This week Neil Calloway is wary of Neill Blomkamp’s Alien film…
When Neill Blomkamp released some of the artwork for his proposed Alien film, I was impressed – concept art for science fiction films is often better than the films themselves – and mentally filed it in my “great unmade films” drawer. It sat there alongside the Gladiator sequel scripted by Nick Cave, in which Russell Crowe’s character is resurrected and fights in various battles throughout history, Return of the Jedi directed by David Lynch (he was offered it, and turned it down because he did not want to helm a science fiction film where he was not in control of the material; ironically his next film would be an adaptation of Frank Herbert’s Dune. I cannot imagine what Lynch’s version of Jabba’s Palace would look like) and the unmade Jurassic Park sequel that featured dinosaurs, obviously, but with guns.
So, when it turned out that Blomkamp would actually be making the film, I was slightly torn. The best reaction to the news came from Flickering Myth’s own Oli Davis, who said his chest was bursting with excitement. You cannot improve on that, and while I’m excited, I’m also a little wary. It looks good on paper, but as they say about football, they don’t play on paper, they play on grass. It looks good when you read about it on twitter, but they don’t make movies on twitter, they make them on celluloid (they haven’t made films on celluloid for decades – it’s too unstable – but you get my point). On paper, Tim Burton directing a reimagining of Planet of the Apes looks good, but the film is a different story.
For twenty years the best unmade films were Episodes 1-3 of the Star Wars saga. The original films, especially the first, mention things that are like tantalising glimpses of the world before the Empire; the Clone Wars, Luke’s father being the best pilot in the Outer Rim territories, the Jedi being the ones that brought peace and justice to the galaxy for a thousand generations. Then, with the prequels, all that had to be true, and we saw a version of it that was not as good as the films we’d all created in our heads.
I feel the same way about Blomkamp’s Alien film; if it lives up to the possibilities, it’ll be great, but then a third Alien movie shot by this cool young music video director sounds great too. The reality – not Fincher’s fault, I know – was less than great.
Of course, the sound of the name behind Piranha Part 2: The Spawning directing an action film sequel to Ridley Scott’s original Alien film, featuring US Marines sounds pretty bad, but now I actually prefer James Cameron’s Aliens to Alien. “I say we take off and nuke the site from orbit. It’s the only way to be sure” is probably the line from a film I use most often in my everyday life. For the record, the second is “I have a head for business and a bod for sin” from Working Girl. I only quote Sigourney Weaver films from the 80s.
The opposite is also true; nothing sounds better than Ridley Scott directing a prequel to Alien. In the end, for me at least, Prometheus was a disappointment.
I’m similarly wary about the proposed stand alone Star Wars films; I don’t want to know Han Solo’s origin story. He’s cool because he’s a rogue we don’t know much about where he’s from or how he ended up with a walking carpet as his sidekick. Having his back story explained will erode some of the mystique that surrounds the character.
I can see the appeal of such films from the studios; by using existing characters you can save a fortune on marketing because we’ll all geek out with excitement when the trailers are released and we already know, more or less, what to expect. I can see why fans are excited; we’re going to see more from characters we love. Sometimes though, less is more. My chest is bursting with excitement, but my head is trying not to get carried away.
Neil Calloway is a pub quiz extraordinaire and Top Gun obsessive. Check back here every Sunday for future installments.