the company plans to exploit the ‘Alien’ franchise to the fullest

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Despite superficial impressions, ‘Alien’ has not been as thoroughly exploited a franchise as others. Or at least, it hasn’t been so wild and with such devastatingly commercial ambitions as ‘Terminator’ or ‘Jurassic Park’ have been, to name other classic sagas of the genre. ‘Alien’ has a not insignificant number of films, it is true: four main ones, two prequels and two crossovers with ‘Predator’, that is, eight.

But almost all of them have their peculiarities and, with their ups and downs, make up a saga full of names that have managed to leave their mark on the series: Ridley Scott, James Cameron, David Fincher, Jean-Pierre Jeunet or Paul WS Anderson are some of them. The results, better or worse, are almost always additions to a franchise whose only common thread is a series of themes (ships as haunted houses, artificial life as help and threat, corporations that want to turn us into cannon fodder) and a monster that continues to fascinate for its “otherness”, its ferocity and the immortality of its visual design, the work of the incomparable HR Giger.

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To all this is added a number of additions in other media, especially in comics (since the distant ‘Aliens’, Dark Horse was increasing the mythology of the franchise with multiple series, until now, where we have an ‘Alien’ series in Marvel) and in video games (standardized by the deservedly mythical ‘Alien vs. Predator’ and ‘Alien: Isolation’). Due to the abundance of games and comics in the franchise, there are also ups and downs, but the overall count is positive.

Disney, new owner of the franchise since the purchase of Fox in 2017, has announced that for the first time after the last lurches of the series with the great ‘Prometheus’ and the weaker ‘Covenant’, there are new ‘Alien’ projects in briefcase. One of them, a series produced by Scott and with Noah Hawley at the helm (although FX will have to wait for Hawley to finish with a new season of ‘Fargo’). The other, just revealed by The Hollywood Reporter, an ‘Alien’ movie directed by Fede Álvarez, who just came out of production on the remarkable ‘The Texas Chainsaw Massacre’ that Netflix has released.

The franchise has a bumpy continuity but with a certain coherence, where so far we have not had reboots, but rather each new installment is tried to fit into a more or less specific moment of a timeline, with references to other films. But Fede Álvarez’s ‘Alien’ will go in another direction, since his film will not be connected to the rest of the saga.

It is still unknown how Álvarez, who will write and direct it, is going to manage that theme, but the core idea that supports it is clear, since it comes from a pitch that the director introduced to Ridley Scott a few years ago. Scott has decided to pick up on that idea as a producer, and it will serve as the basis for the development of this new film. What is really significant about the project is that, for the first time, there are two simultaneous productions of ‘Alien’ underway from different creators and with divergent approaches. And it is a clue to the possible path that Disney wants to follow with the franchise.

Alien Xenomorph Featured

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If we stop to think about it, the really strange thing about this movement… is that it hasn’t happened before. Without a doubt, when Disney bought Marvel or Lucasfilm they were acquiring companies that managed fiction suitable for all audiences, but this was not the case with the acquisition of Fox. In fact, films for adults (or, at least, not so obviously suitable for children) like ‘The New Mutants’ or ‘The Empty Man’ have stumbled upon a kind of promotional void because Disney didn’t want to “tarnish” their brand with productions that were not totally white.

The time (and bills) have been opening the perspective of Disney. Brands like Hulu or the “adult” section of Disney+ -Star-, added to the welcome diversification of tones of the Marvel and ‘Star Wars’ universes has ended up germinating in Disney entering the generous catalog of Fox franchises. ‘Alien’, without a doubt, was the most notorious property in that mixed bag, and just like ‘Star Wars’ or Marvel, it needs no introduction.

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But in addition, ‘Alien’ has a very tempting feature for Disney, seeing how the company tends to exploit its properties: it is perfect material for a cinematic universe (extensible, furthermore, towards all kinds of terrifying / alien creatures, such as -obviously- ‘ predator’). The Alien universe stretches back and forth in time with a cornerstone, the descent of the Nostromo to the planet LV-426, in the first film. And with a backbone: the Weyland-Yutani corporation’s attempts to capture a live specimen of the xenomorph for use as a bioweapon.

From both milestones (a timeline marked by the Corporation and a specific point in the year 2122) we have multiple variants: the fates and precedents of all the characters and places and the many ramifications that follow from it. Disney has a gold mine to exploit, and knows that giving authors with their own vision (from Scott to Álvarez) the possibility of doing so is a good starting point, although the ‘Star Wars’ movies have shown that it is a philosophy that sometimes they are big.

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If these first two stabs at the legendary sci-fi horror franchise pan out, it’s clear we’ll see more. In fact, Álvarez’s film is part of 20th Century’s (formerly 20th Century Fox) project to produce ten films a year for Hulu. The content generation machinery for Disney platforms is underway, and the grinder needs meat. One can only hope that someone in there has seen the films of the series and remembers that through the veins of xenomorphs… runs acid.

Despite superficial impressions, ‘Alien’ has not been as thoroughly exploited a franchise as others. Or at least, it hasn’t been…

Despite superficial impressions, ‘Alien’ has not been as thoroughly exploited a franchise as others. Or at least, it hasn’t been…

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