One of the greatest sci-fi / horror franchises ever is the ALIEN franchise. There. I said it. EVER. From the fantastic creature design of H.R. Giger, its use of some of the biggest and brightest up-and-coming directors (Ridley Scott, James Cameron, David Fincher), and the creation of the one of the strongest female lead characters in history (Sigourney Weaverís Ellen Ripley), the franchise has single-handedly changed the shape of sci-fi alien monster movies as we know it. Scottís PROMETHEUS hits theaters this Friday, and while itís a more-than welcomed theatrical event for the summer of 2012, Iím faced with one question: why the hell has it taken so long to add another entry to the ALIEN franchise???
Given, the franchise (at this point) is over 30 years old, but itís going as strong as ever, with ALIEN still remaining as one of the best sci-fi / horror films ever made. From its use of music to its creature design, the film continues to hold up todayóhell, itís still better than most of the crap thatís being released. Some could call it the grandfather of sci-fi / horror films, and to that I couldnít argue with. Because letís face it: is it a sci-fi flick or a horror flick? Itís a bit of bothóand for some itís more horror than sci-fi and vice versa, making it one of the few films that sits oddly in the middle. And letís not forget the chest-popping scare sequence that shook audiences upon its release, a sequence that to this day is as solid and as effective as ever before.
Cut 7 years later with Cameron at the helm and what was once a sci-fi/horror film franchise rapidly turns into a sci-fi/horror/action flick of the likes that no one had ever seen before. Not to take anything away from ALIEN, but ALIENS may be the greatest sequel ever made, as it captured the essence of the original but did its own thing and was entirely differently, moving away from scares to heart-racing action (while giving us those creepy face-hugging f*cks in face-sucking action). Ripley was even more of a badass than ever before, and the musical score by James Horner was even more memorable than the first. And the Alien Queen may be the ultimate in movie villains.
How can one possibly follow-up ALIEN and ALIENS? Arguably an impossible task, and one that Fincher was more than likely up to take on with ALIEN 3, butÖ letís face itÖ the movie sort of sucked. I havenít revisited it in a while, but I donít remember liking it so much. It had a lot of cool things going for it: an abandoned prison planet, despicable characters, and a lot of shaved heads. But only one badass Alien to take on? And they kill Ripley at the end in a self-sacrifice of fire and explosions? What the hell? Iíve been told a re-visit is in order as itís not as bad as we all remember it being, but seriouslyÖ what the hell?
Joss Whedon is hot and heavy now with THE AVENGERS, but in 1997 he was known for writing ALIEN RESURRECTION, a film that was somehow worse than ALIEN 3. Whedon has gone on to say that his script was mutilated and heís probably right. Resurrecting Ripley from the dead? Ron Perlman and Wynona Ryder in the house? It sort of felt like ALIENS with the whole military at war aspect, but sweet Jesus what were they thinking? And this, to the horror of Alien fans everywhere, is most likely the reason why we havenít seen a true return to the ALIEN franchise in 15 years, the longest break between movies in the history of the series. Sure, some could argue 2004ís AVP and 2007ís AVP: REQUIEM are apart of the series, but to that I give a big olí flaming middle finger to. No, theyíre not. Theyíre a hybrid, not a true sequel. Even Fox knows it, as not one of their ALIEN box sets include the AVP movies (even the ALIEN ANTHOLOGY, which has a billion discs and hundreds of hours of features doesnít include the AVP movies).
But is a single bomb enough reason for such a dry spell? And when I say ďbombĒ I say that likely as on a financial level, ALIEN RESURRECTION made more money worldwide than any of the previous ALIEN films before it. Sure, thereís inflation to consider there, but stillÖ it made a ton of money! And yet here we are some 15 f*cking years later, and itís just now that weíre finally getting another ALIEN filmóor so they say. Because for the longest time, Fox and Scott and everyone involved hadnít come out and said that PROMETHEUS had anything to do with the ALIEN franchiseóthey practically outright denied it. Why? Wouldnít calling this puppy ALIEN: PROMETHEUS draw in more interest and more people, using the name of the ALIEN franchise in the title? Itís almost like theyíre ashamed of the ALIEN name at this point, and for thatÖ I thank ALIEN VS PREDATOR.
Maybe itís the booze talking, but what the hell has taken them so long to make another ALIEN movie? By the tempo they set with the previous 4 films, we should have gotten one in 2003, then another in 2009, and maybe even another this year (2012) if the 2009 release did gangbusters. But noówe were given the shaft for 15 f*cking years, and a couple of crappy AVP movies to hold us over. Not that Iím complaining now, as PROMETHEUS looks effing AMAZING, and the word on the street is that itís about as close to greatness as ALIEN and ALIENS. Maybe thatís been the hold up all along: getting Scott back in the directorís chair has taken a while, but sweet Jesus, now that itís finally happened we can all rejoice in its glory. Letís just hope the next one doesnít take as longÖ and that Cameron has a bit of free time to come back for the sequel.