29 May 2016

FWS Forgotten Classics: STAR WARS: Republic Commando (2005)

Star Wars is one of the most well known science fiction franchise around the globe and one of the best example of space-fantasy. Jedi take the place of the Paladin and the Sith Lords taking the place of the Black Knights. Most of the fandom, including the cosplay community, focus on the Jedi and the Sith. But, one of the other well known elements of the Star Wars universe is the Imperial Stormtrooper and their iconic white armor (and bad aim). For the limited number of Star Wars shooter-type games, the Imperial Stormtroopers were often the target of your blaster fire. That changed in 2005, when the extensive world of Star Wars video games was given something new: an true military sci-fi shooter, coupled with limited squad commands. That game was SW: Republic Commando, and it would become one of the most beloved SW games of all time. In this installment of Forgotten Classics, FWS will be joining Delta Squad to dive into this unique Star Wars game.

What Was Republic Commando?
Star Wars: Republic Commando was released on the 2005 original Xbox and PC. This military science fiction first-person shooter video game was coupled some limited squad commands allowing the player able to direct the actions of Delta Squad quickly during real-time combat. The game was set during the very beginning of the Clone Wars, tying the game to 2002's Attack of the Clones and the upcoming release of Revenge of the Sith. In the game, you are an elite commando of the Republic clone army, constructed on the foundation of Mandalorian Jango Fett, and given the best gear, training, and team members. As Commando RC-1138, you are in command of an elite Special Operations unit of three other badass clone warfighters: Delta Squad. As with any Special Mission Unit, you and the boys of Delta are tasked with fighting behind the scenes, supporting the big army and wreaking havoc on the enemy. The game ran on the Unreal 2 Engine with both single-player campaign and multiplayer. The game features three major missions for Delta, spanning across several locations; from Geonosis to the Wookie homeworld of Kashyyyk to the starship Prosecutor; along with a number of enemies and allies. The game was released Feburary 28th, 2005 to the much acclaim by the gaming press and rapidly became a fan favorite.

The Historical Context of SW: Republic Commando
The year that Republic Commando came out, 2005, the world of video games was entering an increased phase of war gaming/shooters that would dominate the world of video gaming for over a decade spurred on by current events. Titles like Call of Duty 2, Brothers in Arms, Mercenaries, Splinter Cell, Medal of Honor: European Assault would all be released in the same year as Republic Commando. Also at this time, military themed squad based shooters like RAINBOW Six and Brothers in Arms: Road to Hill 30 were becoming popular, accounting for two aspects of Republic Commando's gameplay.  For course, this was the time period when the Star Wars prequels were beginning to wind down with the release of the final insulting film, The Revenge of the Sith, two months after the release of Republic Commando. On the small screen, the animated Star Wars: Clone Wars series was in its 3rd Season. This made the time just right for Star Wars shooter set in the chaos of the Clone Wars. But, all of the Star Wars products being released were also drowning the market, making Republic Commando one of several SW game releases. 

Come and Meet the Boys of Delta Squad
RC-1138 "Boss" Commander
He is the commander of Delta, and featured the actual voice of Jango Fett himself, Temuera Morrison. This was the body that the player occupied in the game, and besides his leadership and Commando training, he does not use any special weapon system or skill.

RC-1140 "Fixer" TECH/HACK
Unlike the rest of the squad, the computer hacker-commando 1140 is more reserved and quiet, but does enjoy ramming his vibroblade into his enemies over his blaster carbine. His primary skill is being the computer systems expert and hack. His skills are key in accessing terminals, opening doors, and hacking equipment; especially turrets.

RC-1207 "Sev" Sniper/Scout/hunter
This is the badass of the unit of badass commandos. 1207 or "Sev" is the scout/sniper of Delta, and he enjoys his work with a grim sense of humor. Sev (for Seven) would be lost in the last mission of the game, and the last transmission said he was under heavy attack. Officially, Sev is listed as MIA status, but if the sequel game had been released, it is likely that Sev would have reemerged.

RC-1262 "Scorch"  DEMO
1262 or "Scorch" is the demolition expert of the team and often jokes around with Sev during down moments in the game. Scorch got his nickname from burning off his and his instructor's eyebrows during training.

What Happened to Republic Commando?
Republic Commando was one of those games that many were counting down to the release date, and even gaming magazines of the time were putting Republic Commando on their "must have" list of 2005. When the game was release, it received much praise, often getting scores like 8.4 from IGN, Game Informer Magazine giving it 8.25, and Eurogamer giving the game an 8 out of 10. Reviewers talked glowingly about the combination of RAINBOW SIX: 3, Call of Duty, and Star Wars into a unique package that explored the prequel universe in a fresh and realistic military manner. It sold well and the Star Wars fan community embraced it along with regular gamers. Adding to the game, toys of Delta Squad were made and noted sci-fi author Karen Traviss wrote a series of books about the commandos during the Clone Wars, Order 66, and even the Empire; which I am currently reading this series. In the Star Wars: Clone Wars animated series, Delta Squad would make a very brief appearance in the 2008 episode "Witches in the Mist".

What was the Impact of Republic Commando?
Star Wars video games have been around since nearly the beginning of the films, with Empire Strikes Back on ATARI 2600 in 1982 being the first official release. Since then, there have been over one hundred video games taking place in the SW universe across all consoles and computers. There is a few, like 1995's Dark Forces, that are more shooters, but they were more DOOM cash-ins than what Republic Commando is: an military sci-fi shooter/squad command game. There has been nothing like Republic Commando that blended MSF elements within the Clone Wars timeline, showcasing an Special Operations unit. This allowed Republic Commando to be more of interest to others outside the normal Star Wars fandom.
At the time, I was not into Star Wars after the shitstorm that the Prequels had been, but I had an interest in Republic Commando due to my interest in games like RAINBOW 6 and Brothers in Arms. This was one of the impacts of the game: bring gamers, not just SW fans, to play the title. The other impact the 2005 game had was introducing hardcore military science fiction elements to the Clone Wars time-period of Star Wars where it had been lacking. Republic Commando was not involving the Sith or the Jedi, but the war against the Confederacy of Independent Systems. Lastly, it is an fondly remembered game to this day. Given Republic Commando's unique status in the SW universe, it is often ranked by fans, critics, and the press, as one of the best Star Wars games of all time. It was so popular in fact, that Hasbro made two SW: Republic Commando action figure set 2006 and 2011...I still want of these for the FWS office.

What Happened to the Sequel Imperial Commando?
With the success of Republic Commando, LucasArts moved forward with development on a sequel titled Imperial Commando. However, it is 2016, and we have yet to see this game and it is likely that nor will we. What happened? Officially, LucasArts cancelled Imperial Commando due to limited resources, and those resources were diverted to the sequel to the uber-successful Star Wars: Battlefront series. But, I think there is more to the story than that. It has come out that there were two pitched stories that the game would have centered around. One of the proposed storylines, you would have taken the role a one of the heroes from Republic Commando, the sniper Sev, who turns away from the Empire, and being the first soldier in the Rebellion Army. While others in Delta squad would have sided with the Empire. Another story had you hunting down Jedi and killing them under Order 66. Author Karen Traviss has developed the world and lore of the commandos from the Republic to the Empire, and I think the setting in which the Imperial Commandos would have found themselves in deeply bothered the LucasArts people. Consider that our boys in Delta Squad during the Clone Wars killed members of the Separatists armies, which were the "bad guys" of the Clone Wars, but the tables were turned in the Empire. Now, the people that the commandos would have been working for were the "bad guys" of the Star Wars universe, and they would be hunting down and killed the "good guys" of the films: the rebellion or even surviving Jedi. Given the first person shooter format, it could have been hard for gamers to engage and killing the "good guys" they grew up with. I personally believe that LucasArts felt that the setting of Star Wars: Imperial Commando was just too much and decided that Battlefront games were a better, easier way.

Republic Commando Today
When this game was released back in 2005, I was completely burned out on the Star Wars universe due to the shitty prequel films. I knew about the game, read the articles on it in Game Informer magazine, but I never bought it. I played one level of the game at an Dallas Best Buy, but at the time, I was just totally not interested in playing an Star Wars game. After a few emails about this game from readers of FWS, I decided it was time to track down the game and play it for this blogpost. I really believed this would be an easy task considering I live in Dallas and that the game came out on the original Xbox. Yeah...it didn't work out that way. Yes, I could have ordered the game via Amazon, but I didn't want to buy shipping and after all, that wouldn't been any fun. It took me weeks to track down a copy, but in that experience, I came to realize what people think about Republic Commando today. Each time I visited a store and talked to the clerk, they often would say: "that is a good game" or "that is the best Star Wars game ever." Despite this game coming out on two console generations ago, and being a Star Wars without Jedi, the game is beloved by all that have played it. Given the difficulty of finding and buying this game in the wild of the real-world, I felt this also speaks to the status of Republic Commandos today, it seems that gamers are holding on to the game, and replaying it. Also, each time I discussed the game with people, they lamented the fact that the sequel Imperial Commando was not finished and never will be. In 2015, an fan of the game by the internet handle of Leon2800698 used his talent and skill to upgrade and fix the game on PC, giving the game a life-extension on PC. It still is not the upgrade that most fans want...but, it is a start.

Why Republic Commando is Memorable and Important to the Wider SW Universe
During the research phase of the blogpost along with the hunt to find a physical copy of the game for my original Xbox, I began to realize why this Star Wars game remembered so fondly by gamers and fans, and how it is important to the larger world of Star Wars in mass media. Simply put, Republic Commando is one of the very few Star Wars games and stories that does NOT involve the Jedi or the Sith (or even the Force for that matter). This allows us to experience an mostly unseen portion of the Star Wars central story: other POVs on the wars seen in the SW universe.
This is huge, because Lucas and the legions of creators involved in Star Wars focus the vast majority of the stories of this fictional universe a long; long time ago in a galaxy far, far away via the lens of these Force users and their allegiances. This is true of the Prequels, the original trilogy, and the new trilogy: the main story is the struggle between the Light and the Dark sides of the Force. In works like Republic CommandoRogue Squadron, Rogue One, and some of the RPG storylines; the focus is on the soldiers, pilots, spies, and smugglers that occupy the galaxy that SW is set in.
There is also another way that this 2005 game is memorable and important to the entire SW universe: it takes place in the much-maligned Prequel films-era. Okay, confession time, I mostly hate the Prequel Star Wars films and feel they are a huge betrayal of the original films and an massive broken promise to the mystery of the Clone Wars. But, Republic Commando is one of the few good works within that storyline and it adds a good solid element to the Prequel timeline and one that we fans enjoyed experiencing. And given the controversial nature of the Prequels, that may be the most important legacy of Republic Commando.

The EA "Imperial Commando" for 2017 Rumors
Recently, there was a rumor that EA was working on a Star Wars shooter for release in 2017. There are some hints around the internet that this is the long-awaited sequel to Republic Commando: Imperial Commando. However, these rumors turned out to be just the sequel to the current Battlefront game.  Of course, it is telling that with rumors still make the rounds about the sequel to the 2005 game, proving the popularity of the game to this very day.

Playing Republic Commando Today
This game was released 11 years and two console generations ago with no plans to update Republic Commando into the modern era of graphics and sound. Pity. For this blogpost, I broke out my original Xbox  to do "research". That being said, playing Republic Commando today on modern televisions really reveals the graphical limitations and makes some of the gameplay muddy and blocky. One of the things I really enjoyed about Republic Commando was showing the other side of the Prequel films and the covert missions of Republic Special Operations.
Overall, I enjoyed this game more than those shitty Prequel films. My issues with the game that ruins a great deal of the enjoyment of this shooter is the actual gunplay, the weapons, and combat itself. The standard armament of the squad is the DC-17m ICWS, and this unique modular DE weapon system is very cool, but when using in the game, it feels like nothing. There is none of the feedback present in other shooter games of that generation like RAINBOW Six 3, SOCCOM, and COD. Then there is the lack of power and impact of the DC-17m. You fire dozens of DE bolts into the various enemy types, and there little or no reaction from the enemy. The older HALO: CE did a much better job of this with the Covenant plasma DE weapons. Gunplay is an critical element in any shooter, causing this major and critical element of Republic Commando is lackluster and limp, impacting the overall enjoyment of the gaming experience.

Next Time on FWS...
Recently, another military sci-fi website shared a link to an author discussing the seven critical elements of military sci-fi, and I decided that FWS should take a stab at a list of the 10 critical elements of good military science fiction...mainly because I didn't agree with her list or some conclusions. Join us next time for the Top 10 critical elements of "good" military science fiction. 

20 May 2016

FWS Military Sci-Fi Oddities: SeaQuest DSV and SeaQuest:2032 (1993-1996)

It is often said that the "real" accessable final frontier is the mostly unexplored oceans of Terra. While science fiction has explored the coldest depths of outer space for over an hundred years, underwater sci-fi is more rare. In 1993, NBC greenlit one of the most expensive sci-fi television shows of all time: SeaQuest DSV. From 1993-1996, SeaQuest DSV and SeaQuest: 2032 would struggle to find stories, viewers, and a purpose among the icy depths of Earth's oceans. In this installment of Military Sci-Fi Oddities, we will be exploring and attempting to explain the oddity that was SeaQuest DSV and SeaQuest: 2032.

What is SeaQuest DSV and SeaQuest 2032?

In 1993, some big names in the American entertainment sphere pushed out a very different science fiction show on a mainstream American network, NBC. Universal, Amblin Entertainment, Steven Spielberg, and even Dr. Robert Ballard were involved in creating an underwater more-science-than-fiction-television-show that would showcase scientific discovery, the nations of Earth attempting to use the oceans to solve the ills of society peacefully, and different types of stories using the aquatic setting. The first two seasons of the show were set in 2018(!) with the original purpose of the SeaQuest DSV 4600 being an US naval military submarine, the largest and most advanced. Then after the Livingston Trench Incident and the near nuclear war, the United Earth Oceans (UEO) was formed to attempt the peaceful use and settlement of the oceans...and the SeaQuest DSV 4600 was placed under UEO command as their peacekeeper, explorer, and symbol.
The original DSV 4600 is destroyed at the end of Season One, and the UEO constructs an new SeaQuest with new technology and a more organic design. In the 2nd Season, the show would set stories on dryland as well as the deep oceans. This season would display some of the more outlandish plots of the whole series, with the new SeaQuest DSV being abducted and transported to an alien world called "Hyperion", which is in the middle of an civil war and millions of lightyears from Earth. The new DSV is destroyed at the end of the episode, and the crew is trapped on Hyperion.
With Roy Scheider leaving the show and cancellation all but certain, it was believed that this was the end of the show. Surprise! NBC gives the greenlight to an 3rd Season with a jump in time to 2032 with the DSV reappearing on Earth in the middle of a cornfield and as the world is falling apart both above and below the water. The new captain of the DSV 4600 is badass actor Michael Ironside. While the new theme and tone of 3rd Season was more realistic than Season Two, despite a time travel episode similar to the 1980 film The Final Countdown it was too late for the wounded series and it was cancelled just 13 episodes into season three.

Historical Context of SeaQuest DSV
Here in the United States, there have been few science fiction shows that have survived more than a few seasons on major network TV. The four major US networks: NBC, FOX, ABC, and CBS; all have a lukewarm track recorder with keeping science fiction shows on more than two seasons. While there are few, the landscape of cancelled TV shows is packed with sci-fi shows. Even franchises like Trek have had issues remaining on the airwaves. During the 1990's, sci-fi was becoming more popular on non-main stream networks, and all the major networks attempted to bring sci-fi shows to their schedules...only Star Trek: Voyager would survive on UPN for years and multiple seasons.
NBC gambled with two shows that I watched back in the day: Earth 2 and SeaQuest DSV. One day, FWS will cover Earth 2 for posterity, but like other shows in the 1990's, they struggled to justify their budgets and boost their low ratings. By the end of the 1990's, only Star Trek: Voyager was still on the air on a major network, and Babylon 5 was shipped to TNT...if that counts. During the middle of this major network expansion of sci-fi shows, SeaQuest DSV would take its chances on NBC during one of the network's golden eras of popularity and ratings. However, like the vast majority of sci-fi television shows of the time period it would be cancelled at the Season 3 mark.

What Happened to SeaQuest DSV?
The simple answer this that the show collapsed under it's own concept, low rating, big budget, and the pressure from NBC executives. The high standard of scientific adventures, exploration, and peacekeeping of Season One could not be fulfilled in a weekly show format. Soon after the pilot, SeaQuest DSV was in trouble with so-so stories and dipping ratings. The show also attempted to market itself with an line of toys, an SNES/Gameboy/Genesis video game, models, books, and comics. But it did not help. This forced a change in the types of stories told during Season Two that alienated the star of the series Roy Scheider, who was quoted as saying "It's childish trash...I am bitter about it. I feel betrayed." That is a damning indictment of the series and it direction after Season One. The second season storylines had aliens, time travel, an ocean god, and the SeaQuest vehicle being transported to another planet! It could have been interesting to have the original premise of the show being an oceanic expedition to another world, similar to 1990's Expedition by artist Wayne Barlowe. By alas, none of Season Two added up to anything, because Season Three altered the crew, mission of the DSV, and the basic setting of show. While SeaQuest:2032 is much better than Season Two, the damage had been done, and the audience had jumped ship. On June 9th, 1996, SeaQuest aired its final episode, just 13 episodes into the third season. One of the reasons the show was not cancelled earlier was due to some of the people behind it, the popularity of NBC at the time, and that there was no good replacement for the show. If it had been today, an crappy reality show would have replaced it for much cheaper. The network didn't help the show either with football cutting into the show and airing some of the episodes out of order as well. The final episode of Season One also felt like the end of the series all together, and many did not think it would come back after the destruction of the SeaQuest submarine...and it some ways, it did not.

Is SeaQuest DSV Even Military Sci-Fi?
Yes and no. Throughout the internet and this blogpost, much is made of the original founding concept of the show: Star Trek underwater. It wanted to be a show about using the oceans for peace and a positive future for mankind, and not to be an "sci-fi show" with aliens, laser guns, and combat. The original ideas about the SeaQuest DSV submarine, the UEO, and the crew is comparable to Starfleet, where it is an organization of peacekeeping and exploration rather than modern naval organizations. The show throughout Season One & Two flirted with military themes and combat, but it was not until Season Three that the SeaQuest DSV submarine, the UEO, and the crew became more like an aquatic military organization, making the final season in the military Sci-Fi category.

Why is SeaQuest DSV an Military Sci-Fi Oddity?
The very concept of SeaQuest is an oddity in of itself because of the setting. There are few science fiction television series that take place underwater in general, and the setting is rare in science fiction literature, games, movies, and comic books. One of the oddities of SeaQuest is that it is military science fiction at all. The original concept and the first season attempted to show the submarine and the UEO as a peacekeeping organization that used words over laser beams or torpedoes. The basis of the show was to be underwater exploration, not combat. The creators and producers wanted to take the high-minded storytelling of Trek, but change the Enterprise to the SeaQuest, the Federation to the UEO, and outer space to the oceans.
However, this did not last. Over the course of the nearly three season run of SeaQuest, it changed format no less than three times, alienating the original actors and producers enough to force the bulk to leave by Season 3. The more science show of Season One was replaced by an more sci-fi "monster-of-the-week" format in Season Two, then followed by the more realistic political/military theme of Season 3. In the 3rd Season, SeaQuest was a shadow of its original self, and it was more of an military sci-fi show with it being retitled SeaQuest: 2032, and showing tensions between the UEO and the Macronesian Alliance. There have been few shows that have survived a major shift in characters, producers, and setting; SeaQuest was not one of them. All of this adds up to SeaQuest being an oddity of sci-fi television.

SeaQuest Today
For some science fiction works that fail to find an original audience in the time of their release, they can transition into the status of Cult Classic, like BLADE RUNNER, but others do not, and they languish in obscurity and memory. The interwebs helps with some forgotten works to find an audience, but SeaQuest is not one of them. Even searching today, there is not much on the series. Some site, like this one, devoting some time and space to the series, toys, and unqiue place in science fiction. Even Youtube is devoid of any real videos about the series with a few clips here and there.
Today in 2016, this mainstream underwater sci-fi series is relativity forgotten by the masses, and even Universal has a prickly relationship with the series as seen in the home media releases of the show. It took years for the show to be released on DVD and even then, it was only Season One. At the moment, you can buy an fully fleshed out DVD edition of Season One, and a barebone DVD release of Season Two, but Season Three is yet to be released on physical media. However, the entire series is available on NetFlicks for streaming, and Blu-Ray editions are being released for Seasons One and Two. Once again, Season Three is the odd-man-out..again.
What gives SeaQuest DSV some longevity is the DSV 4600 submarine itself. The overall design is organic and bold, making the SeaQuest the real star of the show and not that fucking talking dolphin! Even today, when type certain phases into Google, the show's submarine pops up, and the the model kits of the SeaQuest DSV command a great price than all of the toys released for the series combined. This speaks to the uniqueness of the series in the community of sci-fi. SeaQuest DSV was one of the few underwater sci-fi TV shows, and the futuristic submarine itself was one of the few seen in all of science fiction. This rarity makes for some hits on searches and index sites, like TV Tropes. Hell, it is hard to get high-res images of the series, that is why much of the images here on this blogpost look like they were taken from an old worn-out VHS.

My Own Experiences with the Series
This show would air during a time when most people I knew were tuning into NBC, and the network made a big deal of SeaQuest DSV at the time with tons of promos and adverts. When the show premiered on September 12, 1993, when I was an Junior in high school in Oklahoma. I would watch the pilot episode with my mom and dad, who hated it calling it "hippie, tree-hugging shit." Which meant that set my VHS to tape it...and some of the time, football ate into the show, making the show hard to find and support. While the premier episode was rather good, the following episodes were not. Week after week, SeaQuest DSV could not delivery the stories to compel us to make the show a priority. By the end of Season One, I was pretty much turned off. Then Season Two happened, and I stopped watching after the insane plots and storylines. I never saw much of Season Three because I didn't care and I was in college up to no good.

Next Time on FWS...
Star Wars is often given the label of military science fiction by many, including io9.com, but the connection is weak, at best. In 2005, the world of Star Wars would finally get an out-and-out military science fiction video game shooter: LucasArts' Republic Commando. In this game, you are RC-1138 "Boss", commander of the elite Delta squad Commando unit. You are the best-of-the-best of the Republic Army, and you and your brothers are tasked with the hard missions during the Clone Wars. This first person shooter set in the Star Wars universe is beloved by fans and gamers, and it is considered of the best SW games of all time. However, this game was lost to time after an cancelled sequel and lack of updating. In the next blogpost, FWS will be discussing The Forgotten Classic Republic Command

11 May 2016

FWS Broken Promises: The ALIENS Sequels

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
Prior to 1979's ALIEN, there was nothing really like this dark universe in science fiction and it was in direct contrast to the bright-and-happy Trek universe and the space-fantasy of Star Wars. There was something dark and compelling about ALIEN and ALIENS that attracted fans by the millions. It was not just the hostile alien species, but the way the human universe worked, the realistic nature of human beings and their society that was more grounded and honest than Trek or Wars. For me, the first time I saw ALIENS on CBS, I bothered me in a way I'd never experienced with sci-fi before...and I wanted more. ALIENS was the first time I bought an movie on VHS and I hunted down any comics, models, and information I could. It became a part of me and my mental universe. My first book, Endangered Species, is a love letter to ALIENS. To me, the dark seduction of the ALIENS universe was a promise of something beyond the normal of mainstream sci-fi and horror that compelled you to look into the cold heart of the darkness of outer space and humanity.

The First Blow: ALIEN 3 (1992)
ALIEN 3 is not an easy film for fans, and many are conflicted on if the 3rd film is good, bad, or just a broken promise. The studio and the powers behind the third film were also confused. For years, we fans heard of rewrites, directors come and go, and a massive paycheck to get Sigourney Weaver to come back. When filming began, the script was not yet complete. This chaos, the studio intervention, and the newbie director all added up to a stumbling beginning. Some regard it has a beautiful dark failure that brought the series and the character arch of Ripley to an end...sort of. But the actress wanted the story of Ripley to end once for all once she had heard about an ALIENS vs. Predator film in development. She wanted to distance herself and her career away from the original films.
All that had been taken from her by the company and the aliens was over with her selfless act of sacrifice of ending the dream of the company for a queen and the desire of the aliens to take Earth as a breeding colony. Others see it as a failed, depressing, broken sequel to the powerhouse that is ALIENS, and the legacy of the 1992 film is proof along with the box office returns. Either way, I think that this film is a broken promise. Even if you are fan of the 3rd film, it is not the film that most of the public or some of the fan base wanted. It broke the promise of the ALIENS sequels and halted the franchise to wonder on it path after the death of Ripley for years. One of the ways I regard ALIEN 3 has a broken promise is that it allowed ALIENS: Resurrection to come into existence. Another way I call this an broken promise is that it killed off Newt and Hicks. One wonders if the "Assembly Cut" of the film had been shown, would the ALIENS community have the mixed opinion about this 1992 film?

The Second Blow: ALIEN: Resurrection (1997)
While fans are divided on Prometheus and ALIEN 3, they are not divided on ALIEN: Resurrection...because it is shit. Pure stupid shit that Skynet should travel back in time to abort. It tells you something when to bring back Sigourney Weaver, it cost them $11 million dollars...that is a big pound of flesh! When I've watched this 1997 film, I just cannot help but think I am seeing a project that should have been a comic book, fan-fiction, or failed video game, because the basic plot and concept are just wrong...so horribly wrong.
There are some wrong casting choices, wasted talent (Michael Wincott), Brad Dourif being Brad Dourif, and basic storytelling elements fucked up. The idea to recycle Ripley and combine her with xenomorph DNA was okay, and Sigourney Weaver is clearly having fun with her role, but the alien/human hybrid baby was against nature...it haunts my nights. Anyway, the real broken promise of ALIEN: Resurrection is that has prevented any more ALIENS films from being made until Prometheus...maybe that was a good thing?!
Honestly, this is not a film that should exist, it is DUNE-weird, ugly, boring, and unholy. One of the interesting promise breakers of ALIEN: Resurrection was the switch in tone. An Youtuber by the name of LittleJimmy835 discussed how the previous films were an survival-horror genre mixed with dark sci-fi or military sci-fi or both. However, ALIEN: Resurrection was a parody of itself...and fans of the franchise do not wanting a parody of their dark murderous xenomorph alien species. Needlessly to say, it was a bomb at the box-office, with fans, and critics. This piece of shit shows how wrong and twisted things can get. I don't have enough middle fingers for this film and the people who made it.

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 MarinesLabyrinth, 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...
There is a long line of attempted ALIENS video games that began in 1982 and continues today. Sadly, most are just plain bad and don't live up to the hallowed name of ALIENS. A few years ago, FWS cataloged all of the ALIENS video games here. But, back in 2012/2013, there were high hopes for the SEGA/Gearbox ALIENS: Colonial Marines first-person shooter that would be set on LV-426 and involve a detachment of USCM. But, it went all wrong...very wrong and the resulting product was one of the most disappointing ALIENS video games of all time, causing more broken promises and shockwaves through the ALIENS fan community. How could they fuck this up so badly?! Gearbox studios, based here in Dallas, are huge ALIENS fan-nerds and they still allowed the video game to be listed among one of the most disappointing moments of ALIENS history.

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.
 I honestly really like Prometheus and it is still one of the best 3D IMAX films I've ever seen, and it was a creepy, beautiful film that was misguided in parts. It may be the best ancient astronaut theory film of all time, however, plot holes, maddening characters, and loose connections to the wider ALIENS universe did not give us the complete film that the franchise needed. Instead we got this oddball hybrid film that answered nearly nothing and left us with more questions that still are not answered. To me and others I've talked to, Prometheus is a small step in the right direction, but it is too muddied to be the messiah of the wider ALIENS franchise. Some feel betrayed by Ridley making the Space Jockeys into the Engineers, other feel that it was an original solution to the derelict alien spaceship in ALIEN. Prometheus may be one of those films that is debated by fans for years to come. Will the 2017 sequel, ALIEN: Covenant prove the vitality of Prometheus? I guess we will have to wait until 2017 for the answers...

Step in the Right Direction: 2014's ALIEN ISOLATION
Soon after the hurricane of pain and tears that was ALIENS: Colonial Marines by SEGA/Gearbox, another video game came out: ALIEN: Isolation, and it would take us fans by surprise and by the balls, and demonstrate to us how an good ALIENS game could be done. Unlike most ALIENS video games, this 2014 SEGA/Creative Assembly survival-horror game pit Amanda Ripley against a single xenomorph warrior drone. It is more in-line with 1979's ALIEN than 1986's ALIENS. Less combat, and more survival and stealth. It is the game we fans have been waiting for, and it is finally a great ALIENS video game that gives the respect to the xenomorph species that they deserve and demand. Maybe there is light at the end of the tunnel?

Why the Hell Can't They Make an Good Fucking ALIENS Movie?!
Since 1986, we fans have been waiting for an "good" sequel to ALIENS, and despite Prometheus, we are still waiting. There has yet to be a film to rival or extend the ALIENS dark universe in a positive and honest way. Hell, there has not been a film even half as good as either ALIENS or ALIEN! While there was one good video game and a handful of comics, there has been a great drought of creativity in the ALIENS cinema universe, and appears that is not going to change anytime soon unless ALIEN: Covenant is good. While there is no concrete reason why there has not been a good fucking sequel to ALIENS, I do have a theory. At its heart, the ALIENS franchise is an survival-horror film set in outer space with an the aliens in place of the monsters or zombies.
We have to remember that the central story of the ALIENS universe is constructed around the journey of our hero Warrant Flight Officer Ellen Ripley. In the original film, set in 2122, Ripley is a single mother, pilot, and employee of the Weyland-Yutani Corporation. She is attempting to get back to Earth for her daughter Amanda's tenth birthday and take time off from the long-haul cargo runs. When the encounter at LV426 takes place, it rips Ripley's life apart, and steals her future, altering Ripley's destiny forever. The first film is the transformative event that alters the path of our hero. Her crew and daughter are taken away from her by the alien species and the machiavellian actions of the company. By the end of the time, Ripley is a drift in hypersleep with just her cat and her luck. Fifty-seven years later, our hero is awakened to find everything that she knows gone and LV426 colonized by the company. Her journey to LV426 with the Colonial Marines is her redemption, to take back what was taken from her by the aliens and the company, to find a foster daughter in Newt and a possible love interest in Hicks.
By the end of the second film, Ripley has destroyed the Engineer cargo ship, killed the queen, and rescued her new family. The journey of Ellen Ripley is complete in a two-act story arch. That should have been it, and the Ripley character exits gracefully out of the ALIENS universe...but the studio and creators could not somehow imagine the ALIENS universe without her, and twice more, Ripley is brought back into the ALIENS sequel films that betrays the organic original stories in the first two films. ALIEN 3 twists the fate of Ripley in a Christ-like messiah story and ALIEN: Resurrection is just wrong...so wrong. That is my best theory on why the ALIENS sequels have been a shitty mess since 1986: they cannot let the character of Ellen Ripley go. Her story was done in the second film, any sequel should have taken a different path with new characters or shown the path of Newt or Hicks, as Dark Horse did in the original 1988 series. Of course, Dark Horse injected Ripley in the very end panel of the second ALIENS comic 1990 series, but I think everyone knew that was coming....and I didn't like that either at the time.
But, these are just one fan's theories and honestly, I just don't know why the studio has not made a solid sequel to the original holy two films. There is just so much promise and opportunity in the dark universe of ALIENS that it deeply vexes me on why the promise cannot be delivered to the silver screen. It seems like the writers and creators pushing the ALIENS universe forward with quality stories are not being considered by the studio when it comes to mainstream releases and projects. The same can be said of the Predator and ALIENS vs. Predator stories and projects. Why didn't FOX make the 1990 Dark Horse ALIENS vs. Predator comic series into a film instead of those piece of shit films that destroyed the promise of ALIENS vs. Predator? I don't want to be Fox Mulder, but maybe there is a conspiracy to keep down good ALIENS sequels?

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?
At the moment, there is debate about if Neil Blomkamp ALIENS 5 movie will move forward or die on the vine. Both stars have signed on to reprise their roles, and fans want the script to move forward with the promising concept art that has been released....but the real question is the his vision of ALIENS 5 what should happen to the abused franchise? I am not sure, Neil Blomkamp is undoubtable talented, and most of his films are great...well, not CHAPPiE, but in everyone's life, some rain must fall. Anyways, we know so little of the story of ALIENS 5 and some rumors say that Neil will reject the 3rd and 4th films to "free up" some room to tell his story of Ripley, Hicks, and Newt in the post-ALIENS 22nd century. Some say that Ripley and Hicks are attempting to destroy the last samples that the company has during a backdrop of Earth being overrun by the xenomorphs. Michael Biehn has been quoting has saying that they will handing over the ALIENS universe to Newt and other new characters as they exist stage left. Will even be made? Will Neil success where others have failed? Stay tuned...

Next Time on FWS...
Let us travel back in time to the 1990's, when science fiction television shows were being greenlit by the major American networks, Dr. Who was still for geeks, and "real" Star Trek was being made. It is during this interesting time in small-screen sci-fi that NBC boldly journeyed to not outer space, but under the seas to set their near-future show SeaQuest DSV. In the next installment of Military Sci-Fi Oddities, FWS will be exploring and explaining the nearly three year run of SeaQuest DSV.