For the last four years, few films have been as talked about as Neill Blomkamp’s Alien 5. Taking place after James Cameron’s Aliens, Blomkamp’s project told of an alternate fate for Ellen Ripley where Hicks and Newt were still alive and the three of them would face off against Ripley’s extraterrestrial foe one final time. Shortly before the release of Alien: Covenant, however, the film apparently fell apart. Many rumors and misconceptions plagued the internet during this time, from the film’s focus, to who originally conceived the idea, even to why it ended. How much validity do these rumors hold?
IS NEWT THE FOCUS?
As pre-production began, many online journalists speculated on just what the story would be. Everyone knew that Hicks was coming back due to several pieces of concept art, so many went to actor Michael Biehn for answers.
In one interview, Biehn seemed to provide a clue, many venues running the story that the film would be centered around Newt. He was quoted as saying the story would be about Ripley passing the torch to her younger co-star, supposedly hinted that Jennifer Lawrence was being considered to play the part.
The internet was suddenly abuzz with articles about Newt becoming the new series protagonist. These posts however were misleading, Biehn’s quote from the interview not nearly as definitive.
I don’t know when it’s going to happen but I know it’s going to happen and I know I’m going to be in it and there’s going to be a new Newt, she’s going to be about 26 or 27 and looks a lot like Jennifer Lawrence to me but I don’t know.
When the articles were released, Biehn took to his Facebook page to set the record straight, stating he was unaware of any plot details and that he’d been misquoted.
Speculations on the film’s plot proved to be just that. As is often the case, Biehn’s quote was taken out of context and exploited for click bait, which is unfortunate as this rumor still persists years later. It is however not true. A Newt centered story was never confirmed.
WAS ‘ALIENS’ THE PRIMARY INFLUENCE?
Another thing fans speculated on wast just where Blomkamp would draw inspiration from for his take on Alien. Many assumed, based on both the concept art and a few snippets from interviews that James Cameron’s sequel was going to be the main focus.
It made sense. Blomkamp was going to pick up right after Cameron’s famous white-knuckler, and even reunited all the principal characters. While the film was in pre-production, Blomkamp also showed off an updated version of the famous Pulse Rifle used by the cast of Aliens, further fueling this idea. But how accurate were these assumptions? The Pulse Rifle appeared in Alien 3, and that could hardly be called a repeat of the second film. While he did adapt some recognizable iconography from the first sequel, Blomkamp’s primary inspiration actually seemed to have come from a more recent source.
After Alien: Isolation’s release, many fans were blown away by its nail biting tension and breathtaking design. Blomkamp was one of them. While speaking with IGN, Blomkamp discussed the recent title, praising its design and story as a welcome return to form for the series.
When I saw the images, I was like ‘Shit, it can’t be that good,’ and then I played it and it was like, to me, it was that good.
In that same interview, Blomkamp talked about how Isolation influenced his project, all while mentioning little of the Cameron film. He praised the level design and use of retro technology from the first two films, things he wanted to integrate into his own entry.
It raises an interesting design question for me, which is that when Alien was made, that was cutting edge. MU-TH-THUR was cutting edge. A green CRT monochromatic monitor was cutting edge. Aliens, the director’s cut with reel two re-inserted when you’re on the colony planet, and he’s getting printouts with dot matrix paper with holes down the side, on that planet in that future, that was cutting edge. (Alien: Isolation) got it so perfect with the late 70s early 80s tech.
The influence of Isolation is especially evident in his concept art. Much of the work steered away from the vast set pieces people expected. Instead, the artwork was drawn in a more sci-fi/gothic style that recalled both the original film and the acclaimed 2014 game.
Blomkamp went on to call Alien: Isolation his favorite entry in the series, film or otherwise. In spite of first appearances, it is very clear that this critically acclaimed game was Blomkamp’s main influence, welcome news that unfortunately didn’t reach many fans.
WHO THOUGHT OF THE RETCON?
Perhaps the most persistent assumption about Alien 5 is that it was Blomkamp’s idea to retcon Alien 3. This proved the most divisive aspect of the project as Alien 3 has gone through something of a reappraisal in the last few years, many now considering it an overlooked classic. Quality of Alien 3 aside, the idea to retcon it didn’t come from Blomkamp. It came from Sigourney Weaver herself.
While on the set of Chappie, Blomkamp began showing Sigourney Weaver his story concept. At this stage, it had nothing to do with Ripley, instead of following a new character in the events immediatly after Alien 3. Intrigued by this idea, Sigourney Weaver herself started leading the conversation in a whole knew direction. What if Alien 3 didn’t happen? Blomkamp elaborated on this in an interview with Funhaus.
So I had this idea for a story set in the world of those two first films that was not a continuation of James Cameron’s. It was just in the world of it and it had a totally different character that was the lead character. My assumption was that Sigourney would just never make another one and I told her about it on Chappie and she was like “No, no, no! I actually would make another one because I felt like Ripley’s story didn’t end correctly.” I was like “oh, okay. That’s amazing!
In spite of statements to the contrary, it was Weaver herself that desired to see an alternate ending for the Ripley character. One of the main reasons she wanted to go back was she found the idea of continuing after Alien: Resurrection off putting, in particular setting it on Earth.
I had not wanted to do a fifth one. I didn’t want to go to Earth. I thought going to Earth was a little boring.
Her passion for the Blomkamp project was most clear during an interview with Jonathan Ross. When he pressed her which film in the series was her favorite, she replied.
If Neill Blomkamp does the last one, I’ll like that one the best.
This final rumor is where things get a little more tricky. Fox would later abandon Alien 5 in favor of Ridley Scott’s Alien: Covenant, the follow up to his 2012 Alien prequel, Prometheus. While promoting Covenant, Ridley Scott claimed Fox decided to not go through with the project since Blomkamp hadn’t finished a script, claiming he’d only finished a ten page treatment.
There are several discrepancies with this story. Both Weaver and Aliens director James Cameron said they’d read the script. They both spoke about the script at the 30th Anniversary Panel for Aliens at San Diego Comic-Con. Cameron referred to the script as ‘gangbusters in space.’ Weaver herself called the script ‘incredible’ when answering a fan’s inquiry.
That whole first day we started just talking about it, and four months later I got a script that was so amazing and gives the fans everything they are looking for, plus innovates in a lot of ways with things that just immediatly for me became part of the world.
This leads to an uncomfortable revelation. Somebody here is not telling the truth. The question is who. In his interview with Funhaus, Blomkamp stated that Fox was apparently interested in the project after the hype it generated online, and that it was only after Ridley came on board as producer that things collapsed.
We put together essentially a script and all the artwork and that’s what I went to 20th Century Fox with. They seemed really into it and Ridley came on as producer and then it just unraveled. Everything that happened with my script and with the way the film collapsed – it’s hard to talk about it without it seeming like I’m bashing him which is like one of my idols to get into film.
So, why did Alien 5 end? It’s hard to say. Fox, perhaps hesitant about spreading resources between two similar projects, may have simply decided to go with a more established director, Ridley attempting damage control without getting his facts straight. Given Blomkamp’s interviews, there’s plenty of room to speculate about what went on behind the scenes, and we may never get a definite answer. In spite of Scott’s claims however, there apparently was a script. If Sigourney Weaver is to be taken at her word, it was apparently very special.
Blomkamp’s project has proved as fascinating as it has been divisive, with many rumors surrounding it still persisting since it went on hiatus. Blomkamp has continued to partner up with Sigourney Weaver for his shorts at Oats Studios, which have been praised for their imagination and ingenuity. He has said Alien 5 is dead. Ridley Scott himself has left the Alien series to work on other projects. Times are strange for Alien, and Disney acquiring the rights, along with the lukewarm reception of Covenant, leave many to wonder what, if anything, the future holds.
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