In Hollywood, the word "franchise" is the new goal for every single film made.
Well Hollywood, listen up, because today we're going to look at the honest PROBLEMS you've made with the Alien franchise, and then we're going to review SOLUTIONS to these problems, so you can make a profitable, intelligent, and worthy standalone Alien sequel.
Let the problems and solutions for the Alien franchise wash over you like syrup over hot pancakes.
1. Everyone loves the first two films and hates the rest.
Hollywood, this is what we call a downward trend in quality control. It's obvious that you've taken the series down the wrong path.
Get both Ridley Scott and James Cameron to do Alien 5.
Return to the formula and plot direction established in the first two good films (that people like). Since they both want to do Alien 5, secure Ridley Scott (director of the original Alien) as producer and co-writer, and get box office champ James Cameron to co-write and direct Alien 5.
2. You pissed off James Cameron.
In Hollywood, pissing off James Cameron is like pissing off the God of the Old Testament.
Budding director David Fincher directed Alien 3, which essentially ruined everything that was established in James Cameron's Aliens. While Fincher can hardly be blamed for the studio's fuck-ups with this film (there were multiple scripts and directors at any given time), the fact is they managed to kill off two of Cameron's main characters in the opening credits. 20th Century Fox managed to kill off EVERYBODY by the time the ending credits rolled.
James Cameron was (and still is) rightfully pissed off about this.
Let Cameron get his payback while cleaning up your mess.
By appointing James Cameron as director, you give him the opportunity to clean up the mess you've made of subsequent films. Cameron also has the opportunity get vengeance on the third (and subsequent) films. Cameron can essentially dismiss all the events of Alien 3, Alien Resurrection, and even the Alien vs. Predator films. How?
Here ya go:
An updated version of the Bobby Ewing trick is perfectly acceptable in this case. Write off Alien 3, Alien Resurrection and maybe even Alien vs. Predator as Ripley's stasis nightmares (because, let's face it: they were.) This trick is a lot more plausible than anything in Alien 3, Alien Resurrection, or AVP.
While the updated 'Dallas' trick still sounds cliched, remember that it was established in Cameron's Aliens that Ripley slept for something like 60 years. So upon returning to earth after the events in Aliens, Ripley was removed from the stasis tube. At this time you can introduce the idea of a rare but not unheard of coma induced from prolonged stasis.
Ripley's coma would have the added benefit of lasting 25-odd years (the time between 1986's Aliens and the hopeful Alien 5), and you'd wake her from the coma because they found a cure for it. Conveniently, the characters of Newt, Hicks and Ripley are all still alive and 25 years older.
Cameron and Scott can take it from here to explore many possibilities: the alien home world, an earth invasion of the aliens (ala 28 Days Later), a return to the derelict ship where the alien eggs were first found, and/or an exploration of the derelict ship's alien pilot species.
3. Alien 3 makes no sense. At all.
How did the eggs get on board the ship? We are left to speculate that the Bishop android brought them aboard somehow in Aliens, but this is never explored. Why does the alien hatch so quick on the dog/bull when Sigourney's queen takes the entire film to hatch?
Since we are dismissing the shitty films, Alien 3 effectively no longer exists in the storyline.
In Alien 5, you could even make fun of the plot inconsistencies in Alien 3 if Ripley explains her nightmares to, say, the now-rebuilt Bishop android.
But that makes no sense, Ripley. How would the eggs have gotten there?
4. Alien Resurrection (the 4th film) makes even less sense than Alien 3.
Screenwriter Joss Whedon's quack-science script put the BIGGEST nail in the coffin of the Alien franchise yet. His script literally makes ZERO sense.
Since we are dismissing the shitty films, Alien Resurrection effectively no longer exists in the storyline.
In Alien 5, you could even make fun of the plot inconsistencies in Alien Resurrection if Ripley explains her nightmares to, say, her doctor.
But that biology makes no sense, Ripley.
5. The Alien Vs. Predator films piss on the Alien timeline.
The Alien vs. Predator films are unloved abortions. They further ruin the Alien franchise by putting the aliens on earth prior to the events in the first Alien film. The reason to set it on present-day Earth? Most likely budget. The reason to have humans in these films at all? Most likely budget. The fans wanted to see aliens and predators fight, and got to see that - for about 5 minutes total in the first AVP. (Incidentally, I can save the Predator franchise for you too.)
Since we are dismissing the shitty films, the Alien Vs. Predator films effectively no longer exists in the storyline.
In Alien 5, you could even make fun of the plot inconsistencies in the Alien Vs. Predator films if Ripley explains her nightmares to, say, a competent historian.
But that makes no sense, Ripley. Humans and predators could not have interacted as explained. The earliest human ancestors lived about 6 million years ago. Antartica (positioned as we know it today) was formed about 25 million years ago.
6. Sigourney Weaver's judgment is questionable.
While she is a great actress, she liked the scripts for (and encouraged the making of) both Alien 3 and Alien Resurrection.
Give Sigourney no creative control.
Sigourney Weaver should just do what Scott and Cameron say instead of trying to lead plot direction, just like she did in the original Alien (arguably her best film performance ever).
7. Upgrading the Alien itself is a stupid idea.
You keep trying to improve upon and upgrade the Alien, as if this were some sort of substitute for a decent plot. Profits continued to drop.
Stop trying to upgrade the alien in lieu of plot.
Stop trying to improve on the Alien. It doesn't need improvement or upgrades. Work on a decent plot instead.
8. The unknown has become the familiar.
One of the most critical elements that makes both Alien and Aliens effective as horror and sci-fi films is the fact that they took place in foreign, completely unfamiliar environments. Alien took the viewer to the empty, lonely setting of deep space, as well as a completely foreign world, and explored the wrecked ship of another extraterrestrial species! All completely new, interesting settings. Aliens succeeded by creating a new environment on the world where the aliens were originally found, so that we could see the horrors of multiple aliens and a "nest" for the first time.
Now the shitty films. Alien 3 took us to a all-male penal colony, which is kind of interesting, but wholly unremarkable, since there was nothing really unknown about it. You had a single alien running around, as you'd already seen in the first film, and it seemed like a strip-downed ante, since you had hundreds of aliens in the second film.
Alien Resurrection took place on a space station, but again, there's nothing really unknown in that environment. It's a space station. The Alien Vs. Predator films take place on present-day Earth - which is as familiar as it can possibly be. I'll admit that the idea of the Aliens getting to Earth could have made a terrific premise. And it could have been a great, unknown environment since (a) it should have taken place in the future (not the present day), and (b) you'd see the entire human race wiped out in a matter of weeks.
9. Re-using the same plot.
All of the films follow the same basic plot: the one "big baddie" alien has to be dispensed of - be it out an airlock, out of an airlock, into a pot of molten steel, or out of the spaceship window - and it's tired.
Furthermore, Alien 3 tried to re-capture the single alien running around aspect of Alien, and Alien Resurrection tried to re-capture the tough guy marine / multiple alien approach of Aliens.
The films also make use of an android character - who just might be a "bad guy".
Solution (to both #8 & #9):
Do something entirely original.
As a teenager, I read an Alien comic where the company had made a synthetic, android alien that (like the standard androids of the series) was intelligent and could speak with humans. The android's purpose was to infiltrate alien infestations, and take them out from the inside. The real aliens simply ignored the android, who went about his business. Now, I don't know if this is a good idea - but it certainly is an original and interesting idea.
Ultimately, in all the films there were humans who were more evil than the Aliens, but they were always took a backseat to the Alien threat. It might be time to put them front and center. If these villains were evil enough to make the aliens look like a secondary threat - they would truly be some bad guys!
Okay Hollywood, there's your way out. You need to put me on payroll.
Now I will fix the Predator franchise for you. See my Predator 3 treatment.
Bonus: Aliens Vs Predator: Requiem
I haven't seen this film. I read the plot breakdown online, because I refuse to see it. 12% at RottenTomatoes. Hey, nice job, 20th Century Fox!
Here are some of the groundbreaking things you can look forward to seeing in Aliens Vs. Predator: Requiem: Children getting "facehugged" and "chestbursted" on screen. Pregnant women in a maternity ward getting "stomach bursted" on screen. I'm certainly no Pat Robertson, but I certainly wouldn't give this film a passing grade on the Miller test.
Here's the point: Remember how Alien and Aliens were scary films that were scary by virtue of intelligence and psychology? Well, the new goal of 20th Century Fox is to skip all that and make scary films as sick as possible. Period.
Also included in this installment: more "improvement" of the alien. This time around: it's an alien-predator hybrid, that for no explained reason at all, can "impregnate" people by biting them.
Even though Alien 3 and Alien Resurrection sucked, all of the standalone Alien films were directed by excellent directors. This one was made by first-time film directors. For Alien vs. Predator 3, they will probably just get somebody who has filmed a couple YouTube videos to direct it.
Extra Special Bonus: On Prometheus (2012):
In creating Prometheus, Ridley Scott has essentially made Alien 5. Scott's way out of the trappings of the Alien franchise (listed below in the original article) was to sidestep the Alien itself.
Prometheus is an okay film. Film critic Jeffery Lyles put it best in his review: "Scott never manages to reach that next gear to really make it special." And that's about right.
They did get a lot of it right. Visually, it's a great film through and through: the set, prop and creature design. Fassbender's David. These elements alone make the film worth seeing.
But they did also got a lot wrong. The dialog is very hamfisted and forced. They try very hard to force a religious angle on the whole thing that never quite gels. Character behaviors are contradictory to their nature (the survey group's navigator gets inexplicably lost; the group's biologist is terrified of the creatures, then all of a sudden fearless of them). They chose to put Guy Pearce in heavy old man make-up rather than just cast Christopher Plummer.
Also, the biology here requires you to take it with a grain of salt the size of a boulder: Evidently the recipe for creating a traditional Alien from scratch is to (1) infect a human with a drop of black goo, (2) have the infected man have sex with his girlfriend, such that (3) the resulting "baby" will be some sort of gigantic facehugger/octopus creature, which (4) has to mouth-rape an Engineer in order to (5) have a full sized Alien pop out of the Engineer's carcass.
The black goo can also evolve earthworms into mouth raping-snakes in a matter of hours, and turn crew members into angry zombies.
I guess you're just supposed to accept that the black goo is a biological weapon designed to give rise to creatures that (for whatever reason) like to kill stuff, just because.
This brings us the biggest problem with the movie: This film has less of a self-contained core story, and more unsanswered questions. I imagine this is where writer Damon Lindelof had an effect on the script. Despite all the public excuses Lindelof made, he did this exact same shit on "Lost" for 6 seasons.
Why did the Engineers bother creating us, if they only want to destroy us? Why were cave drawings left behind showing how to get to the Engineer's weapons testing grounds? Why did Weyland have David infect Holloway? Very little in the primary narrative gets answered or resolved - it's just a series of events happening.
Finally, if you're going to have a movie that sidesteps the Alien franchise, why bring the Alien into it at all? For me, the film ended better with Shaw and David flying off in the Engineer ship. The Alien birthing from the Engineer carcass actually seemed somewhat unecessary.