Aliens ranks highly among both the best and worst things for movie sequels. The good is what you’ll already know, whether you’ve seen the movie or not: Aliens is a great sequel because it’s really quite different to its predecessor. The bad is what only occurred to me as I considered what came after it: James Cameron put the idea in the heads of Ridley Scott et al. that this was a world that needed to be exhaustively explored.
Alien: Covenant is in cinemas at the moment. I’ve not seen it. I’ve sort of developed this sturdiness over the last eighteen months, where I won’t go and see a bad franchise movie (DC only has itself to blame). So instead, for context, let’s talk about Prometheus.
I liked that film right up until I rewatched Alien. And then I realised how hard it was working to explore this world that didn’t need exploring. Aliens could so easily be the end of the entire series. Those films worked because they were still, ultimately, about humans. Aliens, everyone says, is a war film. Prometheus, by comparison, is a theology film, and so very self-important.
The thing is, the Alien mythos (yeah, I’m on mythos again) is at its best when it’s left in the dark. It’s not the stories that drew audiences in back then – stop trying to retroactively build a genesis. I suppose, at least, there’s a valuable lesson to learn from Ridley Scott’s desperate mistakes: You’re the only person to whom your creation is really important. And now this is a theological post, goddamnit.