What does the future hold for the ‘Alien’ franchise? That seems to constantly be in flux these days. If you asked the same question this time last year, we would have told you to expect a direct sequel to ‘Aliens’ from Neill Blomkamp – one which would have overwritten both ‘Alien 3’ and ‘Alien: Resurrection’ – as well as a progression of sequels to ‘Prometheus’ from Ridley Scott.
Over the course of 2017, however, all of that has been upended to one degree or another. By the time ‘Alien: Covenant‘ was released in May, Blomkamp’s outing had been cancelled altogether. While the Blomkamp project had generated a great deal of enthusiasm among fans of the franchise, it never seemed (particularly in hindsight) to have garnered quite the same degree of excitement from the studio. By contrast, Fox had invested a great deal of faith in Ridley Scott’s vision, no doubt in part because of Scott’s history with the franchise (having directed the original ‘Alien’ back in 1979). But even this would soon be challenged.
The challenges to Scott’s plan were more mundane, in their own way than the seeming indifference of a major studio. In this case, the obstacle was one of the box office. Scott stated in the run-up to the release of ‘Covenant’ that work had already begun on the script for the film’s follow-up, tentatively titled ‘Alien: Awakening‘, production on which had originally been penciled in for September 2017. Of course, that was all before ‘Alien: Covenant’ debuted to disappointing box office numbers and a tepid critical response. These factors seem to have Fox reconsidering the franchise’s immediate future.
Obviously, September came and went without an ‘Alien’ film beginning production. Despite that, Scott himself seems optimistic about continuing his story, and Omega Underground has recently reported that the director’s production company, Scott Free Productions, is eyeing a summer 2018 start date. But whatever plans may be in place have been kept remarkably quiet for such a high profile project, especially given Fox’s plan had apparently been to keep churning out ‘Alien’ movies for the foreseeable future. Enter HumanMedia, a forum poster over on Blu-Ray.com who claims to have worked on ‘Covenant’. According to this individual, things may be more dire than we’d been lead to believe:
The sequel to ‘Covenant’ was originally due to start preproduction this month in Sydney. After the box office results filming was cancelled, and a warehouse storage unit full of stuff was auctioned off a few months ago. So the original plan of pumping out another quickly has definitely changed with no immediate plans for anything.
Obviously, this should be taken with a grain of salt, as we’ve no way of confirming that HumanMedia is who they say they are. But it wouldn’t exactly be surprising given the response to ‘Covenant’ and the fact that charging into a sequel without at least some acknowledgment of the popular criticisms would absolutely run the risk of being seen as doubling down on what audiences didn’t like this time. We can see this sort of recalibration in ‘Covenant’ itself, which features the Xenomorphs far more heavily than its predecessor, ‘Prometheus’, which met some hostility for their general absence. At a minimum, it may reflect a shift away from Scott’s original plans for his prequel trilogy, as despite the general praise of his performance, Michael Fassbender’s David (and the large, existential questions the character embodies) has never quite managed to capture the audience’s imaginations to the same extent that he clearly has Scott’s.
Put bluntly, Scott seems far more interested in using the ‘Alien’ franchise to explore questions of creation and artificial intelligence rather than telling the sorts of action/horror stories that audiences have come to expect from the franchise. Experimentation with a formula is not a bad thing, but not all experiments succeed. And whatever one thinks of ‘Prometheus’ and ‘Covenant’ as films, it’s hard to argue that they’ve divided the fanbase in ways that Fox may well prefer to minimize. What this means for ‘Alien: Awakening’ – if, indeed, that film is still on the slate – is anyone’s guess. Either way, the only thing that seems certain about the future of ‘Alien’ is that the franchise does, in fact, have a future. After all, if it can survive ‘Alien 3’, ‘Alien: Resurrection’, and both ‘Alien vs Predator’ movies, it can survive anything. But the form in which it survives may prove rather different than we had come to expect.
Be sure to check back with ScienceFiction.com for more on ‘Alien: Awakening’ and the future of the ‘Alien’ franchise as it becomes available.