I’ve seen a few articles around recently suggesting that Ridley Scott is working on something that may turn out to be a prequel to Alien. Apparently, now it’s titled Prometheus and is about the titan who stole fire from Zeus and gave it to mortals and was… Sorry, wrong story. No, apparently, it’s still an Alien prequel of sorts, but not a direct one… or something. The space jockey from the first movie will get a nod apparently, as his kind will be appearing. As for the titular Alien, or the Xenomorph, as it came to be known from Aliens onward, it is rumoured to appear as well, but not as we know it. Whatever that means.
Anyway, with all these rumours around, it seems that an appropriate measure for breathing life into these forums might be to open an Alien thread, where we can discuss various things related to that 5-star classic Alien and its sequel Aliens. However, I hope we can all agree that for the purposes of most of our discussions, Alien3 and Alien Resurrection don’t exist (unless as fodder for merciless criticism). Ditto for Alien VS Predator movies.
Actually, let’s take care of the Alien VS Predator concept right now before doing anything else. You see, the premise is rubbish from the outset. These two don’t belong in the same reality. A predator would be more natural in a Star Trek movie, to be honest, since these things are so obviously human-like aliens. Putting them next to Giger’s genuinely A-grade alien creature only draws attention to how inadequately alien predators really are. They’re also obviously B-grade, literally ogres from outer space, and the entire franchise is an imitator of its predecessor to boot – the poor man’s Alien.
Seriously, putting those two together is tantamount to something like Batman VS Daredevil. Now, that’s not to say I don’t like Predator, because to be honest, I like it a lot. It’s great fun – but it’s great B-grade fun. Hell, even the sequel has its moments (admittedly scattered throughout a movie that is largely unwatchable). However, it simply doesn’t compare to Alien or even Aliens (which is itself a lightweight popcorn movie compared to its predecessor).
Also, sorry Predator fans, but the outcome is so obvious that it’s not even a contest. The alien doesn’t hunt by sight for one thing, so it would render the predator’s cowardly cloaking device useless. It also requires no weapons because it is a goddamn weapon with its bolt-like mouth-within-a-mouth, claws, spear-like tail, its ability to tear through metal doors to reach its prey and of course, its blood that can eat through layers of metal in seconds. The predator on the other hand requires lots of weapons and as its only practice in fighting is stalking people who don’t even know it’s there and shooting them from a safe distance, it would be no match for the alien’s natural instincts (and remember the creature in the original movie only fights Dutch unarmed after determining that Dutch is smaller than him). It would be completely outclassed in a fight with the alien. The alien in the original Alien slaughters the crew of the Nostromo when it was not even a day old. That’s right. That was an infant stalking Dallas and his crew! Also, it doesn’t even die at the end. It survives the lack of air, pressure etc in the total vacuum of space and even survives being blasted by the engines of the shuttle.
Yes, aliens get taken down a notch in Aliens but that’s the fault of James Cameron being disrespectful to the first movie as opposed to any fault of the xenomorphs. Still though, at least they were being taken out by people with futuristic weaponry. A predator wouldn’t stand a chance in such a situation. If it was fighting people with space-faring technology and futuristic weapons, that would be frighteningly close to an even contest, and we know how much those cowardly predators dislike level playing fields. So, sorry Predator fans. The first movie in your franchise is terrific fun, but your title monster just doesn’t measure up to the original and clearly superior alien.
(Oh, and on the subject of Predator, don’t ask me for an opinion on Predators because I haven’t seen it. I’ve already seen a movie about a group of people being stalked through a jungle by a predator. It was this film that came out in 1987 called Predator so I don’t really need to see another one)
All right, now that we’ve got that out of the way, lets have a look at this idea of an Alien prequel. Now, on the one hand, I’d be lying if I didn’t say that a part of me was excited by this idea. I haven’t liked anything that Ridley Scott has made since Alien actually, not even Blade Runner (I thought that was a good idea poorly executed). However, as the director of the original, a part of me suspects that he’s got a good sensibility for the material. Also, a lot of his opinions on the Alien sequels mirror my own. For instance, I like Aliens a lot. It’s a very entertaining action film, but taken as a sequel, it doesn’t hold up. I always have to wait some time after watching the original before watching it to adjust my mindset for the reduction in awesomeness. I might say some more about that in my next post. Anyway, Ridley Scott believes that the sequel doesn’t really explore the concepts of the original film and he’s right. It rehashes the original story, but makes everything bigger (but not necessarily better) and ditches any further exploration of the concept in favour of big loud action. It’s a riot, no doubt about it, but it’s also something of a missed opportunity. The fact that Ridley Scott sees this tells me that he might have something on the table to offer viewers.
That said, a part of me is also dubious about this new development. We’ve famously seen prequels before and these kinds of fill-in-the-gap stories have proven disastrous. Often we’re better off filling in the gaps ourselves and in the case of a certain series of movies I don’t even want to discuss here, these stories can be flat out contradictory.
I suppose the biggest failing of Aliens is that it shows little interest in the mystery – and the first act of Alien is very much a mystery story. Why were the crew of the Nostromo woken up almost a year before they were supposed to arrive back on Earth? What is the meaning of the signal they have intercepted? Is it a warning? What for? Who are the aliens who built the ship that they discover? Why is there a gaping hole in the chest of the only specimen discovered? You get the idea, and unless you’ve been hiding under a rock for thirty years, you probably already know the answer to a lot of these questions.
However, there are questions that are not answered. As I’ll be discussing two alien species here, let’s use the term xenomorph and space jockey to avoid confusion. Why are there xenomorph eggs in the space jockey’s ship? Were the space jockeys keeping them contained for quarantine reasons? Were they studying them? Worse, were they breeding them or did they, as has been suggested by some fans, create them? Then another question raises itself – how did the company know about the xenomorph? How did they know about the derelict ship and that it had those eggs on board?
All these questions and more are ignored by Aliens in favour of making a somewhat dumbed down – albeit fun – action movie.
Like all Alien fans, I’ve got a few ideas of my own about these things. It always seems to me that the blue mist over the eggs suggests that the space jockey’s crew were keeping the eggs secure. The sound that the mist makes when penetrated seems somewhat like an alarm, as if the owners of the ship wanted to be alerted if any face huggers hatched or if anyone tried to get to the eggs. My reading of the situation was that they were knowingly carrying dangerous cargo and we know that at least one of those face huggers hatched. Maybe this was the reason why the ship crashed. However, as to why they were carrying the eggs in the first place, I have no idea.
Now, according to what I’ve found out about this Prometheus project, Ridley Scott wants to go back and explore some of these questions and that could be interesting. However, there’s a slight catch; I actually prefer having some of these things remain unexplained. I like the fact that we have no idea what the space jockey crew was doing transporting all those xenomorph eggs. It makes the universe seem like a bigger and scarier place. This is all supported by the visual narrative as well, with the space jockey being far larger than Kane, Dallas and Lambert. Seeing them in the gigantic ship, we see surrogates for the entire human race and the message is powerful. The society these characters come from is only a small player in something far larger – and that these characters cannot comprehend what they are getting into. In short, the vast regions of outer space are too big for us. We don’t belong there – and indeed, when the three human crew members explore the derelict vessel, they look way out of their element.
Now, I have another concern as well – and this comes from the question about how the company came across information about the xenomorph and how they could obtain it – ie. that there was a derelict vessel containing the xenomorph eggs and that it was emitting a signal into space. Then they could either make up a rule that such signals were to be investigated at the risk of total forfeiture of shares for non-compliance or the rule could be one in place already that simply fits their purposes. Anyway, the problem as I see it as that the only way they could discover these things would be to have an incident that would mirror the events of the original Alien so closely that it’d be pointless to make the film. Consider it. A shipboard computer picks up the signal from the derelict spacecraft. The crew on board go down to the surface to investigate. Face hugging, chest bursting and cat-and-mouse games ensue (with the option of throwing a literal cat into the proceedings) and a survivor goes back to Earth to tell the company what a unique creature they discovered on their trip home. In short, you’d have Alien, minus the Ash subplot. So what would be the point? Sure you could vary the formula, you could have more survivors, more aliens, an outer space cruise liner, the cat and mouse game could be played out in its entirety on the derelict space craft… but you’d still have the same story. Actually, you’d have a weaker story because you wouldn’t have all the extra layers of the Ash subplot and the sinister typed exchanges with Mother.
Finally, there is the fact that it’s difficult to make a movie over thirty years after the original and maintain a look and tone that is consistent with that original. Hell, they didn’t really maintain those things all that well with Aliens – although a lot of that was down to things like that awful grainy filmstock they were using and some of it was probably deliberate to convey the sense of 57 years having passed between the two films (the change in the xenomorph’s look however was deliberate enough… and questionable). Anyway, I think it’d be tough. Now, I’m not suggesting that Ridley Scott would do something like put in flashy monitor displays that are completely at odds with the computer screens we saw in Alien or anything like that. I think he’s a smart guy. He’s not like a certain talentless hack who butchered another film series. I don’t worry about that. However, even though I’m sure he’d try to match the look and tone of the original, I think it’s just a difficult task.
Now, having said all this, I’m still excited about this project. This is after all coming from the guy who brought the original film to life. It’s the one that is the best of the series, a five star classic that ranks among the best films ever made. In fact, I’ll let you all in on a little secret here – it’s actually my favourite movie. So it’s hard not to get excited about this. However, there’s a part of me that’s nevertheless a little apprehensive. What if it falls short of expectations? What if it’s merely good or not bad? In the end though, the big question for me is do I really want the mystery from the original to be unravelled?
No doubt, whenever this thing comes out – possibly next year, possibly never – I’ll be lining up to see it in the cinema. I’m also going to be avoiding spoilers as much as possible so I can enjoy it all the more (difficult with the Internet being what it is, but I’ll try). However, I can’t help wondering if the original may be better off left alone.
This post has been edited by Just your average movie goer: 17 April 2011 - 04:47 AM