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Digesting the lowest rung of pop culture so you don't have to!
2012’s Prometheus, Ridley Scott’s return to the Alien-universe after a 30+ year hiatus, managed to do many things wrong and only a few things right. Prometheus featured an amazing, groundbreaking viral marketing campaign, which ultimately contributed to its 50 million dollar+ opening weekend. It gave us Michael Fassbender’s David character, another great android in a film series full of great androids (Ash in Alien, Bishop in Aliens, less so with Call in Alien: Resurrection). Prometheus also looked fantastic – the production design, special effects, creature work, and cinematography were absolutely stunning. The film is beautiful to look at, even if there’s not much beyond the surface. It’s no surprise it was nominated for an Academy Award for its special effects.
But Prometheus never held up as a good movie – not even in my initial viewing did I think it was particularly good. It is an entirely unnecessary film filled with bad writing and middling-performances (Logan Marshall-Green is terrible in it, Charlize Theron and Idris Elba are utterly pointless to the main story). It contradicts its own science and logic in several places, and has characters act foolishly simply to advance the plot (the less said about the two guys getting lost in the caves the better). Recently, yet another film in the long-running Alien franchise has been announced, and I strongly feel that Prometheus should serve as a cautionary tale for the upcoming, still-in-pre-development Alien “mid-boot,” to be directed by South African filmmaker Neill Blomkamp (District 9, Elysium).
Back in January, Blomkamp strategically leaked several works of concept art for an Alien film he thought about making one time. Of course, the Internet went nuts. Blomkamp is most famous for directing 2009’s Best Picture nominee (yep, that happened) District 9, a solid science fiction film shot on the relative cheap that featured an amazing performance by Sharlto Copley and made a ton of money worldwide. Blomkamp followed that film up with Elysium, one of the worst wide-released films of 2013. Elysium is so dumb that it gives me a headache just thinking about it. Really, nothing in that movie succeeds, not in its sophomoric politics or in its bad performances (Jodie Foster is particularly egregious). It was arguably the worst written big budget movie of 2013. I’m not sure where Chappie, Blomkamp’s latest movie, will lie in film history, but pre-release buzz isn’t great.
A few weeks after that initial leak, Blomkamp announced via social media that he was on tap to direct the latest Alien film based solely on his ideas and concept art. The film, as yet untitled, would go into production after Prometheus 2, a sequel none of us want (I have to imagine that soon we’ll get the news that Prometheus 2 will be sidelined and Blomkamp’s Alien film will get production priority). And then, the floodgates opened up. Almost immediately, Blomkamp came out and said that his film will ignore the events of Alien 3 and Alien: Resurrection. This was met with mixed results. Neither the third nor the fourth Alien sequel is on par with the first two, but each has its defenders. I love Alien 3 and think it is quite underrated. I will not go to bat for Resurrection, which I find terrible (though because it was written by Joss Whedon, it has its share of frothing-rage fanboys at the ready to defend it).
And then, Blomkamp came out to clarify his remarks. He said that the new film won’t ignore the events of Alien 3 and Resurrection, but it will instead be more in the spirit of the first two films. Now is the time when I break it to Blomkamp that Alien and Aliens are completely different movies all together, with the first being a horror film and the second being an action film. So let’s recap this: Blomkamp strategically leaks Alien-related concept art via social media, is later announced as the architect of a new Alien film based solely on a few images he created, immediately puts his foot in his mouth regarding the events of the third and fourth films in the series, then dials that statement back. Yes, we are in the earliest of the early pre-production stages, but how is this anything other than a three-ring circus at this point?
There’s also something else to consider here – something that people might not want to hear. We don’t need another Alien movie, even if it is directed by Blomkamp. We’ve had six of them if you count the Alien vs. Predator franchise, and seven if you count Prometheus. There hasn’t been a quality Alien film since at least 1992, and even that’s debatable. Most people would probably say 1986. So really, other than audience familiarity, what is the point of bringing this franchise back to the big screen once again? Blomkamp has created three original science fiction properties thus far, meeting at least some measure of success along the way. Does he really need to become a franchise film director at this point? What is stopping him from creating his own universe of films with malevolent aliens and cool space marines? Why would he limit himself to a film with a set of rules already established? What’s the point?
I understand that nostalgia has a powerful influence on people. I just re-watched Aliens over the weekend in preparation for this write-up. The film is still amazing. It is incredibly long and exhausting, but done so purposefully so the audience essentially feels as tired and stressed as the characters in the movie (this is kind of genius – why is it not done more often?). But Aliens is also nearly 30 years old. Michael Biehn, Sigourney Weaver, and Lance Henriksen are old enough to be grandparents, and probably are. Yes, Alien 3 was a massive creative and financial disappointment in 1992, but there’s no reason to try and correct that now in 2015. Move on from this kind of thing people. Appreciate what we have in life and do something new. Don’t limit yourself, Blomkamp. Elysium wasn’t good, but you’re capable of so much more than just another franchise film. Keep giving us new stuff – don’t give up just yet.