this is crazy, but I need you to kill yourself to save Earth. Sound good? You’re in? Cool! I’m off now, see ya! Good luck!”)
If Alien was Aliens vs Space Truckers, Aliens was Aliens vs Space Marines, Alien3 was Aliens vs Convicts, and Alien: Resurrection was Aliens vs Firefly (5 years before Firefly existed), Prometheus was surely Aliens vs Idiots.
Prometheus cost almost as much to make as the entire four-movie Alien franchise preceding it combined, and somehow, presumably riding the hype of Scott’s return to the series, it managed to take in over $400m at the box office despite the movie’s many flaws.
News, soundbytes, contradictions, retractions, amendments
When he began work on Prometheus, Scott had planned to make a trilogy of prequels to the franchise, which were intended to explain why the xenomorphs had been created, and who the “space-jockey” of the original Alien movie was.
Earlier this year, while Ridley Scott was still working on The Martian, he revealed that Prometheus 2 would be the next movie in his schedule.
Around the same time it was announced that District 9, Elysium, and Chappie creator, Neill Blomkamp would be directing a fifth installment of the original Alien series.
Fans of the lucrative franchise would be treated to not one but two new additions to the Alien franchise within the next few years.
The initial soundbytes from the Blomkamp camp that were reported in sensationalist pseudo-news blog articles around the world were that Blomkamp was planning to dismiss the third and fourth movies entirely to create a new “Alien 3”, a view seemingly reinforced by the announcements that Sigourney Weaver and Michael Biehn (Hicks in Aliens) had already been signed on to be in the movie.
Even The Guardian reported that Blomkamp told them personally that he “would “categorically” rule out any return for the cloned version of Ripley, further hinting that the new film will ignore later Alien instalments”, but failed to provide an actual quote from Blomkamp to that effect, and failed to mention whether other cloned versions of Ripley might be a possibility now that he’d ruled out bringing back “the” cloned version from Alien: Resurrection.
Shortly afterwards, in an interview with AlloCiné (YouTube video below), Blomkamp was quick to quash that line of thinking, stating “My favourites are the first two movies, so I wanna make a film that’s connected to Alien and Aliens – that’s my goal. I’m not trying to undo Alien 3 or Alien: Resurrection – I just want it to be connected to Alien 1 and 2″.
Ridley Scott scored a direct hit on the jaw of the marketing machine earlier this month when his offhand comment about his overall plan to join together the Prometheus and Alien franchises went viral.
Scott explained how the xenomorphs won’t appear in Prometheus 2, maybe not even in Prometheus 3, and that we may need to wait for Prometheus 4 to find out the answers to the questions he had intended to answer with the prequel “trilogy”.
The next piece of news to surface was that Ridley Scott had revealed the name of the second Prometheus movie. The name is… “Alien: Paradise Lost“.
Parallels between the first Prometheus movie and Milton’s Paradise Lost have long been reported and so the latter half of the title is little surprise, but to suddenly jettison the Prometheus name in order to make an Alien movie that won’t even contain xenomorphs seems like a radical sidestep to his original plan, particularly now that he seems to want to create three new movies to fit between Prometheus and Alien in the series.
Given the scientific and behavioural criticisms of Prometheus, it would be easy to speculate that Ridley Scott had taken onboard the idea of distancing himself from certain movies in the franchise, and chosen the Alien branding for the next movie rather than the Prometheus name in order to win back fans of the original series who were less enthused by the first prequel.
On hold, delays… or… maybe not
Next we heard from a number of news sources that Alien 5 had been put on hold, a rumour quickly stifled by Blompkamp himself, although with Scott being an executive producer on Alien 5, and director on Alien: Paradise Lost, it does seem feasible that Scott might want to concentrate on completing Alien: Paradise Lost before moving onto Alien 5.
While some recent blog-slash-news articles warn of the possiblity that the combination of the selection of title Alien: Paradise Lost along with the addition of a fourth prequel movie might spell the end of the line for Blomkamp’s Alien 5, Blomkamp himself has remained upbeat on his Twitter feed…