What Needs to Happen for an Alien Prequel — In 3D, no Less — to Actually be Good

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It stands to reason that Alien, directed by Ridley Scott, is an icon in sci-fi — and horror — filmmaking. This isn’t your everyday, run-of-the-mill hyperbole; released in 1979, with Star Wars’ popularity only growing, it broke some serious ground and put Scott on the map. What it did, it did very well, from the slow, breathtaking shots in the darkness of space, to the singularly original design of H.R. Giger‘s Alien itself. I’d bet money that even those who never saw the film have heard the tagline, “In space, no one can hear you scream.”

And its influence can still be felt today. Although Scott wouldn’t stay on for the film’s three sequels (No one is counting the Alien vs. Predator series), Sigourney Weaver did, turning the protagonist Ellen Ripley into an archetypal sci-fi heroine. In 2002, it was inducted into the National Film Registry of the Library of Congress. And gaming owes a major debt to it, especially when you consider Samus Aran of Metroid fame.

So to hear that Ridley Scott is working on two Alien prequels — and in 3D no less — made me both a little excited and a little anxious. I mean, Alien has stood the test of time in a way that few films have. Even its sequels. And, while Scott’s latest projects and status as an auteur are nothing to sneeze at, to venture back so far and touch on something so iconic makes me a little wary.

Scott, in his interviews with Collider and MTV, made a few things clear with the direction he and his team are taking with this project. It is definitely getting done, and done in a way that will bring something new to the table in the series’ history. However, I have a just a few suggestions for how to go about making a fan-worthy entry to the series.

  • Do Not give into the conceits of filming in 3D

James Cameron has certainly changed cinema with Avatar, and 3D as a result — for better or for worse — become a technology that filmmakers (and the studios that back them) are willing to invest in as a part of storytelling. It should also be noted that Cameron directed Aliens, the sequel to the original, and if you haven’t seen it, go see it. It’s very good. However, Aliens is inherently a different film, showcasing faster storytelling and more action setpieces. That said, this project should not give into making faster thrills or throw aliens at the screen for the sake of 3D being there. One of the things that the original did so well was create a moody, dark atmosphere that scared you. Not so much the teeth and claws. Filming in three dimensions can do that very well. I hope.

  • Explore what the Aliens, A.K.A. Xenomorphs, are without rehashing old ideas

Scott has said that the Alien design has gotten tired, and that he is working with H.R. Giger on creating something new for the series. I couldn’t agree with this more. Thanks in part to Alien vs. Predator, the image of the Alien has been watered down in the public consciousness. Exploring the otherness of the creature ought to include exploring it’s world, set against the backdrop of a real human presence that is interested in it for something.

  • Create compelling characters without recreating Ripley

This is a big one, though it may be tricky to navigate. While interviewed, Scott let on that the creation of Ripley’s character was almost a happy accident. “Why don’t we make it a woman?” he says. That’s all very well and good. He has also entertained the idea of making this series’ protagonist a woman. Fine. Just don’t make her a Ripley clone. Ripley earned her place deservedly. Leave it at that. Creating a lead character with an increased media focus on him I can imagine being tough, but on this one I’m going to wait and see.

For now, watch the original trailer below: It effectively captured the mood of the film.

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