What’s in a name? According to Hollywood, a whole damn lot. Brand recognition is valued so highly in the studio system that it’s resulted in a glut of sequels, remakes and adaptations instead of original content. And it appears that the latest victim of this is Alien Nation and it’s left me feeling very confused.
We reported a short while back that a new remake of cult-classic 1988 movie turned TV series Alien Nation was in the pipeline, and that critically acclaimed filmmaker Jeff Nichols (Midnight Shelter, Mud, Take Shelter) was taking a crack at it.”It” being the story of a future Los Angeles co-inhabited by peaceful aliens, in which a xenophobic police detective has to team up with an alien cop to solve a crime. Except it turns out that other than the title, that’s not at all the movie that Nichols is making, as he explained to Screencrush:
Fox called to ask me to do that. I said, ‘No.’ But I had been working on this bigger idea of my own and then I thought about it and said, well you know, that’s a good title. And that title could go on to my bigger idea, then maybe I might actually get a chance to get it made. So in that sense I’m currently building it the same way I built all my other movies, meaning kind of from the ground up.
It’s pretty much my idea. It doesn’t really have anything to do with the original.
Well, now. Here comes that confusion: I hate the idea of just re-appropriating an existing franchise’s name just so that you can have brand recognition – because let’s not play coy, that’s exactly what’s happening here. On the other hand though, I’ve loved all of Nichols’ work and him creating another original sci-fi movie sounds far more exciting than having him play with somebody else’s toys, so to speak.
So what is Nichols’ bigger idea? Well, it’s still sitting in the “aliens on Earth” wheelhouse, but whereas Alien Nation primarily tackled the fallout from that scenario, Nichols is more concerned with that first contact.
With Alien Nation you’re looking at a society that was already built, they were already integrated into the society. And if you go back further and you think about those early days, that’s what I was focusing on.
And there comes that confusion again, because personally I actually find Alien Nation‘s narrative angle to be the more appealing one. Alien landing movies are a far more common occurrence, and in my opinion doesn’t quite allow for as many opportunities for societal commentary and allegory. But hey, I’m not the multiple award-nominated filmmaker – Jeff Nichols is, and I hope he can surprise me.
Last Updated: October 27, 2016