Sky Movies scored a bit of a sweet exclusive yesterday, getting Sigourney Weaver to say she was interested in doing Neill Blomkamp’s Alien sequel, and getting Blomkamp to say his movie would be “literally the genetic sibling of Aliens” and that the order of the movies would be Alien, Aliens and then his one.
And just like that, I realize that he is absolutely the wrong guy to be doing this. Here’s why:
One of the things we nerdy types are really good at is doing a kind of annoying denial when it comes to erratic franchises. We say things like “What fourth Indiana Jones movie? There are only two,” or, “Star Wars prequels? No such thing. There are three Star Wars movies period, and only one of them is truly great.” It’s fine, if obnoxious, to do that amongst ourselves, but it’s problematic when a person in charge of the franchise has that attitude.
Let’s assume we all agree that Alien3 and Alien Resurrection are terrible (I don’t, entirely, but let’s say I did). Eliminating them is still both an awful precedent, and a misunderstanding of the property. See, alone among most franchises, the Alien series is uniquely auteur-driven. Every one is made by a director with a distinct style, and yes, I’m including Paul W.S. Anderson and the Strause brothers, for better and worse.
When Blomkamp says he wants to make a genetic sibling to Aliens, the good thing about that statement is that it shows he has big balls. He’ll need them, with Ridley Scott producing and Sigourney Weaver starring. The bad thing is that he seems to be wanting to beat James Cameron at being James Cameron. And nobody has done that yet – I don’t think the director of Elysium is going to be the first. David Fincher knew damn well he couldn’t out-Cameron Cameron, so he made his own Fincher-esque tale, even as the first-time feature director was still feeling out what that would come to mean. Jean-Pierre Jeunet and Joss Whedon may not be happy with how Alien Resurrection ended up, but it is still unmistakably a Jeunet film with Whedonesque quips.
Even the Alien vs. Predator films nobody will defend let the directors do their thing. Paul W.S. Anderson’s is of a piece with his other sci-fi movies like Soldier and the Resident Evil sequels, and Skyline showed that the brothers Strause definitely do have a style, even if it’s a massive understatement to say they’re not in the same directing league as Fincher, let alone Cameron. The Alien franchise lets directors interpret, and it also lets them fail if that’s where they take it.
Neill Blomkamp is a visually striking auteur, with films that all have his specific look, so he is, in theory, the right kind of guy for the series. But only if he does it in his style – adopting someone else’s is a recipe for disaster. Likewise, telling directors like David Fincher and Jean-Pierre Jeunet that their stories no longer count in the canon – well, frankly, who the fuck are you to tell them that? If I’m getting a Neill Blomkamp Alien movie, I want Neill Blomkamp to set the movie in South Africa, have Sharlto Copley as the Alien, feature weird rappers as the heroes, and stick to the Blade Runner-meets-Grand Theft Auto aesthetic he’s established as his own. Or something like that.
But a Neill Blomkamp whose attitude is “Fuck you, I’m….copying James Cameron” is not being a rebel. He’s being an imitator in a series that has always embraced originals.
And that just makes the acid in my blood boil.