The plot-obstacles to an Alien prequel

The plot-obstacles to an Alien prequel

We wonder if there's any latitude to squeeze the human element into the new Alien project...

Last week it looked like we had the director for a new Alien prequel pegged, but news from Comingsoon.net now says otherwise. Carl Erik Rinsch may be out, as Fox, the studio that'll be making the film, really only want to see the project go ahead if Ridley Scott is at the helm.

Which we guess is a good thing, but still, this kind of wrangling doesn't often end well. But what really worries us is just how the writers are planning to get around some certain 'issues' thanks to the setup of Ridley's last effort on the franchise.

In fact, Alien fans who are familiar with the excellent documentaries on the Quadrilogy edition - and the various commentaries on the films - will have heard a lot of excited speculation and flights-of-fancy about a prequel, from the likes of concept artist Ron Cobb, Sigourney Weaver, Ridley Scott, prosthetic effects chief Tom Woodruff, producers David Giler and Walter Hill, and numerous other franchise luminaries.

Much of the talk has been about how a prequel could take us to the aliens' home world - but there's been confusion as to which culture was being referred to...

The Space Jockey
In Alien two extra-terrestrial cultures are depicted: the insect-like xenomorphs and the technologically advanced race of whom the only remnant example is the 'space jockey'.

The space-jockey himself was derived from a production sketch that Ridley Scott took a shine to, but proved to be one of many set-requests initially nixed by the line producer and the roving team of paranoid and penny-pinching executives that plagued Pinewood during the movie's production (the set was later offered to Scott as a fait accomplis for the great footage he was turning out).

The space-jockey embodies H.R. Giger's favourite themes: death, sex and disgust, with bones becoming melded to technology. He seems to be some sort of gunner or telescope operator - yet in the production sketch the projecting tube is pointing only at what appears to be light in a curved wall, with no means either of firing out or of viewing the stars. If it is a window, it has as narrow an aperture as any archer had to contend with in medieval times.

In addition, the fuselage of the 'cannon' is not only phallic but directing out from the space-jockey's hip area; we seem to come across the huge creature in a Pompeii-like moment of lonely sexual activity, frozen by the advent of the xenomorph that has burst out of its chest. It's a poetic image, and it might take a bit of a plot-hack to give it a practical slant.

The problem with sequels is that they have to make sense of stuff which was thrown into the originals that spawned them mostly by dint of being 'cool' or intriguing. Thus Neo's powers of flight, which made such a cool end to the original The Matrix had to be embarrassingly persistent in the sequels; and Michael J. Fox's girlfriend being immediately 'knocked out' by Doc Brown at the start of Back To The Future Part II; and even the walk-on parts in the original Tremors getting their own Tremors sequel.

You kind of have to project backwards and force it to make sense post facto. This might be problematic for an Alien prequel for many reasons...

Not least the space-jockey himself. He is patently part of a machine, and the machine is patently part of the (now derelict) spaceship. Was he bred for the purpose by his race? Or will the prequel show him ambulatory and getting into the 'empty' telescope/cannon and a whole lot of CGI cyber-bones wrapping round him, like Tony Stark's Iron Man suit?

That would solve a problem, but it's hokey and the design of the original space-jockey doesn't support it. The space-jockey is growing out of the chair. That's an insane idea from Giger's bizarre and brilliant imagination, but it might take a young David Lynch to make the concept workable in an Alien prequel. I can't say I envy Carl Rinch, or whomever takes the helm, the task.

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