The Alien Prequels Actively Retcon AvP
Alien 5, retrofitted to be a prequel Alien: Engineers and eventually just Prometheus, had no such hype issues. Seeing the return of Ridley Scott to sci-fi after thirty years and promising answers that had been there since Alien in 1979, it was one of 2012's most anticipated releases - and regarded as one of its biggest disappointments. Scott no longer found the titular creature interesting, so went in a completely different direction. This was tempered in 2017's Alien: Covenant, which mixed Alien and Prometheus' DNA but still struggled at the box office, making only $100 million more than Predators despite costing double.
In making the Alien prequels about an ancient species that came to Earth and has an intrinsic link to early man, Ridley Scott actually did flirt with ideas similar to that of Alien vs. Predator. However, whereas Anderson was using it as plot establishment and a quick nod to the Pyramid construction debate, Scott was wanting to explore heady themes of meeting and challenging one's creator.
To achieve this, he basically ignored everything that had happened in the franchise since his 1979 original, with the biology on show directly contradicing the queen reproduction and hive mind shown in Aliens onwards (and a popular David-Space Jockey theory would have even seen him retcon Alien itself). While that's more inferred and open to debate, what isn't is that AvP did not happen: we get a different Weyland (Guy Pearce's Peter instead of Henriksen's Charles Bishop) and a new first brush with aliens. Unsurprisingly given how he and Cameron didn't want to continue with Alien 5 when pairing the series with Predator was the order of the day, Scott willfully ignores what happened.
In fact, Prometheus actually ties the Alien franchise into a totally different sci-fi series. Not only do the ideas of creators and creations at war chime with what Ridley Scott did with Blade Runner, there is evidence the prequels take place in the same world. A Blu-ray bonus feature directly calls out Tyrell, the unfortunate industrialist from the original film, while the buildings behind a hologram of Weyland are of a similar architectural style to those of the film's pyramids. Now Covenant and Blade Runner 2049 have released with no direct connection, however, that seems less likely.
Alien vs. Predator Really Did Cook The Xenomorph
What's important, though, is that every step made here is to move the Alien away from what it had become thanks to Alien vs. Predator - both thematically and as an icon. Whereas Predator had stepped minorly into horror for the crossover, Alien had had to embrace full-on action, and as the huntee of the pair, was reduced to a basic horde. They were easy to kill, sometimes laughable creates that had been warped to the point that all terror in the horror creature was gone. Fans often point to Aliens or another sequel as being where the xenomorph lost its menace, and really that's up to personal opinion, but on a en masse cultural scale, it has to be with AvP. When Ridley Scott describes the xenomorph as "cooked", he's not far wrong.
That's not to say Prometheus or Alien: Covenant are bad films or misguided in their focus. In fact, in an effort to do something new they are genuinely exciting. But the underlying franchise identity crisis sours them in the eyes of many fans, and there's no denying that's the root of the subsequent box office struggles. After all, while another Predator reboot is greenlit (albeit with controversial reshoots), Alien's future is unclear. Scott's prequel plans have shrunk from six movies to three, and it's currently looking that even that final entry will be unlikely to see the light of day. Neill Blomkamp's proposed Alien 3 do-over is also dead thanks to Scott overriding it as he took control, a move likely done in no small part due to the previous franchise clash with Predator.
There have been two Alien and now two Predator films in the decade or so since AvP, and while the former has delivered some great, challenging movies and the latter has found new mileage in its core concept, neither franchise has really flourished on a mass scale or reached the same notoriety heights. Alien vs. Predator may once again be resigned to comics, but its impact can certainly be felt. Although all this said, both series are going to soon face an even bigger foe: the Disney purchase of Fox means both Alien and Predator belong to the Mouse House.
- The Predator (2018) release date: Sep 14, 2018