Bengt Petter
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What's wrong with the Alien franchise – and how it can be fixed

Mon 08 Jul 2019, 18:45

EDIT: My intention with this thread was to discuss one question: How can this franchise be fixed? 

First of all, don't get me wrong: I'm really a fan of the Alien franchise. Since I, as a 10 year old, alone in hotel room in London, saw the first Alien movie, I have been fascinated and terrified by what I see as the core of this franchise: there is something terrible and almost unimaginable out there. Humankind has only begun to grasp what it's all about. Since the first movie, a lot has happened to the franchise. I'm not the only one who has been frustrated to see the magic from Alien gradually disappear. You only have to google to see that the recent development of the brand is quite controversial. But instead of just complaining, I prefer to actually discuss how to fix things. This is a comment about the entire franchise, not just the upcoming RPG. 

So, why and where did the franchise go wrong?

1. It's hard to repeat a surprise. In the first movie, the Aliens where unknown creatures, also to the audience. You almost never saw them and that was why you wanted to know more. The second movie offered a closer look, while the genre was changed from horror to action. That shift worked once or twice, but it also made it harder to do something as exciting after that. Too many of the novels and comic books puts the xenomorphs in the centre. In the long run, it gets repetitive. By now, we have seen the monsters many times, even if the characters always seem very surprised... 

2. The Company with the dark secrets (we get the feeling that there is a lot more) was too much in the background. And they mainly seemed interested in the xenomorphs (and the synthetics), even though there should be a lot more. Still, the power of the Company is a core theme of the movies. I would like to get more than just a glimpse. The quite recent novel Alien: The Cold Forge is a good example of what I mean would be interesting to see more of.

3. The most recent movies, Prometheus and Alien: Covenant, are not cohesive with the older stuff. We all know that the fossilized space jockey in Prometheus suddenly became a more recent Engineer pilot. In at least one interview, Ridley Scott made some vague comments about how the movies (didn't) fit together. I just felt that he didn't care about his previous movie. The fan reactions showed he was wrong. I really liked the idea of a total other species as the space jockey. It seemed more Lovecraft.

4. The Alien vs. Predator stuff is simply too much. I mean, the Predators have dread locks... That's reggae, not Lovecraft. I hope that combo will be forgotten for ever. I get some of you will disagree about that, but perhaps that can be discussed somewhere else...

5. The first Alien was basically a dystopian Lovecraft story in space. The arrogant and naive humans where confronted with something older, mysterious and very powerful. That theme has at least partly been lost. That means that the mystery was killed.

After all this, how can the franchise be fixed? I have some suggestions:

1. If the xenomorphs should be included at all (I think they could), make them more interesting by showing them in new ways. I want them to be mysterious and powerful. Knowing everything about their evolution or home planet kills the Lovecraftian mystery. And I don't want to see them just attacking people in a space ship once again. I know that's a part of the brand, but we have all seen that a lot. For example, they can be used for scientific experiments, like in Alien Resurrection and several of the novels. Drug substance (like Queen Jelly) and other medical stuff can be made from them or their DNA. I want to know more about that stuff. It seem like interesting dark secrets and it involves the xenomorphs in a way that isn't just about direct killing.

2. To make things new can also be about going into other genres that fits into dystopian science fiction. Bladerunner, that might take place in the same universe as Alien (google and you will find a lot), is a Tech Noir (film noir combined with high tech stuff from sci fi) . There must be murders in space too. Genres like Heist, Spy Drama and Mob drama (perhaps a Hong Kong triad in space) could also be ways to renew the franchise.

3. Introduce other locations than spaceships and remote planets. There is some stuff already in the canon, but there can be more, perhaps even on Earth. I have some ideas that I might make a post about later. 

4. The Company seem like a really big entity. There must be people who are doing a lot of dangerous and interesting stuff in strange facilities. It doesn't have to involve the xenomorphs we already know. Probably there are other creatures and  projects somewhere. The dystopian capitalism can be developed in the genres I suggested above.      

5. I´m not sure it was a good idea to introduce the Engineers, but now they are a part of the franchise. It might be interesting to see more of them, but in a mysterious way. Perhaps ruins. Or deserted biomechanical spaceships (fossilized?) drifting in space. Or just bizarre artifacts that are extremely valuable, but hard to understand. Knowing everything about their culture will just make them less interesting, like in Prometheus where they became some kind of living Roman sculptures. If they are not powerful and mysterious, they are not interesting.

6. It might be better to do TV series instead of a third prequel movie by Ridley Scott. I know there has been rumors about at least two different TV series within the franchise, but they both seem to not not happen. It´s a shame because TV series might have given the franchise more of the depth I think is missing. I also liked the idea to make each season a part of different periods of the time line, just like with the series Fargo. But that could perhaps be something to explore in the campaign mode of the RPG instead.   

So, what do you think about all this? I'm sure we all have our personal preferences, I know a lot of people prefer the first or the second movie and dislike te new ones. But instead of discussing the movies, I started this mainly to talk about what can be done to develop the franchise, perhaps even beyond the RPG. Fan communities are powerful.

NOTE TO READER: Previously, I have written quite much stuff for Mutant: Year Zero, and Mutant: Genlab Alpha. Both games have been published by Free League. I'm not aiming to write any more RPG stuff, but I have several ideas for the Alien RPG that I might post here.       
Last edited by Bengt Petter on Tue 09 Jul 2019, 09:54, edited 2 times in total.
 
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aramis
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Re: What's wrong with the Alien franchise – and how it can be fixed

Mon 08 Jul 2019, 22:32

The engineers bioengineering weapons is about the only reason for such creatures to exist; the life sequence is almost perfectly suited for a life extermination process, but it's also clearly not suited to long term biology. Giving that reason was inevitable for it to remain a franchise.

AVP and AVJD are not part of the  franchise in the way that either Prometheus or the Colonial Marines Tech Manual are; in only a few franchises are the crossovers considered canon in either, let alone both... In a few (the Chicago ___ Franchise and the Law & Order franchise) are canon in both.
It's already been implied strongly that AVP isn't part of the license by staffers.

Not having seen Alien:Covenant, I can't address that... but Movie Franchises have long histories of retcons. 

Having watched the special features on the Promethus BluRay - there's a lot of content there that says Weyland-Yutani is multi-disciplinary... a highly vertically-integrated production system. They want the research materials for all of pure research, exploitable biochem, and potential alien weapons... the aliens are a perfect target.
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Smith & Wesson: the original point and click interface...
 
decanox
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Re: What's wrong with the Alien franchise – and how it can be fixed

Tue 09 Jul 2019, 00:59

I have only seen the films but there a lot of questions here.

- About the first films: I would like to remark that Alien3 is generally hated but I think this reputation is a bit unfair, especially if you see the Assemby Cut. It's a good movie. Of course, under Alien and Aliens but it shows really interesting ideas: first, it's a really "nice" setting (a jail with a retro atmosphere in a lost planet); it introduces a new kind of alien (smaller but faster) and it introduces a religious theme for the first time. This could be nice background ideas for Alien RPG.
I would like to make an aside about Alien3. It's great that RPG has included the UPP idea. As far as I know this was one of the first scripts written by William Gibson but it was rejected since the fall of the Berlin wall.

- Prometheus: Generally it's another of the hated films of the franchise. I think it's a good idea, original and a good change of direction in the Alien Universe.  
Problems? I saw two problems in the movie that created the bad reputation: 1) really stupid characters and 2) setting. About 1) we don't need to talk too much: characters who love to touch horrible aliens with his hands, characters running under the shadow of a huge alien ship to die squashed, etc, etc, etc. About 2) it was a big mistake the extensive use of special effects especially on the ship, so Nostromo which is set in the future looks really old near Prometheus (they should do like in "Rogue One", taking care of these retro details).
Talking about Engineers, I read that it would be nice to be covered under certain veil of secrecy. I think it's really difficult since "Prometheus" talks a lot about them: They create life on barren planets, they destroy life and they were going to eradicate humanity (this is clearly seen in one deleted scene from Prometheus: the last Engineer see humans constantly arguing, beating Elizabeth Shaw and listening to Weyland who wants to become a god... = humans are bad creatures).
So regarding RPG I would go more deeply in Engineers, their creations and even their culture. I think it's the best idea from Prometheus.

- Covenant: for me one of the worst movies. I don't understand why Scott forgot the Prometheus idea and ending (with David and Shaw traveling to the Engineers planet) to set the film focused on very different characters. It's not boring but it's a bad copy of Alien.
Best things: neomorphs.

- AVP: Horrible, terrific, etc. Please don't include anything from these.

- Blade Runner: I think it's not compatible with Alien. Of course, they have different origins (Blade Runner came from Philip K Dick and Alien from Dan O'Bannon and Ronald Shusett). The only coincidence is that some elements are used on both films (the "Purge" screen), and so what? That's common in many movies to economize resources. That's to say that "Legend" is in the same universe as Blade Runner and Alien since the Legend unicorn is shown in one of the Blade Runner cuts, and I hope not playing with goblins and warriors in a space ship.
There is another evidences: in the first scenes of "Prometheus", it's shown Scotland in the 2080's and it looks really (period) great compared with Blade Runner Los Angeles in 2020s. No toxic clouds, no contamination, no signals of massive emigration to outer colonies, etc.   
   

 
 
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Diego
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Re: What's wrong with the Alien franchise – and how it can be fixed

Tue 09 Jul 2019, 01:41

I have only seen the films but there a lot of questions here.

- About the first films: I would like to remark that Alien3 is generally hated but I think this reputation is a bit unfair, especially if you see the Assemby Cut. It's a good movie. Of course, under Alien and Aliens but it shows really interesting ideas: first, it's a really "nice" setting (a jail with a retro atmosphere in a lost planet); it introduces a new kind of alien (smaller but faster) and it introduces a religious theme for the first time. This could be nice background ideas for Alien RPG.
I would like to make an aside about Alien3. It's great that RPG has included the UPP idea. As far as I know this was one of the first scripts written by William Gibson but it was rejected since the fall of the Berlin wall.
The Assembly cut of Alien 3 is actually brilliant. Not just the ideas but the cinemotography. The shot of Ripley been carried in with the refinery in the background is amazing, along with the cremation of Newt and Hicks (obviously controversial since they shouldn't have died), but take away the bias from not wanting them to die and the scene in question is very powerful. It was a little lite on the scares which was a shame. The actual biggest failing of that film is the end... Benny Hill style chase through the prison while a bad cgi alien, ending in a horribly cliched finish where the black guy dies. Oh and don't even get me started on Ripley grabbing the Aliens tail... I mean seriously.

A bit more inspiration from Alien to actually make the creature scary and a completely revamped finale and that film would be up there with the other two. Fox honestly have a lot to answer for sometimes =p
 
Bengt Petter
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Re: What's wrong with the Alien franchise – and how it can be fixed

Tue 09 Jul 2019, 09:41

I now understand that I should have been more clear about why I started this thread. What I wanted to discuss is simply: how can the Alien franchise be fixed? I suggested the introduction of new genres: tech noir (that's why I even mentioned Bladerunner), Mob drama and Heist. To switch genre is, I think, a way to see things fresh. It also makes it more easy to introduce new characters and new types of locations, as I suggested. 

Another important aspect is the Lovecraft legacy. It's not just my interpretation, HR Giger, who created much of the visual stuff for the first movie, was influenced by the Lovecraft mythos. Reintroducing Lovecraft to the Alien franchise would be a return to the original horror roots. You can read more about Giger and Alien here: https://hrgiger.com

This quote (from the Giger website) is central to me: "Giger’s most famous book, Necronomicon, published in 1977, served as the visual inspiration for director Ridley Scott’s film Alien, Giger's first high-profile film assignment, which earned him the 1980 Oscar for the Best Achievement in Visual Effects for his designs of the film's title character, including all the stages of its lifecycle, plus the film’s the extraterrestrial environments. Giger's other well-known film work includes his designs for Poltergeist II, Alien3 and Species, as well as the legendary unmade film, Alejandro Jodorowsky’s Dune."

Just a detail about the connections between Alien franchise and Bladerunner: in the Prometheus DVD edition, there where an Easter egg that connected Peter Weyland to Eldon Tyrell. More about those details: http://collider.com/prometheus-blade-runner-connection/
Still, I get that those two franchises can be seen as NOT tied into each other. For example, the synthetics differs a lot from the replicants. And, perhaps even more important, the rights of these two franchises belongs to different companies, Fox and Warner Bros. So I guess it will be hard to make them a part of the same canon, at least in more wide spread, commercial products (like a blockbuster movie or a tv series). But they are both, at least partly, Ridley Scott creations and similar enough to discuss. I think they are both interesting examples of dystopian science fiction. Again: genre matters.

And finally, of course I didn't intend to stop anybody from discussing or even reviewing the movies. But perhaps in another thread, please?       
 
ChrisDM
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Re: What's wrong with the Alien franchise – and how it can be fixed

Tue 09 Jul 2019, 19:31

There's so much potential to the lore and universe at large that it doesn't need to focus on Ripley anymore. Her story is/was great and told some what well if you ignore Alien Resurrection. The story of the Xenomorph was supposed to be told through the 3 prequels, which didn't really seem to satisfy many (and the studios). 

I did like how AvP very BRIEFLY touched on how Weyland became aware of the Xenomorphs, which is something I'd like to see explored. This was explored a little in Prometheus, too. 

The comics explored different areas, such as cults and fanatics worshipping the Xenomorphs alongside some strange psychic energy. It got a little strange with Queen Honey and DNA splicing, but hey. I'm not really sure how you could 'fix' the franchise, it has so much weight and expectation behind it now. The fanbase want so many different things that it'll lead to disappointment. The idea of different genres and mediums is an interesting one.

Alien - Horror

Aliens - Action
Alien 3 - Suspense
Alien Resurrection - Space Pulp

They've even tried different eras with the prequels, the first three movies and then Resurrection set some time later. I'd really like to see a high quality 10 episode TV show (HBO-esque) look at the political side of Weyland and Yutani, how they discovered the Xenomorphs, the plans to weaponise them, etc. 
 
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CynicalMo
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Re: What's wrong with the Alien franchise – and how it can be fixed

Tue 09 Jul 2019, 23:02

Neill Blomkamp, apparently, has some awesome ideas for new Alien franchise movies. He was posting some great concept art to his Instagram a year or two ago. That's when Ridley came in and started his prequel stuff. Fingers crossed we get a chance to see something from him.
 
Konungr
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Re: What's wrong with the Alien franchise – and how it can be fixed

Wed 10 Jul 2019, 04:03

Neill Blomkamp, apparently, has some awesome ideas for new Alien franchise movies. He was posting some great concept art to his Instagram a year or two ago. That's when Ridley came in and started his prequel stuff. Fingers crossed we get a chance to see something from him.
Blomkamp has made the exact same movie 4 times. I don't want to watch that movie again with an Alien skin stretched over it.
 
Bengt Petter
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Re: What's wrong with the Alien franchise – and how it can be fixed

Wed 10 Jul 2019, 12:44

Neill Blomkamp, apparently, has some awesome ideas for new Alien franchise movies. He was posting some great concept art to his Instagram a year or two ago. That's when Ridley came in and started his prequel stuff. Fingers crossed we get a chance to see something from him.

I think Blomkamp is a very interesting director, and I would love to see what he can do with the Alien franchise. If I could just wish, he should skip Ellen Ripley (the character is dead, don't rewrite the storyline) and make an Alien TV series instead.

I don't think Blomkamp has done the same thing over and over again. But it´s true that he has a thematic core – a dystopian version of post apartheid South Africa – that he is exploring in different ways (that also includes none South African locations). To that he adds a dirty looking aesthetic, often in contrast to more posh and polished environments. To me, both the conflicts between the poor and the rich and the contrasts between the polished and the dirty, gives most Blomkamp movies a fresh and original flavor. It feels none Hollywood in a good way.

As I said before, I think the Alien franchise could be developed through the introduction of new genres. What I would like to call the Blomkamp take, dystopian political science fiction with hard contrasts, would for sure bring something new to the table. With the existence of The Company, there is already a hinted political aspect in the franchise. That could be explored further in Blomkamp style, just by introducing the poor people and their locations. They must be there, somewhere.  

    
 
Konungr
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Re: What's wrong with the Alien franchise – and how it can be fixed

Sat 03 Aug 2019, 04:00

His movies also all center around a piece of technology (biological or otherwise) that gets picked up / falls in the lap of / gets dumped on an unwitting dupe who then faces a societal or social conflict with the use of the technology that often bites them or others in the ass.

Elysium. Guy gets exoskeleton strapped onto him.
District 9. Guy gets black goop that turns him alien.
Chappy. Some idiots collect a sentient robot and the creator ends up inside a robot shell. The end of this movie basically perfectly copies District 9.

Image

This looks like Ripley inside of a REALLY bad Blomkamp style alien tech suit that I am sure will get dump on / picked up by her and the movie will center around her conflict with weyland yutani as the social societal bad guy and end in a chappie/district 9 style way of some one open endedly existing in the still screwed up world with the technology playing a part in their current state.

All of his movies are the same movie.
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