It is less than two months away. The release of Star Wars: The Force Awakens. Everyone is pumped. The internet is alive with affection and fervor. It is like we are back in the late 90s, cept this time the movie doesn’t look like it will be shit.
Yes. Everyone is pumped for Star Wars. Everyone that is except me.
Now before you pick up the pitchforks and torches, let me make something clear. I love Star Wars. Absolutely adore it. I am more than excited for the new movie. But to me, it is not the Earth shattering event it is for everyone else, namely because a dark cloud has cast itself on the horizon. A cloud that is preventing me from getting in on the festivities.
That cloud is what I like to call fan nerves. It is something that has become commonplace after the disappointment of Phantom Menace. It is when hype is replaced by a sense of profound dread of seeing one’s beloved icons getting fed through the wood chipper.
Rest assured, these fan nerves are not for The Force Awakens. Instead, they are for something that for me is far more precious. To explain, we must go back to the early 90s when I was in the first grade.
When I was but a lad of seven, there was talk around the classroom of the kids having stayed up late and caught a movie on television. A movie called Predator. I was understandably curious about the film and asked my mother about it. She told me “Oh, it’s about an invisible monster that collects skulls.”
I didn’t sleep very well that night. Nor did I sleep well after our move to Ohio. Not because of the trauma of moving to another state, but because of a trip to a gas station. After we stopped to get gas as well as some much needed Godzilla VHS tapes, I spotted this little number here.
I was always fascinated by minimalist posters. I mean, what more can be said about this one? It is a creepy looking city. That is it. But it always made me wonder what was lurking within it, and what horrors this mysterious Predator could do.
A year or so later around Christmas, things were looking up. I had seen my first substantial snowfall in five years and was getting into the holiday spirit as only Ohio can do it. I had been pretty good all week, and mom decided to give me a small reward. She took me with her to Target to run some chores, and we swung by the VHS section to pick up a movie of my choosing, provided it be age appropriate of course. I ended up picking the classic movie Close Encounters of the Third Kind, but not before I spotted this little thing.
Again, what more can be said? It’s a movie called Alien, and there is a creepy egg! Wow. My now eight year old brain was chilled to the bone. Over the next few years, Alien and Predator became like forbidden fruits. They always dangled temptingly from the shelves, beckoning me to see what horrors awaited me within their plastic shells. But it was never to be.
Until 1999, the day that mom took me to Target to pick up some software for her computer. When I spotted this little thing.
My now twelve year old brain was immediately attracted to this bound cardboard mural. They did Alien and Predator together? I had not seen either one, but always wondered what they were like. Here they were spread out before me, blended together like some nightmarish heavenly smoothie. Upon closer inspection of the box, I found out you could, shock of all shocks, play the monsters.
You could be the Alien and the Predator. The creatures that had haunted my nightmares and you could walk around in their skin, see the world through their eyes, and leave your human enemies as piles of jelly on the floor. I could wait no longer, and asked mom to get it for me. The conversation went something like this.
“You are not getting this game! It is scary! You will not be able to sleep! – How much is it?”
Mom, bless her, let me take the risk, but on one condition. “If you play this game, you are watching the movies.”
I didn’t argue.
What followed was a magical evening of watching Aliens and Predator in one sitting. My first rated R movies. I never even knew people could have such filthy language. I recall watching Aliens first, and suddenly realizing “Hey! That is the Ghostbusters lady!” upon seeing the film’s star. Predator was just as exciting, being my first foray into the works of action icon Arnold Schwarzenegger.
There was a lot to love about the Alien and Predator films. They both had great heroes in Sigourney Weaver and Arnold Schwarzenegger for one. These were the films that taught me the most interesting horror films have good heroes, worthy adversaries for the monsters to fight. It makes the fight much more interesting.
They also both featured the stamp of Stan Winston, who worked on both Predator and the second Alien film. Winston is quite simply the greatest creator of creatures ever for the movies, utilizing amazing practical animatronic effects to bring his characters to life. With a resume that also includes Jurassic Park and The Thing, he was the go to guy for making the bad guys.
But the thing that excited me most about these movies was the monsters. I liked them. I had never felt that way about a monster before. They had always left me retreating under my bed in terror when watching the old Universal monster classics, but not these guys. Their strength and unique nature mesmerized me. They became my heroes.
The game was astounding as well, each character showcasing their own unique gameplay, resulting in some amazing replay value. It is a game I still play to this day. Incidentally, the original game is available on Steam if you have the money, multiplayer servers and all. As this trailer shows, it is still a very tense and suspenseful ride.
It didn’t seem like the crossover could be any better. I was mistaken.
Aliens vs. Predator 2 is even better than the first game. It once again features three full length campaigns, but is much more immersive. For one, you experience the entire lifecycle as the Alien, from facehugger, to chestburster to full grown warrior. As the Predator, you are given much more gear and gadgets to play with, a great display of the specialization of this species. They were both given well written narratives, rendering them not terrifying monstrosities, but three dimensional characters you actually rooted for. Rooting for the Alien. Imagine that. These games were works of art, and treated their source materials with a love and affection that came through the screen. Alien and Predator fans both found something to love about these titles. The series was going strong, then something went wrong.
Alien had taken a few hits with the so-so Alien 3 and the outright terrible Alien Resurrection. Even Predator had taken a hit with the disappointing Predator 2 (though in retrospect people now realize Predator 2 is freaking awesome). But nothing could prepare either for the two movies that came next, the first screen attempts at the Aliens vs. Predator crossover.
Where do I begin? Both of these films are terrible, featuring bland characters, no atmosphere whatsoever, shameless fan service to the Predator’s audience, and even dumb teenagers straight out of a Friday the 13th movie. A bad Friday the 13th movie. Since 2004, both have taken hit after hit. The disappointing third installment in the AvP game series, a mediocre third Predator film, the highly polarizing Prometheus, and the travesty that was Aliens: Colonial Marines.
Aside from Alien Isolation, it has been a whopping 11 years of bland, forgettable material for both series, severely damaging the reputations of these award winning properties and putting a bad taste in peoples’ mouths when they think about the crossover. That is where my fan nerves come in.
There are 2 new Alien movies and a Predator film in the works.
Shane Black is slated to write the new Predator film. You may recall him as Hawkins from the first movie. Not only that, he has an impressive resume as a screenwriter, credits including Lethal Weapon, The Monster Squad, and Iron Man 3. Hopefully his script will not feature too many bad vagina jokes.
After Predators, this series is due for a good installment. Only the first film is considered a classic, and the involvement of Black is promising, but then again he does have some duds under his belt, and as Predators shows, there is a lot that can go wrong with this concept.
News of new Alien properties surfaced when director Neil Blomkamp, prior to the release of Chappie, released concept art for a proposed Alien film that would be an alternate continuity to the series, taking place after Aliens and moving off in its own direction. It would mark the return of Ellen Ripley to the series, and possibly the return of the character of Hicks, seen here in this piece of concept art.
This is not necessarily a bad idea. It is better than remaking the first two films, both of which have aged remarkably well. Starting a new continuity without remaking the original is a tactic that has been used several times before with the Godzilla and Halloween movies.That being said, Aliens is often misinterpreted by many, even die hard fans, as being a militaristic thrill ride of monster killing action. You can see that in a lot of the expanded universe material that features aliens getting cut down by machine gun fire. They overlook that the squad of marines gets completely obliterated by the film’s end, as well as the film’s ever present tension that made it so special. This is a monster that is much more cool than cannon fodder.
Secondly, Alien 3 had a lot of problems, but the deaths of Hicks and Newt were the least of them. I am greatly concerned the primary reason for making this film is to resurrect these two characters. One of the things I most assuredly do not want is glorified fan fiction, which is exactly what Aliens: Colonial Marines was.
This announcement caught the attention of Alien and Prometheus director Ridley Scott, who now is set to produce Blomkamp’s re-imagining of the later entries, as well as make his own film which serves as a prequel. It will connect the Alien films to Prometheus, something that has split many opinions. I am in the camp of Alien staying as far away from Prometheus as possible.
I was initially excited by the news, but as of late I cannot help but fear what will eventually come. That these are being made so close together is cause for some worry. If one, two, or God forbid all three of these projects are disasters, it could throw both properties deeper into the rut they have already been trying to escape from since the release of the first Alien vs. Predator film.
The Force Awakens is pretty much guaranteed to be good. These films are not so lucky. Many people fail to see both franchises are more than B movie horror with big budgets. They are thoughtful, genuinely unsettling, feature great characters, skilled direction, spectacular music, and two of the most beloved screen monsters of all time. Both mean worlds more to me than Star Wars could ever hope to, because watching these R rated monster movies, things the other kids were not allowed to see yet, that was the one time in school where I felt like the cool kid.
To all you looking forward to the next trip on the Millennium Falcon, I will be joining you and predict it to be a blast. But even while riding next to Han Solo and Chewie once more, these upcoming titles will still be in the back of my mind. As much as I want them, I can’t help but think about everything than can go wrong.
If I may quote Han Solo…
“I got a bad feeling about this.”