In the wide wild world of science fiction, there are films that come along and alter the entire genre forever, and leads to a new understanding of science fiction. We have that with Star Trek. Star Wars, and then in 1979, we got ALIEN. This dark sci-fi/horror film reset the entire genre and and forged millions of fans to the dark vision of the alien and its prey humans. It was nothing short of an revolution. Then in 1986 came one of the best sequels in science fiction of all time: ALIENS. That film became the favorite film of millions and the best military sci-fi of all time.Truly, these two films were masterworks of science fiction. There was nosebleed high hopes for the 3rd ALIENS film in 1992...but then we got ALIEN 3...and then ALIENS: Resurrection happened. After this, the once promising world of ALIENS became a cold, stale landscape of broken promises and bewildered fans. In this installment of Broken Promises, FWS will be attempting to explain what the hell happened to the ALIENS franchise.
The Gold Standard: ALIEN (1979) & ALIENS (1986)
In 1979, an unlikely film altered the course of the entire genre of science fiction forever. Much like Star Trek in the 1960's, and Star Wars in 1977, 1979's ALIEN combined genres to form something unique. ALIEN fused horror with a dose of sci-fi, form a serious sci-fi horror film the likes that had not been seen since 1956's Invasion of the Body Snatchers. Every element of Ridley Scott's masterpiece would be dissected, studied, honored, and ripped-off as seen in such films like Forbidden World (1982) and Alien Contamination (1980). Every sci-fi horror film that came after 1979's ALIEN has been compared to ALIEN because it became the gold standard and rightly so.
That film is packed with a dark looming atmosphere, tense mood, creepy sets, broken dysfunctional characters, an evil corporation, and one hell of a well-designed hostile alien monster species birthed by the dark mind of H.R. Giger. It all worked, and it reminds a giant in the world of horror and science fiction and still has not yet been matched. Unlike other films of the time, a sequel to ALIEN would hibernate for seven years as rumors flew about in the pre-internet days of what an sequel to ALIEN would look like. But no one suspected the twist and turn that 1986's ALIENS would be. Much like the first film, the sequel would alter the direction of science fiction as a whole forever, and become the masterwork of military science fiction cinema. Terminator's James Cameron and Gale Anne Hurd would be tapped for the job based on that 1984 film and script by the ALIEN producers, and Cameron and Hurd would take the dark world established by Ridley Scott and H.R. Giger and give it teeth and gunfire. This "combat film" is near perfect in its extending the world of ALIEN and further the development of the creatures and Ellen Ripley.
Since its release, ALIENS has been a source for creators since (like me!), and is groundbreaking in different ways than it predecessor, but both films became gold standards in sci-fi cinema that may have been copied countless times, but never surpassed. It is the high standard that ALIEN and ALIENS forged in the minds of fans and the studio that made the string of broken sequels such a bitter disappointment to swallow.
The Promise of the Dark Science Fiction Universe of ALIENS
The First Blow: ALIEN 3 (1992)
The Second Blow: ALIEN: Resurrection (1997)
Then the Dark Horse Comics Begin to Slide...
After ALIENS in 1986, we fans did not know when or even if there would be sequel to continue the ALIENS franchise. Then in 1988, Chicago independent comic publisher Dark Horse secured the rights to ALIENS and Predator from 20th Century Fox. The original six part limited black-&-white series in 1988-1989 picked up the story of Newt and Hicks about a decade later, and it was awesome, dark, interesting, and disturbing. It was everything we could have asked for in the next installment of the ALIENS franchise. Dark Horse Comics lead that with an airbrushed colored series from 1989-1990 detailing the aftermath of the xenomorphs take-over Earth and the misadventures of Newt and Hicks on a colonial world. This was even better than the 1988 series and it was the highpoint of the Dark Horse ALIENS comics. But, as physics tells us, what goes up must come down...way down. After the first two amazing series, Dark Horse led that up with one of the worst ALIENS comics of all time: ALIENS: Earth War.
The art is a war crime, the story is pure shit, and it ruins the momentum of the entire comic line. After this 1990 abortion, the comics became hit-or-miss. Some, like ALIENS: Genocide, ALIENS: Hive, and ALIENS: Tribes were very good and advanced the entire dark universe of ALIENS. But, comics like Colonial Marines, Labyrinth, and Salvation were just plain bad. I stopped collecting the Dark Horse ALIENS comics after this and never looked back especially when they reworked the original two comic serials to fit within the ALIEN 3 storyline. This was a giant middle finger to the fans. In the late 1980's and very early 1990's, the Dark Horse ALIENS comics really set the bar high for us fans, and it was that dark vision that we expected with the 3rd film in 1992...sadly, the promise of the comics made the broken promise of the 3rd and 4th ALIENS films that much more of a jagged pill to swallow.
Then SEGA/Gearbox ALIENS: Colonial Marines Video Game Failed...
Prometheus...Step in the Right Direction Or Just Another Broken Promise?!
When it was announced that Ridley "God" Scott would be stepping back into the dark world of ALIENS, it was the best news we fans could have heard. Maybe, just maybe, Ridley would get the franchise back on track with something that the fans could be proud of and not make excuses for. That 2012 film was a prequel set in 2093/2094 and it was called Prometheus. The misadventures of the team funded by Wyland Corporation to an moon called LV223 in the Zeta Reticuli star system (39.17 LYs) was not the film we fans thought we were getting in an prequel to 1979's masterpiece ALIEN...but is Prometheus another broken promise? The fan community is deeply divided on this issue.
Step in the Right Direction: 2014's ALIEN ISOLATION
Why the Hell Can't They Make an Good Fucking ALIENS Movie?!
What Could be Done to Save ALIENS Franchise?
While Ridley Scott is working on his side-universe to the ALIENS universe with Prometheus and ALIEN: Covenant, we fans need a solid ALIENS film to give the franchise a win and set the tone for the future...if there to be one. To me, if I was in charge of the studio, I would get the amazing dark and fulfilling 1992 Dark Horse ALIENS: Tribes graphic novel made into a film. This is one of the finest ALIENS comics or even stories ever made, and it could make one hell of a film that would transform the ab used and battered ALIENS franchise anew with an hardcore survival-horror film that deals with the humans as well as the aliens. If you have not read 1992's ALIENS: Tribes...then do yourself a favor read it today!
Will Neil Blomkamp's ALIENS Project Succeed Where Others have Failed?
Next Time on FWS...