What’s next for the Alien franchise on the big screen and on TV?
With the Predator universe enjoying a well-earned resurgence thanks to Hulu and 20th Century’s excellent Prey, Alien fans are naturally feeling a little left out considering the two franchises have been so closely intertwined for so many years. Despite the fact that it’s been over 40 years since Alien first hit the big screen in 1979, interest and speculation about the franchise has only grown in the decades since. It’s unfortunate, then, that the future of the Alien series feels so up in the air right now.
What’s next for Alien now that 20th Century Studios is under the ownership of Disney? This year’s D23 convention told us nothing about the studio’s plans for our favorite sci-fi horror series, keeping fans in limbo for yet another year.
Fortunately, two previously announced projects are poised to carry on the Alien legacy, with some looking more promising at this point than others…
But First, Will Prometheus 3 or Alien: Covenant 2 Ever Happen?
Neither of the upcoming Alien projects seem to have anything to do with the prequel series of movies shepherded by Ridley Scott. The David 8-centric xenomorph and humanity origin stories Prometheus and Alien: Covenant were divisive among the fanbase to say the least, with their focus on heady philosophical and societal themes leaning away from what made the original films so good in the first place.
In an interview with Forbes in 2020, Scott expressed his doubts that we’d ever get another film set in the prequel timeline: “We went down a route to try and reinvent the wheel with Prometheus and Covenant. Whether or not we go directly back to that is doubtful because Prometheus woke it up very well. But you know, you’re asking fundamental questions like, ‘Has the Alien himself, the facehugger, the chestburster, have they all run out of steam? Do you have to rethink the whole bloody thing and simply use the word to franchise?’ That’s always the fundamental question.”
Whatever you may think about these two films creatively, Alien: Covenant‘s poor box office performance was likely the nail in the coffin for this ambitious expansion of the sci-fi horror series. The second movie made only $241 million globally. Compare that to Prometheus‘ $403 million despite not having Alien in its title.
In other words, Covenant is likely the last you’ll see of Michael Fassbender’s android with a god complex.
Fede Álvarez’s Alien Film on Hulu
The biggest indication that the franchise might be on track to reclaim its place as the pinnacle of sci-fi horror is the upcoming Alien film headed to Hulu, produced by Scott and directed by Don’t Breathe director Fede Álvarez. Announced in March and still untitled, the film was pitched to Scott by Álvarez, who left such a big impression that Scott agreed to produce and help get the project greenlit by 20th Century Studios.
Studio head Steve Asbell explained to THR that the decision to stream the movie as opposed to releasing it theatrically was made to give Álvarez more creative freedom to make the movie he wants to make. According to Asbell, releasing a movie theatrically is a higher-stakes endeavor that often requires movies to be altered to appeal to mass audiences, which isn’t necessarily the case for movies released primarily on streaming platforms. On Hulu, “It’s not a film that has to be all things to all people,” Asbell said.
This approach makes sense, especially considering the success of Prey, which was released on Hulu last month to rave reviews from both fans and critics. That movie certainly felt like a fully-realized, artistically unencumbered final product that took risks and pointed the Predator franchise in a new and fresh direction. The fact that 20th Century is giving Álvarez’s film similar treatment is a good sign.
Another reason to look forward to Álvarez’s take on Alien is that he’s already proved himself to be capable of updating iconic series for modern audiences. His 2013 remake of Evil Dead paid homage to Sam Raimi’s original classics while expressing a new, unique style of horror filmmaking. Álvarez’s Alien film will also be “unconnected to the previous movies,” according to THR, providing the fresh start the franchise has needed for so long.
What we don’t know is when this film will actually go into production. No castings or start dates have been announced as of yet. We can only hope this movie won’t be left to languish in development hell like Scott’s own attempts to make a sequel to Covenant.
Noah Hawley’s Alien TV Series on FX
In addition to producing Álvarez’s Alien movie, Scott is also producing a forthcoming TV series (also currently untitled) to air on FX, headed up by Fargo and Legion creator Noah Hawley. The series is a prequel set on Earth but is said be tonally in step with the first two films in the franchise. On a TCA panel, FX chairman John Landgraf confirmed that the series will take place prior to the first two movies, and will make reference to series megacorporation Weyland-Yutani, but will be set in an area of the world where another corporation, Prodigy Corporation, created exclusively for the show, will be more prominent.
According to Landgraf, Hawley’s aim for the series is to “go back and figure out what made the franchise so great and so durable in the first place and see if he could find an experience that felt like walking into the theater and seeing one of the first to movies.” While details of the show’s plot have not been divulged, Landgraf did seem to indicate that setting the story on Earth would largely dictate the show’s overarching themes. “We have to think forward about the future of the planet in terms of the environment, governance, [and] technology and create and design a version of the planet in the future.”
A couple of weeks ago, concept art for the TV show allegedly leaked, depicting a xenomorph claiming a victim in what looks to be some kind of tubular elevator shaft, a Weyland-Yutani ship called the USCSS Maginot crash-landed in the streets of a Prodigy-controlled city, and a group of soldiers happening upon a host of alien eggs in what looks to be a factory. The tone of the images is decidedly dark and definitely evokes terror and suspense, which should be a welcome indication for fans.
Alien 5: Will Sigourney Weaver Ever Return as Ripley?
In an interview with THR, longtime Alien producer Walter Hill all but shot down prospects for a return to the franchise for Sigourney Weaver’s Ripley, saying that Disney rejected a pitch he and producer David Giler made for an Alien 5 that would feature Weaver reprising her role as Ripley. “The people at Disney…have expressed no interest in going down that road,” he explained.
Believe it or not, a fifth Alien movie has been pitched at least three times in the past, without any of the attempts coming to fruition. James Cameron had interest in returning to the series in the late ‘90s alongside Scott, but said in a 2006 interview that he began to pen a script for a fifth Aliens but backed out when he heard Universal was making Aliens vs. Predator. “..that was like Frankenstein Meets Werewolf,” the director said. “It was Universal just taking their assets and starting to play them off against each other.” Cameron felt that the direction of the series didn’t fit his vision, though he later admitted that he actually ended up liking AVP.
Joss Whedon also had plans to return to the series after penning Alien: Resurrection, with his version of Alien 5 featuring an earthbound continuation of the Ripley-centered story. But Weaver effectively put the kibosh on the project when she rejected the premise of an Alien movie set on Earth. For fans whose interest is piqued by the concept, they thankfully have the Hulu series to look forward to.
Weaver did express interest in returning to the series when Neil Blomkamp (District 9) announced in the early 2010s that he was working on his own concept for the fifth film, rumored to be titled Alien: Awakening. The film was said to be set shortly after the events of Aliens, essentially disregarding Alien 3 and Alien: Resurrection altogether. But when Blomkamp’s hype train started slowing down and 20th Century opted to continue the series with Scott’s prequels, the project was shelved. Blomkamp told The Independent in 2021 that he assumed the project was “completely dead,” which as prognoses go, is about as bleak as they come.