There comes a time in your adult life when your older, wiser idols begin to rapidly lose their wherewithal. If you (and they) are very lucky, it happens fast and without much pain. Sometimes it’s not as drastic as dementia, but a slip on reality — and the creative prowess that made them such a force visibly starts to crumble.
No one does space like Sir Ridley Scott, and that’s been true since his 1979 groundbreaking, genre-defining Alien. It was true as recently as 2015 when Ridley directed The Martian, the film adaptation of the Andy Weir novel of the same name. Although most of the peril was taken from the meat of the story, the film still held the core of a man struggling to survive on a planet with no other humans. Reports stated Ridley didn’t want main character Mark Watney “alone for so long,” even though…like…that’s the entire point of the story?
Cut to 2017, and the revisit to the universe of the Xenomorph. Remember in 2012 when Prometheus had the most bitchin’ trailers, and even the most adamant of “it was a bad idea to made another film in this storyline,” gave it a chance *because* of those trailers? Even the prequel aspect of the film wasn’t gonna shake the faithful’s conviction that it “could be good.” But of course, we all know how that ended. Disappointed confusion, android frustration, and a ship’s captain that couldn’t figure out how to zigzag away from a falling space ship. The seriously mixed reviews meant only one thing for the future of the franchise: ANOTHER MOVIE.
For a long time, director Neill Blomkamp had his fingers in an Alien project, which would technically be number five, but his proposed film would be more like a direct sequel to 1986’s Aliens. It would follow what actually happened to Newt, Hicks, and Ripley right after the Hadley’s Hope incidents, and there is literally a metric ton of his early concept art around on the internet. Even Sigourney Weaver said the project was happening, that it was fantastic, and that Ridley was on board.
Originally, the plan was for Neill’s film to happen, and Ridley to do his sequel to Prometheus (at that time untitled, other than the press calling it Prometheus 2). Cut to just a few weeks ago, when Ridley picked up all his Nostromo toys and said “No, this is my universe and I’m staying in it,” much to the dismay of fans. He also has said he will not be handing over any part of the franchise again, in pretty much an “over my dead body” statement:
“I’m not handing over anything to anybody this time, dude. No way. I need to see it evolve in the right way.”
In an interview with BBC Radio 4, Ridley kind of went off the rails wrapped up in his own mythos. The first thing that jumps out is him saying, “I don’t do backstory,” even though, you know, two freaking prequels that attempt (IN HIS WORDS) to explain the who, what, why, and when of the Alien universe. Listening to it…is a thing. You, too, can hear it here:
“We’re diving into a universe about God. But it’s not about God, or Allah, or anything like that. Because I’m an agnostic, I believe there is SOMETHING out there, but I don’t think it’s a tall man with a big beard and a staff, that’s ridiculous. Sorry, I’m going to get struck by lightning or something. But I believe there is something, at least in this galaxy, along with maybe a few other entities that are out of the same evolution, maybe ahead of us. We could easily be neanderthals.”
It would also seem like over the past several projects, the general themes of God, man, the search for purpose, and creation continue to be main points that are touched on. None so much as Alien: Covenant (which I’ve seen, but won’t go into spoiler details on), which once again centers around things we’ve already seen in the franchise, and “covenant” of God, man, and android.
Example: God tells man, “I have created you, you have all the abilities I can give you, but creation is mine.” Man tells android, “I have created you, you have almost all the abilities I can give you, but creation is mine.” Then andriod tells BOTH of them to fuck off, and starts creating because he was told not to, so of course that means he should. The film doesn’t so much resemble a horror as it does a bad take on Frankenstein: Experiments, failures, and ultimately success.
Alien: Covenant already has seriously mixed reviews — some fans really enjoy it, others (like me) pine for the days of practical effects that made the xenomorphs and resulting bloodbaths REAL. As a fan of almost every film of Ridley’s (minus Exodus, because you can REALLY see the struggle to quantify the sudden loss of his brother Tony Scott in the film), I am slowly but surely doubting his motivations for continuing in the universe. Will this choice pay off? Only time and Prometheus 3/Covenant 2 will tell (which apparently is being written right now and will go into production in the next 18 months).
Ridley also says, on the subject of further films in the current prequel side of the Alien universe: “Like Star Wars, I’m going to open it up.”
Alien: Covenant opens worldwide on May 19th, while Blade Runner 2049 opens on October 6th.