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Why There May Never Be An Alien 5

It's hard to imagine the Alien series without Sigourney Weaver, but the star who played Lieutenant Ellen Ripley from the first movie (1979) through to Alien Resurrection (1997) actually almost passed on the role. It was only after director Ridley Scott showed her H.R. Giger's stunning design for the titular creature that Weaver agreed to sign on, but even then she had no idea just how iconic a movie Alien would become. "The atmosphere Ridley Scott was creating was incredibly real and unsettling, but I don't think I could have predicted our little movie — and it felt like a little spooky movie — would have such legs," she told Collider.

Those legs ran out with the disappointing Resurrection, at least for Weaver. She has, however, expressed an interest in reprising the role of Ripley. "There's more story to tell," she said in June 2014. "I certainly know young filmmakers who are interested in doing that, so we'll just have to see what happens." One of the filmmakers she was referring to was evidently Neill Blomkamp (District 9, Elysium), who got the pulses of Alien fans everywhere racing when he released some concept art for a potential Alien 5 the following year.

With an up-and-coming sci-fi director champing at the bit and the star of the show open to a return, Alien 5 seemed like a no-brainer, but it never got out of the blocks. Read on to find out why it didn't happen, and why it might never happen.

The prequels haven't quite gone to plan

When Ridley Scott revealed that he was developing prequels to Alien it was a huge day for fans of the franchise, but if we had known then just how the movie was going to turn out, we might not have gotten so excited. 2012's Prometheus wasn't exactly a disaster (it boasts a Certified Fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes), but the numbers it posted at the domestic box office were a cause for concern. The movie failed to recoup its $130 million budget, though success in overseas markets just about made a sequel viable.

2017's Alien: Covenant underperformed both critically and commercially, however, leaving the status of the franchise in jeopardy. Scott told IGN that he expected a sequel to Covenant (to be called Alien: Awakening) to be filming by summer 2018, but that never happened. According to an anonymous source who claims to have worked on Covenant, the studio canceled filming on the planned follow-up as soon as it saw the box office receipts. "The original plan of pumping out another quickly has definitely changed with no immediate plans for anything," the insider said (via AVP Galaxy).

Of course, no more Alien prequels doesn't necessarily mean no more Alien sequels, but confidence and interest is at a low ebb following Covenant, echoing the fallout that followed 1997's Resurrection. The franchise was put back into back hypersleep for years, and the same could be happening right now.

The alien just isn't scary anymore

During her aforementioned interview with Collider, Sigourney Weaver revealed that she "pictured this big blob of yellow gel rumbling around" when she first read the script for Alien. It wasn't until she saw the monster that Swiss artist and designer H.R. Giger had come up with that she began to understand what made Alien unique. "At the first meeting with Ridley, he pulled out all these beautiful big drawings H.R. Giger had done," she recalled. "He's one of the main reasons we're still here talking about this film."

Giger's contribution to the Alien franchise has been well-noted (only he and the guy inside the Xenomorph suit were allowed to watch the first rough cuts of the creature with the director), but Scott is of the belief that Giger's iconic creation has now lost its ability to scare audiences. "I think the beast has almost run out, personally," he revealed during a November 2017 roundtable conversation with The Hollywood Reporter. "You've got to come in with something else. You've got to replace that."

The typically outspoken helmer reiterated this opinion when he spoke to the Toronto Sun in January 2018, suggesting that the Xenomorph needed to be reinvented. The franchise is named and based around the existence of this vicious alien, so if it just isn't scary anymore, is there any point in making an Alien 5? It was terrifying in its day, but now it takes more than a creature from outer space to excite audiences.

Scott wants more AI and less actual aliens

It wasn't the only issue that plagued the film, but one of the biggest gripes Alien fans had with Prometheus was the lack of Xenomorphs. Scott attempted to remedy that with Covenant, backtracking on his claims that the creature was "cooked" and bringing it back to life. It was a fickle move that didn't go unnoticed. "In order to earn the Alien name, director Ridley Scott was forced to rehash a lot of moments from his 1979 sci-fi classic," Wired said of the much-maligned second prequel.

The director more-or-less admitted that Covenant contained gratuitous fan service when he spoke to Yahoo! Movies in 2017. After the film flopped, he reverted to his original stance and stressed that he wanted the franchise to explore artificial intelligence. While he did bring the Xenomorphs back in Covenant, much of the focus remained on Michael Fassbender's android David, and the character would remain central to any further prequels according to Scott.

"I think the evolution of the alien himself is nearly over, but what I was trying to do was transcend and move to another story, which would be taken over by AIs," he told Empire (via Digital Spy). Scott laid out a vision for a planet led by David, but that vision sounds closer to Blade Runner than it does Alien. The further the franchise drifts away from its roots, the less likely it is we'll ever see round 5 of Ripley versus the Xenomorph.

Fox chose Scott over Blomkamp

Neill Blomkamp released more concept art for his canned Alien movie in 2017. "Just going through the volume of art created for this never to be made Aliens sequel," he tweeted in December. "From environments to characters to set design, we did a lot." He shared more fascinating prep work as recently as October 2018, adding a picture of a four-armed Xenomorph sculpt to his Instagram. "I'm not working on this, it's just in the office and I love it," he said.

But why isn't he working on it? In one word: Covenant. Blomkamp said that preparation for his sequel (which would have picked up right after Aliens, ignoring the third and fourth movies) really got going in 2015. This was around the time that Ridley Scott had just finished his work on critical and commercial sci-fi smash The Martian, leaving him with an open slate waiting to be filled. This effectively gave the studio a choice, and they sided with Scott's prequels over a Blomkamp sequel.

"Fox decided that they didn't want to do [Alien 5], so that was it," he told AlloCiné (via Gizmodo). "I think I had already done Prometheus and I was already planning Covenant, so, dunno." Scott was clearly eager to pour water over the embers of Blomkamp's project, adding that it was never really very far along to begin with. "There was never a script," he claimed. "It was an idea which was evolved on, I think, a ten-page pitch."

Blomkamp has moved on

Those still holding onto a shred of hope that Blomkamp's Alien 5 would be miraculously greenlit at some stage were dealt a dose of harsh reality in January 2018. The director confirmed that the project was indeed dead and buried in a tweet, telling his followers that he had now "moved on" from Alien, lamenting, "It was an amazing chance to work in the world Ridley and James Cameron created and collaborate with Sigourney." 

The most tragic part is that Sigourney Weaver was totally game for this. She told Collider that she realized how important it was to wrap up Ripley's arc after she started attending Comic-Con and saw how passionate people still are about the character. "There's a longing in certain groups of fans when I meet them for the story to be finished, because we really left it up in the air," she said. "I can imagine a situation where we could at least finish telling her story. I think that would be very satisfying, at least to me."

Michael Biehn (who played Hicks in Aliens) was also set to return in Blomkamp's sequel. He wouldn't have been the only returning supporting character, either. "They're planning on bringing me and Newt back," Biehn told Icons of Fright in 2015. "At this point Newt will be around 27 years old." None of that will be happening, it seems, especially now that Blomkamp has decided to revamp the RoboCop franchise instead.

Will Disney be the death of the franchise?

All of the boardroom decisions we've covered so far were made by Fox executives, and while Alien films may still be released under the Fox name in the coming years, they will likely be made under the supervision of Disney. Alien is one of the many properties that the Mouse House stands to gain access to with its purchase of Fox's library of intellectual property assets, which is a cause of concern for some, Ridley Scott included. Speaking to Digital Spy, the veteran filmmaker expressed concern over what rating any future Alien movies would shoot for.

"I've been with Fox for a number of years now [and] I'm hoping I'll still probably be there, so whether or not they go ahead with such a dark subject — being Disney — as Aliens remains to be seen," Scott said. "They draw the line at anything that crosses PG-13." The director did go on to say that he believes Disney will see sense and continue to expand the R-rated Alien universe under a different banner, but the studio has had its fingers burned with acquired franchises recently.

The Marvel Cinematic Universe continues to dominate Hollywood, but Disney has had a much harder time peddling Star Wars. CEO Bob Iger told The Hollywood Reporter it was "too much, too fast" and announced plans to scale back Star Wars output. But even with less Star Wars, Disney has a lot going on and will no doubt be wary about messing with Alien canon, whether that be with Scott's prequels or potential sequels.

The timeline is a mess

There's a reason that Neill Blomkamp wanted his movie to take place after James Cameron's Aliens, the first sequel to Ridley Scott's original. 1992's Alien 3 was trashed by the majority of Rotten Tomatoes critics, who praised director David Fincher for taking some "admirable risks" but concluded that too few of them paid off in this plot hole-riddled sequel. 

Why did the EEV crash land on Fiorina 616? If the Sulaco's sensors picked up the fire, then why didn't the ship's sprinkler system activate? Alien 3 left us with more questions than answers (some of which were cleared up by drafts and storyboards) and the very premise of the movie was dubious. Writing for Cracked, David Bell points out that there's no way an egg from the Xenomorph Queen that terrorized Ripley in the previous movie could have made it aboard with her: "We see the eggs blow up and the Queen detach from the egg sack and then chase Ripley to the ship, zero eggs in hand."

Ridley Scott ignored all Alien films not directed by him when he began work on his prequels, and 2017's Covenant more or less erases them. "In truth, Alien: Covenant somewhat retcons every non-Scott directed Alien movie out of mythology, and doesn't exactly fit like a glove even with the 1979 original and Prometheus," David Crow, movies editor at Den of Geek, said. At this point, nobody really knows where Alien 5 would fit into all of this.

We could get a reboot instead

When he revealed that Hicks and Newt were potentially returning in Neill Blomkamp's planned Alien 5, veteran action star Michael Biehn also suggested that Sigourney Weaver would be bowing out in favor of a new lead who would be able to carry the franchise going forward. "It's really a passing of the torch between Sigourney and this younger actress who would play Newt," he told Icons of Fright. "It would keep the franchise alive and the studios would make money, because that's what the bottom line is now: money."

It doesn't look as though Newt will be returning any time soon, but Biehn is right about one thing — money talks in Hollywood, and franchise longevity is key. Would bringing Sigourney Weaver back for another run out as Ripley achieve that? It would be easier (and likely far more profitable) for Disney to simply wipe the slate clean and start over with the Alien franchise, putting the prequels, original series, and any chance of an Alien 5 to bed. In fact, prior to the takeover talks with Disney, Fox were reportedly planning on doing just that.

"They were gonna jump, I heard, into the future, past all the movies we've known into a new timeline," Collider's Steve Weintraub said. "So you could start again with new characters, new predicaments, whatever it may be and start these movies at maybe a lower budget and basically continue doing Alien movies but not worry about David and all the other stuff."

Is a TV series secretly in the works?

Who said the reboot had to be on the big screen? Fresh rumors of a TV show set in the Alien universe emerged in April 2018 when an apparent Fox source informed Omega Underground of its existence. It was welcome news for fans after Blomkamp's Alien 5 died, but things went quiet in the months that followed, which was to be expected. Fox was never likely to greenlight an Alien show with the Disney merger looming large, but the Mouse House might just go ahead and do it for them.

We know that Bob Iger is backing the upcoming Disney streaming service hard in an effort to establish a foothold in the Netflix-dominated field. The new service will boast original Marvel and Star Wars shows when it goes live in 2019, and adding an Alien series to the mix will only add to the hype. Whether it debuts on Disney or not, it's happening, according to British movie critic and YouTuber Mr H.

"This is an exclusive, this is from my personal, anonymous source," he said in an October 2018 video. "This source is very, very reliable. They have told me that the Alien TV series is definitely happening, it has found a streaming service... We don't know what one, we don't know how many episodes, we don't know the story — but it seems like Fox are still pushing ahead." Could we finally be getting that Colonial Marines TV show we've all been waiting for?