Part One: Eulogy for the Star Beast
For all we know, Ridley Scott’s upcoming Prometheus may or may not be a direct prequel to Alien. At best, we know that the film uses the latter film’s established mythology to a heavy degree, though, whether or not it directly segues into Alien lore is a heavily suspect topic that remains to be settled on opening day.
IMDB (that vast, all-knowing, all-reliable, user-supported website) has rumblings of ditching the Xenomorph species of the series in favor of creatures that are “reverse engineered Xenomorphs,” a sort of “Xenomorph ancestor/parent” in an original story that, according to Scott himself, shares “strands of Alien’s DNA, so to speak.”
For all but the most anal of Alien sticklers, Prometheus is poised to be the most promising spin-off of the franchise since James Cameron’s Aliens. After three decades of wowing audiences with gooey, acid spitting, chest-bursting shenanigans, fighting power loaders, prisoners, and Predators, it appears as if the Xenomorph is being retired from its own cinematic universe.
Alien am cry.
Taking front and center is the Space Jockey, an affectionately named, more evolved humanoid species whose world was only glimpsed at in the ruins of Alien’s derelict space craft. These mysterious entities, briefly seen webbed and fossilized to a mammoth laser cannon (presumably) with a chestburster-size hole in its stomach and homing beacon strapped to its head, have captured the imagination of Alien fans since the film’s premiere.
Who are they? What are they? Did they create the Xenormorphs, or were they just victims to some sort of a hive outbreak? What the hell is that cannon chair thing (please tell me it shoots something awesome and highly destructive) it’s strapped to? And how did the ship crash land on barren planet LV-426?
Please, God, shoot something.
With an amazingly eclectic, international cast (Noomi Rapace, Charlize Theron, Michael Fassbender, and Idris Elba, among others) and a hush-hush script by screenwriters Damon Lindelof (LOST) and Jon Spaihts (The Darkest Hour) locked down, Prometheus is set to be the movie event of the summer (um, that doesn’t involve superheroes, anyway).
Aliens Vs. Lisbeth Salander, Magneto, and… um, that other guy.
But what of our good friend, the Xenormorph? Sure, he’s got a highly anticipated first-person shooter on the horizon (Aliens: Colonial Marines) and an ongoing comic at Dark Horse, not to mention an enormous merchandising empire and two different franchises to fall back on. The creature is not exactly hurting in terms of pop-culture relevance, yet I can’t help but feel a pang of regret that he’s being left out of his own franchise spin-off. I know it’s foolish, but, like a doting parent, there is a deep sense of regret in not seeing my child included in the other kids’ game, especially when the entire concept was built around him or her in the first place.
Do you really want to leave one of her kids out of your movie?
Hell, Prometheus started out as a straight-up Alien movie! Why should the Xenomorphs be left out just because the concept has been reduced and trivialized by a slew of dubious sequels (no, not you Aliens — you’re still perfect) and ill-advised (if well-intentioned) crossovers?
You’re trying to say this isn’t well-intentioned?
Wait, what am I saying?
The Xenomorphs haven’t been reduced and trivialized at all. They’re franchise has rescinded in quality, but there is nary a movie monster around that has survived as much as the Alien in terms of box-office, fan backlash, and over-exposure and still remained as thoroughly terrifying as it was 30 years ago. It is, after all, the perfect species, one whose structural perfection is matched only by its hostility (Ian Holm’s words, not mine). It moves unpredictably, acts socially, breeds quickly, and looks like a sexual nightmare brought to slick black life. We’ve followed this monster into theaters six different times for one good reason — IT FUCKING TERRIFIES US.
The Alien hasn’t gotten stale, the ideas surrounding the franchise have. The creature is still relevant, still iconic, and worthy of celebration for movie fans all over the world. Perhaps the thoughtfulness and craft of Prometheus will give the Alien franchise the much-needed kick in the ass it deserves, indirect though it may be, motivating 20th Century Fox, Walter Hill, and all of the other muckety-muck gatekeepers of the Alien franchise to step up their game and put the Xenomorphs in a film that engages and enlightens as much as it chills and thrills.
This did neither.
Until then, Yell! Magazine is going to give the Xenomorph the respect it deserves in a series of articles tracing its gooey colonization of pop culture and total domination of the science fiction, action, and horror movie genres. Our journey will explore the films and writing that inspired the Alien franchise, analyze the aftershock of rip-offs and homages it birthed, geek out over Aliens: Colonial Marines and the games that came before it and, above all, remember why this star beast and its bastard celluloid children mean so much to us in the first place.
On Earth, everyone will hear us scream.