How The New Alien Movie by Fede Álvarez Can Succeed

We recently received a first look at the new Alien movie via a set photo. Directed by Fede Alvarez and produced by Ridley Scott, it will look to resuscitate the once proud franchise that saw both Scott and James Cameron deliver masterworks with Alien and Aliens, respectively. Ever since then, the franchise has struggled, and it’s easy to dismiss any attempt to revive it. However, I’m feeling hopeful about the direction Alvarez will go.

Fede Alvarez should keep it simple

I appreciate what Scott set out to do with Prometheus and Alien: Covenant. Rather than rehash the Alien formula, he opted to go deeper and explore the struggle between God and man, man and machine, as viewed through the eyes of the psychotic android David (Michael Fassbender). Visually, the pics were spectacular; narratively, they were scatterbrained and incredibly frustrating.

Scott never settled on a correct course, choosing to venture into myriad directions hoping that a proper path would magically appear. Instead, he maintained his grip on the past, producing a pair of films that too often felt like a weird hybrid of various ideas without a clear focus. Characters like Naomi Rapace’s Elizabeth Shaw appeared and vanished. At the same time, unique ideas involving the Xenomorph’s origins remained curiously underdeveloped — something about black goo?

The problem with Prometheus and Covenant is that they are far too complicated, neither delivering what audiences crave nor charting a course worth exploring. You could say the same about Alien 3 and Resurrection, which tried too hard to move the franchise into radical new directions.

My advice? Keep it simple.

Alien works because, at its core, the film is a slasher film set in space, peppered with a few exciting ideas — none of which are ever fully explained. Instead, the larger narrative — the Space Jockey, the derelict spacecraft, the Alien — remains a mystery, forcing us to fill in the gaps with our imaginations.

Similarly, James Cameron doesn’t veer too far off the beaten path with Aliens. He merely ups the stakes and deepens the characters, ensuring the film functions within Scott’s preconceived universe.

Fincher and Jean-Pierre Jeunet are too focused on leaving their imprint on the material. They don’t want to mimic Scott or Cameron and take unnecessary risks rather than building on or expanding what came before.

Give audiences what they want: alien mayhem on a larger scale mixed with a few new concepts that don’t veer too far from Alien or Aliens. Dozens of Alien books exist, and they all do the same thing: a group of space explorers encounter Xenomorphs and must fight to survive. Hell, the extraordinary Alien: Isolation video game works because it hews closely to Scott’s original vision. The fun is seeing how new characters react to these circumstances.

Don’t change the game, fellas. As seen by the recent success of Top Gun: Maverick, Avatar: The Way of Water, Creed III, John Wick: Chapter 4and The Super Mario Bros. movie, audiences aren’t asking for game changers. Stick with what worked, but do it better!

The new Alien movie should ditch Ripley

The Alien franchise remains oddly tied to Ellen Ripley, so it becomes more about how these strange creatures changed one woman’s life than their effect on the universe. Ripley is one of the great action heroes and a cultural icon, but enough is enough. She’s had her time in the vastness of space; let somebody else take over.

By somebody else, I mean somebody else. Not a Ripley clone. The cast for Alvarez’s film already has Cailee Spaeny in the lead role, while Noah Hawley’s TV series features Sydney Chandler. That’s fine, don’t make them riffs on Ellen Ripley or more extreme versions of the character — ie, rigid and take-charge individuals who talk down to others, are barely phased by intense circumstances, and can do everything better than anyone. Try something else. Remember, the characters make or break these movies.

We’ve seen Ripley in four films. Her daughter, an equally stubborn, independent warrior, appears in Alien: Isolation; Daniels, played by Katherine Waterston in Covenant, is Ripley 2.0, except without her complex idiosyncrasies.

Shaw works in Prometheus because her character makes mistakes and only partially understands the film’s events. She’s a survivor capable of performing a solo surgery on herself, but also a regular human, full of flaws, emotions, and conflict. Give us characters we can relate to, like the ragtag crew of the Nostromo or the bewildered Space Marines in Aliens, not just imitations of a beloved icon.

Raise the stakes

I’ve read countless interviews with Ridley Scott where he seems to begrudge the action-heavy direction Cameron took with Aliens. For Scott, Alien is sci-fi horror, not a shoot ’em adventure. Many will agree, but some, like me, want more pulse rifles and drop ships. Nearly 40 years have passed, and we have yet to see another version of the M56 Smart Gun on the big screen or a new depiction of the APC that actually fires its giant turrets.

I love Alien, but I want more Aliens. More Space Marines. More spaceships. More guns. More intense firefights.

There was a point in Covenant where I thought Scott would reveal that David had transformed Shaw into an Alien Queen. You can imagine my disappointment when that didn’t happen. We ended up with yet another iteration of the classic warrior Xeno.

Give us more Aliens, please. Cameron’s film is a tough act to follow, but guys, at least try to give audiences what they’ve wanted since 1986.

The new Alien movie should be scary

For all of Prometheus and Covenant’s production values, each picture lacked genuine scare — ditto with Alien 3, Resurrection, and AvP films. We’ve seen the Xeno too often for the creature to illicit genuine shock and awe. Still, a clever filmmaker could conjure an unsettling vibe similar to Alien and Aliens.

In that same vein, Alien: Isolation made the slimy creatures terrifying with the help of a terrific score, incredible production values, and an eerie atmosphere that greatly emphasized sound. We don’t need to see the monsters to find them scary. Not seeing them is the only way to make us sweat a little.

All that said, the following Alien chapters should set the bar in the horror genre. Even if the story is relatively rudimentary, audiences will walk away happy if they get a good shock or two.

We don’t need a shared universe

At some point, Hollywood must realize the shared universe concept doesn’t work. Outside of the MCU and (maybe) the Conjuring franchise, every attempt to branch out from a pre-established IP has failed. So stop trying, especially with Alien.

These new entries needn’t connect with Ripley, Hicks, or Bishop. A little reference here and there never harmed anyone, but for the love of God, don’t make any of the heroes the granddaughters or grandsons of past characters. I don’t need Carter Burke Jr. picking up where his dad left off or some post-credit scene that reveals how one of the cast is the nephew of former Gunnery Sergeant Apone.

Start fresh. Keep the fan service minimal, and craft your adventures for future films to copy. However, as stated above, I do want pulse rifles and APCs. So long as they make sense in the story. Also, feel free to use James Horner’s Aliens score or elements of Jerry Goldsmith’s Alien. Having some fan service in the new Alien movie will go a long way.