Article: Alien Possibilities

Andrew discusses the various possibilities with Blomkamp's upcoming Alien film.

With the recent news of a fifth official entry into the Alien franchise courtesy of District 9, Elysium and Chappie director Neill Blomkamp helming the picture, the science-fiction fanbase went into a tizzy.  After the controversial Ridley Scott prequel (if you can call it such) Prometheus hit the scene, fans were left either indifferent or enraged by the proceedings.  Needless to say, ever since the troubled release of David Fincher’s disowned Alien 3 back in 1992, the series has been in steady decline and things didn’t improve when Sigourney Weaver tossed a basketball behind her head in Alien Resurrection.  Whatever you think of Blomkamp’s science fiction, which has elicited reactions everywhere from brilliant to derivative, the conceptual art teases with grandeur, a truly unique reimagining of the Alien universe and bringing back into the forefront some of our favorite characters from James Cameron’s Aliens.  Just for shits and giggles, here are some of The Movie Sleuth’s speculations on the various directions the top secret Alien project could take or, for lack of a better word, avoid to keep from veering into the territories traveled by the last two Alien features.

Excision of Alien 3 and Alien Resurrection


In Alien 3, Newt and Hicks are killed off in hypersleep after an alien aboard the Sulaco creates a fire in the cryogenic compartment, sending Ripley, the inoperative android Bishop and the lifeless bodies careening towards prison planet Fiorina 161.  For all the Hell Ripley and the Colonial Marines endured trying to rescue Newt and fighting off the alien queen, to have such a nasty excuse for cast members Michael Biehn and Carrie Henn declining to return felt like a slap in the face to fans and casual moviegoers alike.  As Alien 3 slides further and further into a Hellacious British prison drama before eating alive all involved including the central heroine Ellen Ripley, fans couldn’t help but ask themselves ‘why? why? why?!’.  

Then came Alien Resurrection, which attempted to repair the damage with the messy, confused logic of cloning, creating a Ripley/xenomorph hybrid which didn’t give the heroine much more than one liners, basketballs and pseudo-lesbian infatuation with the bratty android played more or less by Winona Ryder.  For what’s it’s worth the Bio-Weapons division in Alien 3, with a suspicious Bishop confronting Ripley about whether or not she should sacrifice her life for the sake of all mankind, maintained the cold indifference established by the first two films.  In Alien Resurrection, Brad Dourif (who I generally like as an actor) just hams it up by leading a gang of doctors who really never should have stepped into a medical lab in the first place, let alone an Alien film.  Simply put, it was hard to buy the bio-weapons division losing control of the situation so easily with incompetent butterfingers given just how much organized damage they created in the first two films.

How do you fix all the damage done by Alien 3 and Alien Resurrection?  Simply, much like the Joel Schumacher Batman Forever and Batman & Robin films, you wipe the slate clean and start over.  With the mysterious but welcome appearance of Hicks in conceptual art designs, the return of the derelict spacecraft glimpsed in the first two films, and images suggesting a Weyland Yutani megalopolis, it looks very like that’s precisely what’s happening.  Reboots happen all the time, and so many years have passed since an official Alien film has been released, the idea of pretending Alien 3 and Alien Resurrection never happened is not only plausible, it’s a terrific and exciting concept. 

Hicks and Newt
Given the appearance of Corporal Hicks (Michael Biehn) in conceptual art designs, though severely disfigured by exposure to xenomorphic acid blood near the end of Aliens, it’s a good bet both Hicks and the little girl Newt survive with Ripley on their hypersleep trip through space on the Sulaco.  What role Hicks and New could play in the forthcoming Alien film though is anyone’s guess, as Blomkamp and 20th Century Fox are keeping a tight lid on revealing much more than the conceptual art tweeted by Blomkamp himself.  Besides reteaming with Ripley, they could either be drawn into the alien base, as suggested by a picture of a shocked and saddened Ripley covering her mouth at the sight of someone cocooned inside a xenomorph hive.  A concept drawing of Ripley carrying bombs wrapped around her waist accompanied by Hicks donning a shotgun suggest either a rescue mission of Newt or some other form of ransom against the Bio-Weapons division or the xenomorph queen herself.  For all we know, maybe only Hicks will come back to the proceedings, but it would be nice to see Newt survive as opposed to her thankless death in Alien 3.

The Bio-Weapons Division
After the disappointingly underwhelming Bio-Weapons division revelation in Alien Resurrection, concept art reveals an enormous airplane-hangar sized space station that actually managed to excavate and relocate the infamous derelict spacecraft discovered in Alien.  Only briefly reappearing in the director’s cut of Aliens, the derelict was one of the series’ greatest assets: a labyrinthine extraterrestrial cityscape of dark tunnels and a vast space jockey with a cannon at the epicenter.  While virtually all involved who came into contact with the derelict found themselves attacked by facehuggers lying dormant in the basement canals, for the Bio-Weapons division to successfully extract and transport the mammoth ship to a controlled location is nothing short of staggering and says a great deal about the Bio-Weapons division’s level of power.  While acting as a secondary (or primary to some) villain to the dreaded xenomorph, concept art with hints of Danny Boyle’s Sunshine and Vincenzo Natali’s Cube suggest maybe the destructive and multi-fanged creatures aren’t what the heroes should really be afraid of.  Most astonishing are the artificial forests built beneath metallic dome-like structures, ala Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan and its Genesis cave, replete with foliage and waterfalls.  There’s something eerie about the artifice recalling a moment in the director’s cut of Aliens where Ripley appears to be sitting in a serene forest before the camera pulls back to reveal it’s an oversized video screen.  It looks like Earth, but it’s manmade, bogus, and worst of all, the perfect hiding place for the perfect organisms whose structural perfection is matched only by their hostility.

The Xenomorph Suit
Undoubtedly the most striking and widely discussed item seen among Neill Blomkamp’s conceptual art for his Alien film is an illustration of Ripley wearing what appears to be some kind of xenomorph mask and suit, replete with a breathing apparatus.  With only a couple images of the full alien head with Ripley’s face peeking through and an attachment that looks like a CPAP mask, just what the Hell is this thing?  Where does it fit into the series?  What will it be used for?  Why is Ripley, of all people, wearing it?  It’s such a revolutionary visual idea the alien universe has never seen before or since, and in its own manner builds upon the precedent set by H.R. Giger in 1979.  No question, this is likely the image that drew Sigourney Weaver’s attention to the idea of a new Alien feature and thus prompted its inevitable greenlight.  There are so many directions this could go with, including but not limited to the Alien: Stronghold Dark Horse comic with its cigar smoking xenomorph android.  Maybe the idea will be for the Bio-Weapons division to infiltrate the derelict spacecraft undetected?  Maybe Ripley takes advantage of the technology to destroy the derelict once and for all?  It goes without saying we won’t know for sure just what will transpire until the film officially opens in theaters, but the possibilities are most certainly infinite. 

-Andrew Kotwicki