Sunday, March 26, 2023

The Legacy of the Alien Franchise Continues with "Alien: Romulus" & "Aliens: Dark Descent"

 Exciting news for the Alien franchise fans.

With shooting having started back on March 9th, Director Fede Alvarez is currently in production on a new Alien movie, tentatively titled Alien: Romulus. The movie is set to feature young characters in peril, with the story taking place on a distant colony where a group of young people find themselves in a fight for their lives against the alien Xenomorph. While the previous Alien movies focused on adults in corporate, militaristic, and scientific roles, this ninth installment of the franchise will focus on young protagonists. The movie does not have any connection to previous Alien movies, except for the presence of the Xenomorph.

Alvarez's pitch for the new Alien movie made an impact on Ridley Scott, who is producing the movie. Apparently, Scott called Alvarez in 2021 and asked if he was still willing to make that Alien movie. The script for the movie was written by Alvarez and Rodo Sayagues, and sources say that it doesn't have any connection to the previous Alien movies, including the Scott prequels, the adventures of Ripley, or the Predator crossovers. However, the premise of the distant colony being struck with a Xenomorph problem sounds similar to what happened on LV-426 before Ripley and the Colonial Marines showed up in Aliens.

With this newest sequel/prequel being made in the Alien franchise universe, I thought I'd do a retrospective of the history of the movies, and some of the games that we've seen over the year. The intent isn't to mention every single book, movie or game though - for that, there's always the Alien Franchise Wiki video games page!

Alien (1979)

The Alien franchise is a beloved and enduring series of science fiction stories that have captivated audiences for over four decades. The universe created by Ridley Scott and his collaborators is rich and complex, featuring intricate world-building, compelling characters, and terrifying creatures. The franchise has expanded beyond its original movies to include novels, comic books, video games, and other media, each of which has added to the lore and mythology of the series.

The story of the Alien franchise begins with the first movie, simply titled Alien, which was released in 1979. Directed by Ridley Scott and written by Dan O'Bannon, the movie tells the story of the crew of the spaceship Nostromo, who are awakened from cryosleep to investigate a distress signal on a distant planet. There, they encounter a deadly extraterrestrial species that stalks and kills them one by one.

The movie's terrifying creature, known as the xenomorph, quickly became an iconic part of pop culture, and the franchise has continued to explore and expand on its biology and behavior throughout subsequent entries. 

Alien was praised for its claustrophobic atmosphere, innovative design, and strong performances, particularly by Sigourney Weaver as the protagonist Ellen Ripley. 

Aliens (1986)

The success of Alien led to a sequel, Aliens, which was released in 1986. Directed by James Cameron and written by Cameron and David Giler, the movie takes place several decades after the events of the first movie and sees Ripley teaming up with a group of space marines to investigate a colony on a distant planet that has been overrun by xenomorphs. The movie is notable for its intense action sequences, memorable characters, and exploration of the themes of motherhood and survival. Definitely the most action packed of all the Alien movies.

Alien 3 (1992)

The third movie in the franchise, Alien 3, was released in 1992 and directed by David Fincher, making his feature film debut. The movie takes place immediately after the events of Aliens and sees Ripley crash-landing on a prison planet that is home to an all-male population. There, she must once again face the threat of the xenomorphs while grappling with her own mortality. Alien 3 was praised for its somber tone, strong performances, and innovative visual effects. 

For the curious fan, there is also "Alien 3: The Unproduced Screenplay" written by William Gibson. It's a completely different take on the story that made it to the big screen, but one that is absolutely captivating. I highly recommend the Audible version, "Alien III: An Audible Original Drama" narrated by none other than Michael Biehn and Lance Henriksen reprising their iconic roles as Corporal Hicks and Bishop, from the 1986 film Aliens.

Alien Resurrection (1997)

However, the fourth movie in the franchise, Alien Resurrection, released in 1997, was widely criticized for its lack of tension, poor character development, and reliance on over-the-top action and humor. 

Directed by Jean-Pierre Jeunet and written by Joss Whedon, the movie takes place two centuries after the events of Alien 3 and sees Ripley being resurrected as a clone with mixed human-alien DNA. She teams up with a group of space mercenaries to fight against a new breed of xenomorphs that have been genetically engineered by the military for use as weapons.

Prometheus (2012)

The most recent entries in the Alien franchise are Prometheus and Alien Covenant. Released in 2012 and 2017 respectively, these movies were directed by Ridley Scott and explore the themes of creation, artificial intelligence, and unchecked ambition. Prometheus follows a team of scientists who travel to a distant planet to investigate ancient artifacts that they believe may hold the key to the origins of humanity, but instead, they encounter the dangerous and powerful race of Engineers, the alien race responsible for creating human life. 

And though the visuals and narrative were excellent, as well as some outstanding performance from the cast members, certain aspects of the movie, and some of the art direction taken fell short of my expectations.

Alien: Covenant (2017)

Meanwhile, Alien Covenant serves as a direct sequel to Prometheus and delves deeper into the origins of the xenomorphs. The movie also explores the nature of artificial intelligence and the dangers of unchecked scientific progress. Both Prometheus and Alien Covenant have received mixed reviews from audiences and critics, with some praising their ambitious storytelling and stunning visuals while others criticize their convoluted plots and underdeveloped characters. Despite adding new layers to the complex and fascinating universe of the Alien franchise Covenant, similarly to Prometheus, came short of my hopes for the story. In trying to explain the origins of the Xenomorph, and their lifecycle, the movie overly simplified things too much to my likings.

Alien: Dark Descent

Besides the movies, the Alien franchise has also inspired a number of video games, including Aliens: Dark Descent (in development), Aliens: Fireteam Elite, and Aliens: Colonial Marines. 

Aliens: Dark Descent game, of which we got more news in the recent days and a gorgeous gameplay trailer (see the video below), is an upcoming real-time tactical action game launching on June 20, 2023 on various platforms (PS5, PS4, Xbox Series X/S, Xbox ONE and PC). The player takes on the role of a squad commander with an isometric view of the field and can use a bullet-time feature to distribute commands. 

The story follows a Colonial Marines detachment investigating a Xenomorph outbreak on Planet Lethe. Permadeath is a feature, but it's hoped that save-scumming will also be available. Developed by Tindalos Interactive, the game will be available for PlayStation and Xbox consoles as well as PC.

Aliens: Dark Descent gameplay trailer

Overall, the Alien franchise is a fascinating and enduring series that has captured the imagination of audiences for over four decades. From its iconic creature design to its exploration of themes like motherhood, survival, and unchecked ambition, the franchise continues to inspire new generations of fans and creators alike, which is which I'm hopeful for more movies, series, and gaming content to see the day in the near future.

I hope this retrospective has provided a helpful overview of the history and evolution of the Alien franchise. With a new movie and a new game on the horizon, it will be exciting to see how it fits into the wider universe of the series and what new horrors and thrills it will bring.

Looks like we won't stop seeing Xenomorphs any time soon!

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