Sunday, January 11, 2015

#HicksLives! aka Neill Blomkamp's Aliens

It was New Years day and I was recovering from the night before when it happened.  District 9 writer and director Neill Blomkamp's Instagram started posting concept art from a mysterious Alien sequel.  Not any old money wringing follow up though but what looked like a direct sequel to 1986's groundbreaking Aliens!  You know, where xenomorph attack survivor Ellen Ripley (Sigourney Weaver) joins a ragtag group of Colonial Space Marines to investigate what ends up being an overrun colony?  Then fights off the workers and their giant, bitch queen with pulse rifles, flame throwers, grenades and a power loader?  While Ridley Scott crafted an atmospheric, creepy slasher flick with truck drivers in space, James Cameron turned his sequel into a self contained roller coaster action flick.  Featuring a fan favorite and Cameron collaborating cast including Michael Biehn, Bill Paxton, Lance Henriksen, Jeanette Goldstein and Mark Rolston; Aliens has lived for nearly 30 years in various comic book, video game and toy form.

It wasn't the artwork of Ripley wearing some kind of alien costume, or his rendition of the mysterious xenomorph ship or even the sleek Weyland-Yutani technology that caught my eye.  Instead it was the return of mother fucking Michael Biehn as Hicks, the soft spoken Marine thrown into command after his superior is wasted.  By the end of Cameron's chapter, a family dynamic between "mother" Ripley, "daughter" Newt (Carrie Henn), "father" Hicks and "weird artificial person uncle" Bishop (Henriksen) was beautifully formed.  As you know, Biehn excelled as the sensitive yet physical action hero in The Terminator and Aliens before headlining projects big and small like Navy Seals and Timebomb in the 90's.  With a third installment inevitable but Weaver's participation in question, producers David Giler and Walter Hill pursued a sequel that could or could not include Ripley's character.  A script by cyber-punk author William Gibson following Hicks and Bishop on a space station was commissioned.  Early into the process, Biehn, the actor who brought Hicks to life after original actor James Remar was fired, was told he would not be asked to return.  I'm guessing the studio wanted a known star and not an actor who had provided great performances but played second fiddle to women in two back to back hits.

Gibson's script was deemed lackluster and Friday the 13th part Four director Renny Harlin was hired.  The visual and kinetic helmer from Finland worked on the project for a year, trying to take us to the alien planet but was vetoed due to budget concerns.  An idea to bring the creatures to earth and having Ripley and Hicks fight them there was also jettisoned.  Frustrated at the lack of progress, Harlin quit and went on to direct The Adventures of Ford Fairlane and Die Hard 2: Die Harder for studio Fox.  Eventually the notion of a floating colony turned into a desolate planet prison and after lots of wasted time and money, Alien 3 was released starring Weaver as Ripley with Hicks and Newt's characters being killed off in the opening minutes.  Originally, a double of Biehn post chest burster explosion was to be featured in the film but Biehn and his agent told young director David Fincher and Fox they didn't have their permission.  In the end, a photo of Biehn as Hicks was used and the actor was paid nearly his Aliens salary for his trouble.

What did Blomkamp's version entail?  Nobody really knows.  Nobody even knows if it was sanctioned by Fox or just a side project from a passionate fan who is also a successful filmmaker.  But having older versions of Ripley and a scarred Hicks fighting aliens again set the fan forums and internets on fire.  While some argued how you could skip Alien 3 and fourth chapter Resurrection (Ripley kills herself in 3 and is a clone in 4), I honestly didn't think it was that big a deal.  These characters have lived on for nearly 30 years in various formats with Hicks and Newt fighting their way through a Dark Horse Comics mini-series and Hicks (complete with Biehn voicing) popped up in 2013's letdown video game Colonial Marines with no explanation on how he survived.  Personally, I don't think the average movie goer would notice if they made a straight sequel to Aliens with no mention of 3 or Resurrection as enough time has passed and only a handful of hardcore fans would notice.  Let's face it, Fox isn't that interested in continuity, didn't you see half prequel, half sequel Prometheus?  Or how about the X-Men franchise which has no continuity: Professor X is evaporated at the end of 2004's part 3 then magically puts his consciousness into another body and by this past summers Days of Future Past is back with no explanation.  The filmmakers tried to address the reboot/sequel plot holes (offscreen, never in an actual movie) by saying Xavier had a twin brother who was in a coma for the last 50 years...Ok that explains why he looks like Patrick Stewart but why would he be in a wheelchair too?  Exactly, the $750 million bucks worth of movie goers didn't really care.  And the small pack of complaining fanboys don't make up enough of the general population to make a difference.  While no one is clamoring to see what Prometheus 2 would bring us, there has been an outpouring to bring back Hicks and Ripley so let's do the Damme thing!

Hicks lives, fuck Alien 3!

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