Ridley Scott and “Alien” Prequel

Director Ridley Scott talked to MTV about his plans for an Alien prequel that will explain the space jockey. As Scott puts it, “Who the hell was that Space Jockey?’ The guy who was sitting in the chair in the alien vehicle — there was a giant fellow sitting in a seat on what looked to be either a piece of technology or an astronomer’s chair. Remember that?”

I read that as somewhat sarcastic, especially when Scott goes on to say, “They’ve squeezed the franchise dry. The first one will always be the most frightening, because the beast we put together with Giger and all its parts — the face-hugger, the chest-burster, the egg — they were all totally original, and that’s hard to follow.”

He’s right, of course. None of the movies that followed Alien gave us much of anything new. All Cameron did with Aliens is base his movie on action-adventure rather than horror/SF. The third and fourth added absolutely zero to our sense of the world the aliens came from, or anything about the space jockey. I mean, there is a whole alien civilization out there that pilots space ships and leaves a huge freakin’ skeleton behind, and apparently was deliberately transporting alien eggs.

You’d think that by now we would’ve gotten some new data on all of that, in the movies. Instead, we’ve gotten riffs on the same movie, over and over. And don’t get me started on the Alien vs Predator movies. (And, yeah, there are some base similarities between my Predator novel and the new Predator movie, but I’m fairly certain the movie will be much, much stupider.)

So I think I’m actually looking forward to this prequel. The thing about Alien is, yes, it was horrific. Yes, it was a haunted house movie in a sense. But it also gave us a glimmer of a sense of wonder. One of the best scenes in any SF movie is the one in which they first encounter the space jockey. It’s fundamentally about what we love about SF, and especially about subgenres like space opera…and then they didn’t follow through.

Comments

  1. says

    Yeah, that interview really sparked my interest. And he’s hoping to get new Giger designs? That alone would justify the movie.

  2. says

    Interesting points and thoughts. A couple of musings:

    * I don’t think I understood, when I first saw the first movie, that the space jockey was a victim of the Aliens rather than being somehow related to them. (But then, I thought storm troopers were robots, so what did I know?)

    * On the one hand, yeah, encountering the space jockey is neat, and you’re right that they didn’t follow through. On the other hand, I often like it when there’s background worldbuilding that doesn’t get explained and described and foregrounded; it can add to the sense of richness and depth of worldbuilding. (Example off top of head: “the war” that all the characters refer to in Neuromancer. We didn’t need to see a detailed history of the war, with battle plans–or even to know exactly who fought who–for it to help make the world of the book feel more real.)

  3. says

    P.S.: The new movie is apparently currently called “Untitled ‘Alien’ Prequel.” I’d think the obvious title would be Alie.

    (I’m still disappointed that the third movie didn’t turn out to be called either _Aliens’_ or _Alienses_.)

  4. says

    Jed–yeah, I agree about unexplored vistas. In this case the space jockey just, for me, symbolizes all the lost opportunities in the subsequent movies.

  5. says

    It’s interesting to see the paths of sequels—what they decide to develop or not develop or that they can forget to put in something new in each movie. You’d think after all the franchises we’d remember that piece of advice when making movies…but then someone comes in (this is how I imagine it) from marketing or somewhere else as crazy and talks about what the movies were “really” about: car chases, explosions, visual effects and audiences “these days” and so we get the sequel with more of those, and directors don’t have to hire good writers because all the tedious “set-up” is done with.

    But that set-up is what makes a movie memorable instead of just an exciting experience. Oh, X-men, where have you gone? Oh Spiderman? Superman? Alien? Jurassic Park? Friday on Elm Street?

    I’m hoping, hoping that a) Batman doesn’t ruin itself with multiple villains and more-more-more of explosions, visual effects, and that b) Shrek’s found the magic again by re-imagining the universe, and that c) Ridley Scott is reading Ecstatic Days for the sake of the un-named, unborn prequel.

  6. Daemon says

    An Alien prequel actually sounds rather dubious to me. A weaver-less sequel that either covers entirely new ground for the series would likely be better. Xenomorphs getting loose on an Earth – like Aliens 3 was supposed to be – would probably please the survival-horror fans.

    Regarding the Space Jockey… It’s been ages since I’ve seen the movie, but I don’t really remember there being any sign of intentional transport by the space jockey, rather than unintention infection…

    As long as there is no more AvP garbage, I shall be happy.

  7. Jeff VanderMeer says

    I prefer to think of it as intentional transport. I sure hope so! That’s more interesting.

    A weaver-less sequel would no doubt just be another action flick. Bleh.

  8. says

    I’m with you, Jeff. I took the energy field (or whatever that was) containing the eggs to be a sign of intentional transport — the aliens were dangerous cargo and the space jockey was a freighter crewthing, just like the crew of the Nostromo were.

    For all that I’m wary of the space jockey losing his mystique (and I am), I’m also intrigued by the notion of Ridley returning to that universe. What will he do to make a prequel to the ’70s-style tech of ALIEN, I wonder? I’m fascinated by that design challenge: figure out what the tech level is between our contemporary era and the future that’s between us and ALIEN.

    Anyway, I’m comfortable, by now, with the cognitive dissonance of appreciating and dislocating sequels for what they are. (I’m a sucker for the sheer dry British-style dystopian hell of ALIEN 3, for example, but it’s a lousy sequel.) So hopefully I’ll be able to enjoy Ridley Scott’s space jockey film even if it doesn’t really work somehow.

  9. says

    In the Dark Horse graphic novel Aliens (back when Dark Horse was indie, and the art in the book was completely inconsistent- one character looked different in each panel) they approached the space jockey…and they did some interesting stuff with it.

    Newt survives the end of the movie Aliens in the graphic novel (unlike the third movie) and she returns to an earth that is obsessed with them…including a religious cult that worships them and considers themselves chosen to be impregnated with their gods. The scene were she meets the space jockey is chilling…he psychically connects with her and shows her the history of his people. I remember the scene because it was so wild and so weird.

  10. says

    It’s been quite some time since I last saw the Alien sequels, but I must admit I really liked all of them. The often criticized fourth movie is probably my favourite, with it’s surreal, dreamlike feel. I also like how each movie basically is in a different SF subgenre; 1: horror, 2: action, 3: ‘thriller’, 4: surreal/weird. I’m looking forward to the prequel, especially since it’s Scott that’s directing.

  11. says

    Aliens, I’ll confess, has always been my favourite. It’s the first one I saw when I was barely in double-digits, it’s the one I grew up with… But I can see the first one is a better film. My mother told me this story where she was watching it on TV, doing the ironing. When the alien started bursting out of John Hurt’s chest, she just stared at the TV, only snapped out of it by the smell of burning shirts.

    Wikipedia has some interesting tid-bits about the Jockey. Most notably: “Scott suggests in his Alien DVD commentary that the Jockey’s ship was a “bomber”: alien eggs could be dropped on an enemy planet, and the aliens would proceed to kill the population as they spawned.” (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Space_Jockey_%28Alien%29). Raises the question of who’s being bombed, and why.

    But why revist a now-bled-dry franchise? Why not take the core idea, get Geiger on board, and go somewhere else with it? I guess I’m just jaded after a decade of ‘reimaginings’, ‘reboots’, comic book films and film from eighties TV shows…

  12. Matt says

    Well, I have nothing much against any of the movies (except perhaps the fourth which seems shallow and MTV-lighthearted in my memory), but it’s good to see that Scott apparently has ideas how to make another movie worthwile.

  13. Ben J says

    Hi there,

    I saw Alien when I just past 11, when it was originally released in Australia in December 1979. I was always intrigued by the space jockey when I was a kid, but I’m not so sure now that I want to be filled in – my imaginings were always better (particularly a dream I had a few years later). As an aside back when I was a teenager I had Alan Dean Foster’s Alien novelisation – back then I never quite understood why it had the Ripley discovers cocooned Dallas scene – I’m a bit wiser these days. I used to be an avid movie watcher as a child, a teenager and a young adult. Now I’d rather read books and watch a handful of TV shows.

    IMHO the extended version of Aliens is better than it’s theatrical release. I’ve never watched the 3rd one all of the way through – I hated the end of “The Game” and “Fight Club” left me cold so I don’t have much time for David Fincher. The 4th one is well – it is what it is – a buddy movie gone a bit twisted. The monster mashes I’ve never bothered with.

    I’d be tempted to see the prequel with the following three provisos – 1) There is absolutely no CGI involved in the effects work (this also applies to “The Thing” prequel), 2) I totally steer myself away from any websites that leak, speculate on and/or spoil the prequel, 3) I don’t watch any trailers or pre-release footage.

    I’m with Dylan Fox – I’m way past over strip mining the 80’s for remakes. I can understand the financial reasons Hollywood goes for properties with in built audiences. Also IMHO it’s only been in the past decade that visual effects have been able to effectively do super hero movies. I’ve always vowed to myself that Hollywood would be dead to me if they ever dared remake any of the John Hughes oeuvre – once Hollywood runs out of ’80’s slasher flicks to re-imagine, “16 Candles” and “Ferris Bueller’s Day Out” surely have to be in Hollywood’s radar.

    Cheers,

    Ben J

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