Monday 21 June 2021

Alien to infest Hulu and Star on Disney+

Marvel Comics' all-new Alien series heralds the arrival of the iconic movie monster at Disney.

Nick Smith, our US-based stellar scribe, looks ahead to the first live-action spin-off series coming to FX on Hulu and Star on Disney+.

Guest post by Nick Smith

I first saw Sir Ridley Scott’s Alien on TV as a teenager. I’d read a lot about H.R. Giger’s designs, seen pictures of the Space Jockey, watched clips and spoofs of the chestburster scene and read reviews describing Alien as a “boo!” of a film. But I wasn’t prepared for the sheer excitement of watching it as it built to its roller coaster peak of a finale. I watched it at midnight, alone, in the dark. It was a goose-bumping, singular experience that could be repeated but surely never topped.

Not to be outdone, James Cameron (Avatar) went ahead and topped it with his sequel. It was bigger, more exciting, satirising military movie stereotypes in the same vein as Alien’s over-the-top “company” had commented on powerful corporations, steering just this side of realism. Instead of Jones the cat, Ripley had a little girl to rescue, emphasizing her maternal instincts. Aliens is rarely matched for its thrills and characters you care about.

I played my Alien and Aliens soundtrack LPs until vinyl wasn’t a thing anymore. They made great background music when I was writing, furiously typing away to James Horner’s climactic beats. If I’d been able to get my young paws on Kenner’s toy range, I would have bought every figure. But the range never surfaced in my local toy store.

The Kenner range was released in the US in the early ‘90s, featuring animal hybrid xenomorphs that prefigured the bio-blends of later sequels. There were toys of the marines from Aliens (Apone, Hudson, Drake and Vasquez) despite the sticky end they received in the movie!

A cartoon was proposed, but perhaps we should be thankful that a great outer space horror movie didn’t get turned into watered-down, kid-friendly fare a la the Rambo and RoboCop toons that did get produced.

Now there are Alien toys in the local Walmart and Disney has its mousey gloves on Fox’s cash creature. In December 2020, Disney announced its mission to make Alien its next 'mega-franchise.' The live-action series will be on Star on Disney+ internationally and FX on Hulu in the US, with Noah Hawley (Fargo) showrunning and Sir Ridley Scott in an executive producer role. Will the forthcoming live-action series be a pale imitation of its silver screen forbears, like My Big fat Greek Life (except with creatures laying eggs in your chest)?

On the big screen, the xenomorph has never quite reached its Scott/Cameron heights since Aliens was released in 1986. While Prometheus was intriguing, it trod stale ground with its “Ancient Aliens” ideas and characters as cold as LV-426, distant from the sympathetic heroes of the first two Alien films.

TV might be a good fit for the franchise right now. The format is more prone to showing scary stuff these days; while in the 70s and 80s it would focus on atmosphere and characterization, now we can see special effects gore (The Walking Dead) and spectacle (the twisted corpse sculptures of Hannibal).

How much will be shown on FX on Hulu and Star on Disney+? Promisingly, a source told Edward Lauder of Small Screen, "These future Alien properties will be full-blown action-horror. They are not intending to make these upcoming movies and TV shows PG-13. Disney execs see this property and the Predator franchise – which they now also own – as their ‘adult’ offerings and they are hoping to boost their adult subscribers…"

Although the new show is being touted as the first story set on Earth, we’ve already seen xenomorphs on the loose in Alien vs Predator: Requiem. If that 2007 film hadn’t been part of the saga, it would have been fine as a monsters-on-the-loose film. But it failed to live up to its legacy with a puppy love story pandering to 18-to-25-year-olds instead of focusing on mature, capable actors. So how can the new showrunners learn from Requiem’s mistakes?

I like a happy ending as much as the next viewer, but Lost and The Walking Dead have shown that audiences are not turned off by the death of major characters; in Alien, the ‘final girl’ element raises the stakes and makes us care more about her, admiring the fact that she survives.

If the new Alien series wants to endure, it will have to cater to the fans who have supported the movies over the years, invent new ways to incorporate original, horrific ideas, and scare the pants off them.

Are you looking forward to the Alien spin-off series? Let me know in the comments below.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Comments are moderated for spam. Stay on topic and do not embed links. Keep it family-friendly.

Thank you.