Alien: A Call For Aliens Without The Predator

Martin loves Alien. Martin tolerates Predator. But, he argues, the only place they should meet is on a computer screen

Mother of Alien - arghhhh!

After gritting my teeth about missing out on the glitzy art-deco in Bioshock and the extra levels in the PC version of Gears Of War, I am utterly indifferent that my steam-driven PC won’t be able to run Crysis, the same as it couldn’t run its predecessor Far Cry. I love scary PC games, and – unless you’re prone to Vietnam flashbacks – the jungle just isn’t a scary environment to play in.

For that reason, John McTiernan’s serviceable but jungle-bound sci-fi horror Predator (1987) made no deep impression on me, and in fact I prefer the Danny Glover sequel, since at least the Blade Runner-like city atmosphere in Predator 2 (1990) was evocative and intimidating.

When I heard about the comics that welded Fox’s two sci-fi franchises together, it was a moment of intense ‘meh’ – and I gave out the kind of shrug you must when you see a very attractive woman marry waaaay below her league.

All I can say in favour of this unholy (not in a good way) union is that it led ultimately to Alien Vs. Predator 2, the PC game, and to being the most scared that rendered pixels have ever gotten me. I never played as the dreadlocked techno-hunter, though. Bor-ring.

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I’ve not seen Alien Vs. Predator: Requiem, and though I’m always ready to be pleasantly surprised, the smart money is on it being utter shit, like the 2004 Paul W.S. Anderson prequel before it.

You can tell when a franchise is exhausted when its publicity strips away all the context that defined its initial appeal and attempts to force-feed you the distilled essence of its box-office performance as defined by number-crunching producers. The taglines are a good clue: Lethal Weapon 4’s was the truly toxic ‘The faces you love. The action you expect’, and not even Requiem’s ‘This Christmas there will be no peace on Earth’ can top that for banality. Not exactly ‘In space, no-one can hear you scream’, is it?

Thank God Abbott and Costello have departed this veil of tears, or Fox would surely have bunged them into Requiem too. “Who’s up next? Whooaaa!”

In this week’s interview with Dan O’Bannon, the man who co-created (with H.R. Giger) the most terrifying creature in twentieth-century culture dismisses the cynical treadmill of Alien sequels as effortless box-office earners, and – after Resurrection (many would not be so generous) – I am inclined to agree with him.

If the time has indeed passed for Sigourney Weaver to locate and destroy the aliens at the source, in the much-discussed but sadly non-existent Ridley Scott Alien sequel (one that rather discounts the ‘gypsy’ nature of the species in question) – then how about letting us re-live past Alien thrills without that fecking Rastafarian gadget-man?

One regret I have is never having gone to see the Alien War experience at London’s Trocadero centre. In the early 1990s, paying visitors could go through the true horror of a non-coincidental blackout at an ‘alien research facility’ (in the style of the Nostromo and Hadley’s Hope) and a desperate flight from face-huggers, chest-bursters, the full-scale beast himself, and even the Alien queen. Anecdotal evidence suggests that it should have been sponsored by a dry-cleaning company.

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Though its popularity on a UK tour led to a permanent fixture at the Trocadero, it was only briefly-revived after flood-damage in 1996; I therefore dawdled too long.(To see some great pictures of Sigourney Weaver, Lance Henrikson and other Alien stars at one of the openings of Alien War, check out www.alienscollection.com/alienwar.html.)

The good news is that Alien War is coming back to London in April of 2008, after an abortive autumn re-launch in Glasgow this year. The Geeks will be there, and I bags point.

In the meantime, what about a more ubiquitously-available means of scaring ourselves silly in the O’Bannonverse – is there no developer out there who will finally do some justice to the Alien cycle in a bang-up-to-date, state-of-the-art videogame that gives you the opportunity to work your way round the authentic environments of all the ‘real’ four Alien movies to date?

Dammit, ‘Mother’s’ countdown to the Nostromo’s self-destruction was made to be a last-level ‘boss’ challenge! And Cameron’s bullet-riddled sequel influenced modern shoot-em-up games more than any other film ever (though I admit that may actually stand against it). Fincher’s gloomy contribution to the series potentially adds genuine menace to the gameplay as it may be necessary to carefully use roaming aliens to protect yourself from the inmates at the Fiorina prison/monastery. Jean-Pierre Jeunet’s off-beat black comedy has potential for hybrid-alien powers combined with another great deadline, as the military research vessel autopilots back to Earth…

Four phases, each with their own series of levels, each terrifying and all-engrossing, and faithful to the original production design. Come on Fox! Come on EA!