Wednesday, November 20, 2013
Alien Franchise Update: Reboots, Sequels, and a Prequel Sequel
As a horror and sci-fi nerd, I do what I can to keep my franchise scorecard up to date. Right now, Star Wars and the superhero universes of DC and Marvel are currently developing a selection of movie and TV releases, while many other franchises are stuck in some form of reboot--either making another reboot sequel (Star Trek), preparing to release a reboot (RoboCop), or starting pre-production of a reboot (Terminator). I've also been keeping current with developments in the Alien franchise, which has a number of projects in development but only one movie in the works. Read on for more details about what 20th Century Fox has in store for the horror franchise where no one can hear you scream.
Comic Books: The only reboot that's planned right now for the Alien universe is being done by Dark Horse for its lines of Aliens, Predator and Aliens vs. Predator comics. According to io9's interview with the creative team behind the reboots, the new comics are being planned in conjunction with each other along with Dark Horse's new line of Prometheus comics. Presumably, this new expanded Alien, Engineer and Predator universe will be much more unified than the previous Dark Horse comics, which I think is a step in the right direction.
While the new comics will regard all of the previous stand-alone movies as canon, it appears that the AvP movies will not be referenced in any way by the new comics. Then again, since those movies cribbed most of their key ideas from Dark Horse's AvP comics anyway (such as Predators hunting Aliens as a rite of passage and the possibility of Alien-Predator hybrids), I don't think that the omission of specific details from those films will make much of a difference in the new comic stories.
Movies: So far, the only movie that's planned for the Alien franchise is a sequel to Prometheus, the 2012 Alien prequel. Director Ridley Scott and cast member Michael Fassbender have both confirmed that Prometheus 2 will happen and it will most likely go into production in 2015.
Video Games: Even though Sega's Aliens: Colonial Marines was a disaster, that hasn't discouraged the company from trying its hand at publishing another Alien game. According to Kotaku, Sega is overseeing the development of a new game called Alien: Isolation that will place a greater emphasis on survival tactics over run-and-gun action. Isolation will take place on a space station and most of the game will feature only a single Alien; however, the most interesting details about this game are that its protagonist will be Amanda Ripley, daughter of Ellen Ripley, and its other characters will include clones. (FYI, Amanda is mentioned in the extended director's cut of Aliens, not the theatrical release.)
Amanda's presence in Isolation suggests that it will take place between Alien and Aliens, although why Amanda is being used at all outside of her obvious connection to Ripley remains a mystery. Furthermore, clones don't appear in the Alien saga until Alien Resurrection, which takes place 200 years after Alien 3. Perhaps Isolation will provide more background details about certain plot points in Resurrection, but that's just speculation for now.
Novels: A new novel entitled Alien: Out of the Darkness will be published in January 2014. Written by Tim Lebbon, Out of the Darkness is the first of a trilogy of novels that take place between Alien and Aliens. The other two books in the trilogy are being written by other authors, but each novel has been developed under the supervision of 20th Century Fox with the intent of making them part of franchise canon. Whether the new novel trilogy will have any connections to the Alien: Isolation game is currently unknown.
Lebbon has already said in interviews that the plot of Out of the Darkness will involve Ripley and Ash. According to him, some of Ash's android consciousness remained alive in the computer of the Narcissus escape pod, but he hasn't said how Ripley will be involved in the story while also remaining in hypersleep. I'm guessing that the novel with have a situation along the lines of the early scenes of Prometheus where the android David was watching Elizabeth Shaw's dreams--maybe the disembodied Ash will be invading the dreams of Ripley.
I think that each of these projects have great potential for continuing and expanding the Alien universe. However, the fact that 20th Century Fox is only willing to develop "canon" stories in video games and novels suggests to me how reluctant it is to commit to a new Alien movie project. Ridley Scott may still be working on Prometheus 2, but that doesn't mean that Fox couldn't support the production of a new Alien movie in the meantime. Furthermore, even though Fox is willing to label certain non-movie Alien projects as franchise canon, it's questionable as to whether such classifications will be maintained over time. For example, the Colonial Marines game was hyped as being "canon", but I suspect that the game's poor sales and critical drubbing has since caused Fox to retract that claim.