At the end of an Elysium press conference a couple years ago, or whenever it was we were still excited about Elysium (feels like an eternity, doesn’t it?), a former colleague of mine approached Neill Blomkamp and asked him what his dream project would be, to which he responded that one of his favorite movies was Aliens, and he’d really love to do an Alien movie. Yesterday, Fox agreed to give him his shot, after concept designs the director had posted on his Instagram account drew the attention of fans like us.
But will the film he wants to make be the film that fans want to see? My hunch is that even if it isn’t, I’ll find something to like, as I have with every Alien-related movie thus far. Yes, even Aliens vs. Predator: Requiem has about thirty minutes – in which there are no humans whatsoever – that would have been an outstanding short fan film on their own. And yes, I like the way Prometheus posits the existence of beings we misconceived as gods, whose goal, burned into our history, is to lure us to their WMD stockpile planet where they can infect us and use us to birth even more powerful weapons. I don’t care that the stupid guy touched the eel; stupid John Hurt touched the egg in the first one. It’s a tradition.
But my hunch – especially after actually seeing Elysium – is that what I want and what Blomkamp wants may be quite different. He has enough of a track record now that we can extrapolate, but here, first, are the things I believe the next Alien movie needs.
1. Keep Continuity, as Best You Can.
All franchises have weak installments. You have Star Trek V, Star Trek Into Darkness, Star Trek: Insurrection…and I’m sure other properties have something too. But you don’t throw them out – you find ways to adapt. For all the grief George Lucas gets, that’s one thing he did well: upon realizing how much everyone hated Jar Jar, he downsized his role in sequels and made clear that the goofy Gungan was in fact inadvertently responsible for the rise of the Empire.
The Alien films have moments that many fans outright hate, like the deaths of Hicks and Newt essentially offscreen, but the time to retcon that away as a dream was more than one movie ago. Ripley with xenomorph DNA was an interesting character even in a movie that feel apart at the end, and there’s more potential to develop her that way than if she’s simply a frustrated mother again.
And speaking of potential to develop….
2. Bring Back Lance Henriksen.
One of the biggest potential plotholes in the entire series is the way Henriksen plays three different characters, and only one of them is definitely a robot. Alien3, in its theatrical cut, implied that the man who claims to be the basis for Bishop androids is yet another mechanical man, but the “assembly cut” of the film shows him bleeding red when injured, which strongly suggests he’s human.
Then, in Alien vs. Predator, we learn that the actual model for the Bishop android was Charles Bishop Weyland, from a long time earlier. It’s a bit of inconsistent series planning that can easily be cleared up if you’re still going to deal with cloning and gene-splicing and the like. He can be the latest in a long line of Weyland cloned bodies, or a newer, more advanced Bishop model. The point is we can finally tie up that major loose end, and Henriksen is simply one of the greatest screen presences ever so he’ll sell it no matter how ludicrous. You could give him Sean Bean’s lines about bees from Jupiter Ascending, and nobody would dare laugh.
3. We Have Wanted to See Aliens on Future-Earth for Six Goddamn Movies and Never Gotten It
The trailers for Alien3 said that on Earth everyone would hear us scream…and then the movie wasn’t set on Earth at all. Alien Resurrection got Ripley finally back to her home planet…and then the movie ended. AvP:R…well, let’s not even talk about that one.
Pick up where the original series let off. We have never yet seen motherfuckin’ xenomorphs in a motherfuckin’ major city. It’s about time that happened.
4. No “Passing the Torch.”
Too many revived ’80s franchises have been getting this one wrong.
Simply put, nobody wants an Indiana Jones sequel that stars Mutt Williams, just as a Jai Courtney Die Hard is destined, ironically, to pass away ultra-quickly. My point is that if you’re going to use Ellen Ripley, use her as her, and not a conduit for some punkass kid to take the helm.
Take a pointer from the intertwined Predator series, which has had a different lead actor in EVERY film. Dutch Schaefer wasn’t buddies with Danny Glover’s Harrigan, who in turn was never related to Sanaa Lathan’s Alexa Woods, or Adrien Brody’s Royce. They were all worthy adversaries, and the notion that only one woman in the entire human race is worthy to fight off this particular alien threat is ridiculous. She skipped two whole generations as the series went on – surely, by now, somebody knows as much as she does, if not more.
More of a goofy suggestion than the previous four, but I want to see it anyway. If xenomorphs have acid for blood, what happens once a month if the Queen ISN”T pregnant?
A new special attack is what. Between-the-legs acid spray.
Don’t tell me you never thought about it.
That’s what I want. Here’s what we’ll get…
[Imaginary SPOILERS ahead]
1. Exosuits Exosuits EXOSUITS!
That’s right – I picture Neill Blomkamp as being the equivalent of Benny the spaceman from The Lego Movie any time battle mechs become even remotely a possibility. From the bare-bones thing Matt Damon has screwed into his body in Elysium to the missile-grabbing mech piloted by Sharlto Copley in District 9 and (presumably) the ED-209-like things in Chappie, the man has a hard-on for external robotic armor.
I wouldn’t be surprised if the final shot of the first trailer is an army of mechs plowing into a swarm of xenomorphs. It’s the most obvious money shot there is. And in tribute to the classic Power Loader, they’ll be yellow.
2. Political Subtext so On-the-Nose We Should Just Call It “Text.”
Every Alien movie is to some extent a critique of the military industrial complex, but Blomkamp has to make everything into a parable of class warfare too. If his movie is set on Earth – and let’s be honest, it’ll be South Africa – I’d bet money that the aliens are unleashed by rebels from the shack-towns as payback to the wealthy one-percenters who endorse the military experimenting on them in the first place.
Given the left-right issues du jour, I’m even going to bet said rebels are (a) religious, (b) suicide bombers and (c) misunderstood. Ripley, or whoever, will go from despising their methods to seeing nobility in their cause. Then she’ll don some kind of alien suit and fight back.
3. The Engineers Will Be Involved.
This isn’t just me speculating based on Blomkamp’s track record. This is the fact that their ship appears in Blomkamp’s concept art, and that producer Ridley Scott is specifically scheduling this project to come after Prometheus 2. Elements will tie in, for sure.
So what role will they have? Using the political subtext model again, my guess is a story patterned loosely after the ongoing events in Ukraine. Engineers send xenomorphs to fuck with us, totally deny they’re doing it, keep agreeing to stop even when they’ve never admitted wrongdoing to begin with, and start taking areas of Earth for their own.
Then it’ll turn out that evil human multi-billionaires manipulated the whole thing, because they always do.
4. Sharlto Copley as the Villain.
Copley has been in every one of Blomkamp’s films, and that’s unlikely to change – the most obvious role for him in an Alien film is a company man who doesn’t care that he’s working for corrupt people.
It will end badly for him when he is finally confronted by a gun-wielding Ripley. He will say something like: “You don’t understand! We’re just pawns in a much larger game! GET AWAY FROM ME, YOU BITCH!”
She will reply, “Game over, man,” and shoot him in the head.
5. The Newest Aliens Will Be…
Every Alien movie features a new creature that ups the ante some, from the Queen in part 2 to the Newborn in part 4. In an age where every single has to top the previous one, there’s no reason to imagine that won’t be the case here. So how will Blomkamp ramp it up a notch?
Cyborg Aliens. Gotta be.
Think about it – the movie he is most known for is about alien bugs wielding advanced robotic technology. Fusing them together to make Xeno-borgs is the obvious next step, and sure, it may sound dumb, but so do trained velociraptors in Jurassic World, and I’m betting that turns out okay. There is also a semi-canonical precedent, as seen in the game clip above.
Part of why I’m laying all this out here is in the hopes that Mr. Blomkamp recognizes his patterns, and really works to transcend them and give us something we haven’t seen in three decades: an Alien movie we can love without apology.
Am I hopeful? Yes. Holding my breath? No.
Screw it up, though, and in this space, everyone will hear me scream.
Luke Y. Thompson has been writing professionally about movies and pop-culture since 1999, and has also been an actor in some extremely cheap culty and horror movies you will probably never hear much about (he is nonetheless mostly proud of them, as he met his wife on one). As editor of The Robot's Voice since 2012, he can take the blame for the majority of the site's content, all of which he creates because he loves you very, very much. (Although he loves nachos more. Sorry.)
Prior to TRV, Luke wrote for publications that include the New Times LA, Los Angeles CityBeat, E! Online, OC Weekly, Geekweek, GeekChicDaily, The L.A. Times, The Village Voice, LA Weekly, and Nerdist