Kevin: If it’s a day ending in “y” then Ridley Scott must be giving another interview in which he claims 1) that he will be making another “Alien” film and 2) that he has a great idea for it, both of which seem like dubious propositions at this point. In addition to the 47 different projects the 80-year-old director seems to currently have in development, Sir Ridley this week told Entertainment Weekly that he wants to finish his return to the “Alien” universe with a film that “gradually drifts away from the alien stuff” and focuses more on artificial intelligence.
Now this seems to be quite a departure from his contention as late as this summer that the next film would lead directly into the events of the 1979 original, but he has a really well-thought-out and logical reason for the abrupt change in focus. Actually he just saw something on Facebook:
“They put two AIs together and they were communing. It already invented a f—ing language! And they couldn’t decipher what the language was so they had to switch them off. What was said and where’s it gone? They could have already implemented something we don’t know.”
First of all, this smells to me like more fake Russian news on Facebook, this time intended to tank the “Alien” franchise. Second, Scott apparently is unaware that the dangers of AI is not exactly virgin soil in the world of science fiction; at least three movies a year use that as a story basis, including the recent “Blade Runner: 2049,” a sequel to one of Scott’s own films. Third, apparently no one wants to tell Scott that none of this matters, since after his previous two “Alien” films no one wants to either make or watch another one again.
So seeing that Scott needs a reality check before spending any more time on this path, the Tough Guy Squad traveled to the Scott Free Productions office in London to stage an intervention. Here is the transcript of how that brief meeting went:
“Hey Ridley … actually I’m sorry, do you prefer Ridley, Sir Ridley, maybe Rid? No need to call security, we disabled the phones. Anyway Rid, I know you are really busy in the editing room right now removing any trace of Kevin Spacey from “All the Money in the World,” which looks great by the way. But we need to have a talk about your recent comments regarding a third “Alien” movie. First of all, I know you have been in the business for like 70 years, but we think you need a refresher on how bottom line decisions are made in Hollywood.
Now “Prometheus” cost $130 million and made a little over $400 million, which is a pretty good return except for the fact that it was a polarizing film, in the sense that a lot of people hated it, while others … actually I’ve never met anyone make a strong defense of “Prometheus.” Obviously the studio recognized this, as it slashed the budget to $97 million for “Alien: Covenant,” but despite being more of the “Alien” film that people wanted, it only brought in $240 million worldwide. Even if the studio signed off on another sequel, the likelihood of even more diminished returns means the budget would be again cut down to the point where you’d have to use shadow puppets to imply the presence of a xenomorph.
And I hate to break it to you, but people aren’t staying away because these movies are too challenging or nuanced. I know it’s hard to be objective about your own children, so we at TGD have helpfully printed copies of our recent posts which definitively break down all the problems these movies have had:
I’m sure you will read over these in detail even if you have to postpone the release date for “All the Money in the World,” but for now we’ll give you some bullet points from them of the biggest issues that have plagued both “Prometheus” and “Alien: Covenant”:
1) Stupid, unlikable, unmemorable characters: The reason the first two “Alien” films are classics isn’t because the xenomorph was such a cool monster; it’s because we liked and cared about the people whose lives were at stake. Whereas “Prometheus” gave us some of the most infuriatingly stupid scientists in a genre known for stupid scientists, while the crew in “Alien: Covenant” is by far the least interesting and most forgettable in the series. Hell, I had an easier time telling the bald rapists/murderers from “Alie3n” apart than these guys.
2) You raise questions that never get answered: “Prometheus” ended with Noomi Rapace flying off with Michael Fassbender’s head to confront the Engineers about why they want to kill us. While I wasn’t exactly breathless with anticipation about getting closure on that, since we had to spend two hours of screentime to get to that point, I expected more than just a 30-second flashback dealing with that plot thread in “Alien: Covenant,” which itself ends with a cliffhanger in which Fassbender comically regurgitates eggs like that woman in “Airplane”:
Now while “Alien: Covenant” seemed to promise a sequel in which we discover how Fassbender’s David basically created the entire “Alien” mythology, based on your comments on AI it’s just as likely none of this will be paid off either.
3) No one wants to ponder issues about creation and mortality in an “Alien” movie: While obviously we would love to be as active as you are when we are 80 years old ourselves, apparently you have a lot of thoughts about life and death and why we are here and what our purpose is. Great, save them for another movie and just give us a good version of “Alien.” And by the way, despite your assertion in that EW interview, the alien stuff in “Alien: Covenant” wasn’t that good.
4) Enough with the Michael Fassbender shit: Look, Fassbender is a good actor, and his character David was one of the more interesting aspects in “Prometheus.” Of course a lot of that came from the fact that we couldn’t understand the motivations for his actions, and then we found out in “Alien: Covenant” that he’s just a dick because Guy Pearce made him get tea. Then any time “Alien: Covenant” threatened to gain some momentum, the movie stopped dead in its tracks so David could pontificate about creation and teach his doppelganger how to play a flute, in a scene that would only be more uncomfortable if it had been performed by Kevin Spacey.
5) It’s obvious there is no clear vision for this trilogy: “Prometheus” was originally titled “Alien: Engineers,” and was pitched as a prequel that would show the events leading to the discovery of the “Space Jockey” in the original “Alien.” But for some reason Fox pushed you to make it less explicitly tied to the “Alien” universe even while keeping the boring philosophical shit. Rather than continuing the storyline teased at the end, you and the studio backtracked and tried to make “Alien: Covenant” both a “Prometheus” sequel and the “Alien” prequel initially promised, resulting in two competing tones in the finished product, neither of which worked. But even though you said last summer that the next film would finally revisit that whole “Space Jockey” thing, now you are going off about AI. What are the chances that whatever the final result is would satisfy audiences any more than the last two?
Bonus: You thought Danny McBride would exhibit actual dramatic chops. Seriously, I can’t possibly fathom your thought process here, but there is no way you watched the scene in which McBride is supposed to be grieving the death of his wife in dailies and thought he pulled that off. If only you knew then what you know now, you could have re-filmed his scenes with Christopher Plummer.
Speaking of, you’re one of the few filmmakers who can get just about any type of movie made just by putting your name on it, so if nothing else another “Alien” movie at your age would be a colossal waste of time and resources better spent on something like “All the Money in the World.” Anyway, now that we’ve made our case, you are free to call security if you want, but I trust that you’ll agree with us that …”
Kevin: Unfortunately Ridley, or Rid as I think he liked being called, did have us escorted out, but the fact that we weren’t thrown through a window Axel Foley-style indicates to me that he really took our message to heart. What about the rest of you, do you think we got through to him?
CJ: Nope, so get ready for “Alien: AI,” or as it will be more likely titled, “AI:lien.”
Mike: I think it would be great if Ridley Scott actually committed himself to finishing a movie before starting a new one! The fact that he can’t stop is making me think his family gets some kind of massive insurance payout if he dies in the line of duty, like Dabney Coleman in “Short Time”: