The prospect of Ridley Scott returning to the Alien franchise is an exciting one, and it’s unsurprising that every new rumour and potential development regarding the project has been jumped on hungrily as soon as it has appeared.
While it’s not unfair to say that Scott’s more recent work hasn’t been up to the standard of his late-70s/early-80s output (can anyone imagine him making Blade Runner now?), the Alien films have needed a good kick in the posterior for many, many years.
The production of David Fincher’s Alien 3 was troubled, to say the least, Jean-Pierre Jeunet’s take on the franchise, Alien Resurrection, was about as scary as an oven glove, and I can’t even bring myself to think about the Alien Vs Predator movies, which brought two sci-fi properties together to the detriment of both.
There’s the possibility that, with Ridley Scott at the helm, the Alien franchise could return to its properly scary roots, where the monster of its title is once again a creature to be feared.
While Scott’s new Alien movie is still in its early stages, we at least know that it’s a prequel (the director has suggested that it’ll be set about 35 years before the events of the first film). In an interview with the Independent earlier this year, Scott spoke poetically about his ideas for the project.
“The film will be really tough, really nasty,” Scott said. “It’s the dark side of the moon. We are talking about gods and engineers. Engineers of space. And were the aliens designed as a form of biological warfare? Or biology that would go in and clean up a planet?”
On the face of it, Scott’s description of a “really tough, really nasty” Alien prequel sounds ideal, but Fox apparently has other ideas. In line with the current trend for making films less violent to appeal to the broadest possible audience, the studio intends to make the film a PG-13, as opposed to an R-rated feature.
“The thinking is that if the original Alien were released minus the F-bombs, you could still get a PG-13. Alien is a very Jaws-ian movie: There’s no sex, and while there’s lots of violence, most of it is off-camera. Maybe you’d have to cut away from certain scenes two seconds earlier, but it could be done,” an insider told New York Times movie blog, Vulture.
While Vulture’s source is right that, after more than 30 years and dozens of repeat viewings, the violence of the original Alien has lost some of its original impact, I can’t help feeling they’ve missed the point somewhat. Viewed in the darkness of a 1979 cinema, Alien was a terrifying movie, and far too dark and intense for a youthful audience.
Scott’s intention to make a “really tough, really nasty” film along the lines of the first film appears to clash directly with the mores of a PG-13 certificate. The original Alien may not be particularly gory by modern standards, but its constant air of threat and menace would still make it unsuitable to meet the requirements the rating demands.
Scott would therefore have to temper his film significantly to make the grade, or Fox would have to release it as an R, and it’s highly unlikely that Fox would let Scott have his way.
Nevertheless, Fox is happy with the script that Lost writer Damon Lindelof has turned in. It’s apparently small enough in scale to keep the film within the $150 million budget the studio wants to allocate, and restrained enough to stay within the boundaries of a PG-13 rating.
Meanwhile, several names have been attached to Scott’s Untitled Alien Prequel, including Natalie Portman, Gemma Arterton, Carey Mulligan and Noomi Rapace. Most recently, Anne Hathaway and James Franco’s names have been added as potential stars, though none have been confirmed as yet.
Casting’s vitally important, of course. Sigourney Weaver’s formidable performance in the original movies was key to their success, but so too is the atmosphere and tone of Scott’s film.
Scott has said that he wants to take Alien back to its roots as a suspense-filled horror movie, and that’s inarguably where it needs to go. Years of increasingly poor sequels and spin-offs have shorn Giger’s legendary monster of much of its disturbing power, and we need a movie that brings the fear factor back to the franchise to make it relevant again.
Without this, the alien is in danger of becoming as familiar and unthreatening as Universal’s Frankenstein or Dracula, which were themselves victims of sub-par sequels and overexposure.