It was hard to tell, when the first Alien vs Predator movie came out back in 2004, whether it was a good or bad thing for those of us eagerly looking forward to a fifth Alien movie.
On one hand, it was promising to see cinema’s most iconic aliens back on screen again after a near-seven year absence, and if they could bring home the financial bacon, then that too could help get things into gear at Fox. But on the other hand, the slam-bang, empty shell of a film they inhabited was as far removed from Ridley Scott’s classic as it was possible to get.
Cut to the last twelve months, where The Brothers Strause, with AvP 2, happily banged through what it took Scott most of a film to do in five minutes flat, and you couldn’t help but wonder if the proper Alien franchise was best left buried. After all, Alien Resurrection was a fairly clumsy fourth entry in the series – albeit one with some masterful moments – and its box office performance and insistence on hanging onto Sigourney Weaver seemed to signal the end of the main cinematic series.
And yet that hasn’t stopped speculation, rumour, and occasional hints of substance from circulating. Because Alien 5, ideally, would see either Ridley Scott or James Cameron returning to the series. It could explore the alien homeworld. It could see an alien visit Earth (done properly, although Sigourney Weaver in particular isn’t keen). There’s so much of the backstory of these creatures that’s not been explored, and plenty of places the franchise could go.
That said, there’s a strong argument that the series should be left to be, and that the alien creatures themselves are so sinister simply because we don’t know much about that. As Dan O’Bannon, the co-writer of the first film, told us back in late 2007, “I’d like to see it stop. A horror movie’s a fragile thing, and once you’ve gotten past the original, it isn’t scary anymore. So you do a bunch of sequels to a horror movie, all they do is drain any remaining impact out of the original”.
Yet this is one franchise that’s, crucially, generated a sequel that’s as interesting as the original, with James Cameron’s stunning Aliens, and generated at least a pair of interesting failures in the subsequent third and fourth films (although naturally opinion is divided on the latter two). There must, somewhere along the line, be interest in another movie? Fox, after all, isn’t blind to the money that the AvP movies have been bringing in, and if the sole achievement of those films (outside of making cash) is to pump fresh life into the two franchise they’ve brought together and bastardised, then those of us who care about the Alien and Predator films might let them off the hook.
There have, of course, been reports of a fifth Alien flick emerging with reasonable regularity. Entertainment Weekly reported back in 2001, for instance, that Sigourney Weaver had signed on the dotted line for a cool $22m to star in Alien 5 (although it was a report it picked up from the Sunday Express), and it was due in cinemas in 2004. Inevitably, it didn’t happen.
More recently, back in April, Weaver was quoted as saying that she’s spoken to Ridley Scott about doing another Alien film, and the rumour is that the British director is interested. But Weaver told MTV Movies that “Fox has effectively killed it because of ‘Alien vs. Predator.’ What else can you do with the creature?”, signing off with “Let Ripley rest”. However, her line on the subject does seem to falter a little from time to time. As recently as the end of June this year, a further report emerged that she was back in talks for Alien 5 – at least according to OK Magazine – and would do it if Ridley Scott would do it. “Ridley is enthusiastic about it”, she was quoted as saying.
So let’s move back to Ridley Scott for a moment, as both he and James Cameron hadn’t ruled out going back to the Alien franchise. Yet for Cameron at least, his feelings are similar to Weaver’s. He told IGN that “”Ridley [Scott] and I talked about doing another Alien film, and I said to 20th Century Fox that I would develop a 5th Alien film. I started working on a story, I was working with another writer and Fox came back to me and said, ‘We’ve got this really good script for Alien vs Predator,’ and I got pretty upset. I said, ‘You do that you’re going to kill the validity of the franchise in my mind,’ because to me, that was Frankenstein Meets Werewolf. It was Universal just taking their assets and starting to play them off against each other”. While Cameron went on to admit that he didn’t mind the AvP flick (although he absolutely detests Alien 3), he did concede that it had killed off his interest in doing another Alien film himself.
Ridley Scott, meanwhile, had talked about the film back in 2002, admitting that he had been asked about doing it, and that he was looking to slot it into his schedule. A couple of years later, the rumours were still insistent that Weaver and Scott would reteam for the film, although Weaver then distanced herself from the project again, suggesting that Alien 5 would go ahead, but without her on board. The last heard about him on the subject was the aforementioned Weaver quote from OK Magazine, where the impression is that her and Scott are both still interested. No formal word, of course, has been forthcoming.
But let’s not forget that a Ripley-less film is still one potential way for the series to go. After all, the cloning experiments with Ripley in Alien Resurrection were surely the last exhaustion of her character, and while it’d be feasible for the Ripley clone to be in the fifth film, is it really necessary? Now that shouldn’t be an invitation for a load of US teens who failed the American Pie audition to land in her place, but a solid recast (and Stellan Skarsgard was linked once upon a time) wouldn’t necessarily be a bad thing. It could also allow the fifth film to be a prequel, which would be a logical path to choose, allowing the franchise to rid itself of some of the baggage it built up towards the end.
The final idea that was mooted a few years’ back, incidentally, was to commit to two further films. This idea, which inevitably never came to pass, was circulated in 2003, and would have seen a fifth film where the Earth was under attack, with the sixth film being Ripley taking the battle back to the aliens themselves. This always seemed unrealistic, and primarily Internet-fuelled than anything of substance.
Still, for all of this speculation, there’s perhaps a bigger stumbling block, and that’s the studio itself. Fox owns the rights for the Alien franchise, and it’s doing perfectly well funding cheap-ish AvP flicks that do well at the cinema and make a killing on DVD. Where’s the incentive for it – short of shifting a few extra boxsets – to gamble its money? As Weaver herself has pointed out in the past, a 50 leading lady doesn’t get the big cheques signed, and unless it went back to the core of Alien and was a low budget enterprise again, then Fox could simply let things be.
There does seem to be, outside of the fanbase, some groundswell of interest among the filmmakers at least to revisit the Alien saga, and to do a fitting conclusion to it. Most are agreed that Resurrection wasn’t the sign off that the franchise deserved, and something that could tail the series in the manner in which it started would be very welcome indeed. However, there’s an equal feeling that the window for Alien 5 has passed. With James Cameron up to his neck in Avatar until the end of next year at least, and Ridley Scott taking on Robin Hood, neither of the two directors you’d want to direct a new Alien film are going to have time for a while yet, and as the clock ticks on, the chances, sadly, seem to decline.
AvP 3, meanwhile, is a cert…
Incidentally, just because the filmmakers themselves haven’t got any further with Alien 5, it hasn’t stopped the fans having a go. Check out more on a fan-written Alien Planet script here.
Interview with Tom Woodruff Jr. – the man behind the Alien (who has his own vision for Alien 5)