Neill Blomkamp’s Alien movie is dead. Sorry, it’s “on hold”, until Ridley Scott’s Prometheus sequel can convince Fox the franchise deserves a future. And that’s not a bad thing. If the weight of the series rests on the success of the next Alien title, Scott is the better candidate to deliver a hit. Sorry, Chappie fans.
What generated the most excitement for Blomkamp’s take was the focus of his vision. Essentially a fanfic sequel with a budget, set after Aliens that would mark the return of Lt. Ripley and Corporal Hicks. Fans were pumped for a movie that would take its cues from the earlier, superior entries in the franchise — and that’s where much of the praise ended. This was never about anything other than the story.
Blomkamp’s ideas are stellar, they simply struggle to take root in their execution. Who’s to say those pitfalls would be avoided for his Alien? Certainly his enthusiasm is without doubt: this guy gets what made the franchise so much fun. That early crop of Instagram art teasing a new arm of mythology. They promised a new Alien proud to stand alongside its predecessors, probing the bigger unanswered mysteries of the franchise: Weyland-Yutani’s dream of getting its evil mitts on the Derelict ship (the big donut) and more importantly the matter of Hicks’ resurrection. Responses to the sight of Michael Biehn and Sigourney Weaver — their likenesses anyway — brandishing weapons, faced with more beastly creatures practically forced Fox’s hand. A small number reacted to Prometheus this way, the first genuine Alien-related movie in 15 years, which chose to abandon all the strengths of the franchise.
Prometheus was a gamble. It tried to be its own thing, but it had too much DNA from another movie yanking at it and drawing attention to the fact that it wasn’t anywhere near as masterful. Scott realizes this — probably kicking himself for not keeping Jon Spaihts’ original alien-heavy script intact — and is now taking charge of the story. He’s just scored a massive hit for Fox with The Martian, which has netted $434 million to date. Less than a month after release it’s earned more than Prometheus did over its entire run. Likewise against 2013’s The Counselor and 2014’s Exodus: Gods and Kings. As a result Scott’s got leverage. A Prometheus sequel has been “in talks” since 2012 and it’s only now that he’s taken control of — or been given free rein over — the Alien franchise once again. Scott says he plans to restore greatness to the franchise. Because he, like the rest of us, is sick of other people cocking it up.
Scott is among that group having botched Prometheus. His personal fascination toward mankind’s beginnings combined with a franchise that approached our mortality from the glistening jaws of a killer beast failed. In that regard, Scott’s the perfect person to handle the responsibility of resurrecting the franchise; he was the last one who screwed with it. A sin that it seems even he has acknowledged by retroactively changing the sequel’s title to Alien: Paradise Lost.
If his recent output is an indicator; his visual authority remains sharp as a tack. His characters, well-rounded and downright likeable. More importantly, Scott knows how to handle world-building. He redefined the aesthetic of sci-fi horror with the first Alien in 1979, packing scares into every darkly-lit corridor, a futuristic grime that continued in Blade Runner. He molded Jordan into Mars, and lulled us into the claustrophobia of botanist Mark Watney. Style, character, and plot, must-haves for Alien, have never been Scott’s downfall. He just sometimes falters in the composition of all three. So what if instead of bashing Prometheus — come on, it doesn’t really need it at this point — we celebrate it? Scott purged himself of all the crap, getting every mistake out of his system. It was a necessity before rocking the good stuff in a proper Alien prequel.
OK, but what about Blomkamp, you ask? He’s enthusiastic! He loves the movies! I know, I’m right there with you. But what this whole argument boils down to is experience. Like Blomkamp, Scott’s had hits and misses and the simple fact is: Scott has more of both. Let me put it this way: would you trust your lovingly restored Mustang, passed down through the generations, to a veteran mechanic, who’s no doubt blown a few head gaskets over his 30+ years, or the clean-overalled newbie in his first week?