So let it be written, so let it be done: Disney has acquired the movie division (and a bulk of the TV division) of 20th Century Fox. With the deal comes an array of licenses, among them the Alien and Predator franchises, a development that places both their futures in a precarious position. Disney has never worked with decidedly un-family friendly properties this big before, and the lack of immediate worth in the otherworldly horror legends might mean they take an indefinite hiatus from the silver screen.
Although both the xenomorphs and the yautja may seem impenetrable as cult film icons, it's not unfair to say they've both been treading water over the last two decades. It's been at more than 30 years since James Cameron's Aliens and John McTiernan's Predator, those being the last time either franchise was both a box office and critical hit. That's a long time to draw on the goodwill of general fanfare and nostalgia. Sure those early movies are classics – they fundamentally altered the horror and action genres as we know them – but the amount of releases under their name that are well regarded and thus good money-spinners is becoming an increasing minority.
Of course, discussing cinema using box office as the primary lens can be reductive, but we're talking about a corporate acquisition here: profit is what will ultimately keep these things alive. The executives want to make their almost-60 billion dollar purchase worth it, and anything that's not going to work towards that is likely to be seen as dead-weight. The Alien and Predator movies have a tendency to be expensive, special-effects driven works containing big, memorable set-pieces and usually at least one notable cast member. They're not cheap and they haven't attracted a particularly competitive return on investment in quite some time.
Does Either Franchise Have a Future?
The Current Future of Alien and Predator Is Already Unclear
Just this summer, we had Alien: Covenant from director Ridley Scott. Ridley, being the man behind the original Alien as he is, has been trumpeting this mad plan to make a multi-part prequel series to the first Alien for years, beginning with 2012's Prometheus. Covenant, a sequel to Prometheus, is a weird, esoteric, Frankenstein-meets-Greek-legend-meets-Alien sci-fi action drama about artificial intelligence and humanity's relationship with other intelligent life. It's big and it's strange and it reflected an ethos within Fox to occasionally greenlight riskier sounding blockbusters from creators they like just to see what happened. It made $240 million on a $97 million budget, meaning it just about outdid breaking even despite under-performing in US and ultimately making less than its predecessor. Covenant might be an interesting instalment in the Alien canon, but neither it nor its prequel have set an auspicious standard for the series' future.
Predator's immediate future is in surer hands with the upcoming The Predator from Shane Black. A celebrated action director in his own right, Black also made Disney and Marvel a billion dollars with Iron Man 3 in 2013, which could spell big things. That said, the last time we saw the hunter was 2010's Predators which very much failed to set the world alight, and before that there were the Alien Vs. Predator movies, and the less said about those the better. Is the interest still there?
The big takeaway from Alien and Predator's standing cinematically is that right now, they're trading on respected members of Hollywood wanting to play with them. Nobody's really going to say no to Ridley Scott, no matter the quality of his pitch, and people tend to like Shane Black and enjoy working with him (not to mention there's been talk of Arnold Schwarzenegger making an appearance in The Predator). But it's doubtful that's enough for a meaningful future on the silver screen within the corporation that just paid a large fortune to acquire you. What's worse, the movies aren't all that's uncertain, either.
- The Predator (2018) release date: Sep 14, 2018