Neill Blomkamp’s Alien film is “kinda holding/pending.” Its eventual production is dependent on the success of Ridley Scott’s Prometheus sequel, now-titled Alien: Covenant. While that news isn’t exactly encouraging — many believe Blomkamp’s film has essentially been axed in favor of Scott’s demands — an interview with actor Michael Biehn, who played Hicks in Aliens, has steered the film back into view. Let’s analyze the hell out of it.
Let’s start simple: Why is Biehn relevant? His Corporal Hicks character from Aliens appeared in several pieces of Blomkamp’s initial concept art. The images depict an older Hicks still bearing the scars of his encounter with a xenomorph. Blomkamp remained vague on what that meant within the series continuity, but it sidesteps Alien 3 and Alien Resurrection and implies a “genetic sibling” relationship with Aliens.
“The basic idea is acting like Alien 3 and Alien 4 never existed,” Biehn told Icons of Fright, confirming Blomkamp’s plan to circumnavigate the franchise’s low points. “They’re planning on bringing me and Newt back and at this point Newt will be around twenty-seven years old. I know that every actress in Hollywood is going to want to play this one, it’s really a passing of the torch between Sigourney and this younger actress who would play Newt.”
Ah, Newt. The six-year-old resident of Hadley’s Hope colony is rescued by Ripley and the marines in Aliens. She survives the events of the film so it makes sense for her to appear. For a time, Fox believed enough in her role in the series that both she and Hicks returned as central characters in the only direct Aliens sequel thus far: the 1988 Dark Horse Comics miniseries. Just last week DH announced a limited edition reprint of that initial series, which would restore the identities of the two characters. If what Biehn suggests is true, then Newt’s return to the cinematic continuity would line up with Dark Horse’s re-release plans. Blomkamp’s movie now shares an eerie similarity to that story arc.
He refers to a new actress in connection to the part of Newt, instead of Carrie Henn, who played her in Aliens. Interestingly enough, Henn has been tweeting on the topic in the last two weeks:
The subtext here is the fact that Alien 5 — or Aliens 5 as Henn calls it — is happening. Newt apparently “lives.” Taken along with Biehn’s statement it’s safe to say that Henn won’t be playing the character, but someone else probably will. She could also be referring to an Alien 30th anniversary event.
“I know that Ridley’s focus is on the second Prometheus and I’m sure that he and Fox both don’t want that and Neill’s movie to come out right next to each other,” Biehn continues, “because they’re kind of two different worlds, with Aliens taking place thousands of years later, which is how they explained it all to me, but at the same time, they want to give them a similar feel.”
The desire to create a cohesive extended universe now echoes throughout Hollywood. Studios are desperate to suckle from the teet of their cash cow franchises, for sequels, remakes, and spin-offs. Giving the two films “a similar feel” hints at not only connected mythologies, but a shared aesthetic. Now that Scott’s fully committed to re-entering the franchise properly (i.e. no half-baked xenomorph knock-offs), the celebrated retro-grunge of Alien might make a comeback.
Biehn’s bigger purpose here is to quell doubts toward Blomkamp’s film, which makes sense given his career trajectory. “I know they’re putting the brakes on Neill’s movie just for a little while,” he said, “but I really think that it would be embarrassing to Ridley and Fox and Sigourney if they just didn’t make the movie.”
Would the studio backpedal at the risk of getting egg on their faces? Probably. But if Biehn believes it then that at least gives us some hope.