Alien & the Ill-Advised World of Prequels: The Cinefantastique Roundtable Podcast 2:3

ALIENS (1986)
ALIENS (1986)

Seems that it was a good call, us taking the news portion of The Cinefantastique Podcast and mating it with what had to date been called the Cinefantastique Post-Mortem Podcast. Word that Ridley Scott is turning his scheduled ALIEN prequel into a kinda non-prequel puts Steve Biodrowski, Lawrence French, and Dan Persons in a ruminative mood, prompting a discussion of the cursed genre of prequels, followed by a desperate quest for the handful of “early years” follow-ups good enough to merit actual being watched.
Before that, there’ll be news and discussion of upcoming releases, a couple of listener responses to our SEASON OF THE WITCH review, and some thoughts on the nominees for Best Make-Up Oscars. Plus, many, many tangents and asides. Come join us!


Fox Tweets: ALL the 'Alien' Rumors Bogus

alien-scott-and-weaverAccording to 20th Century Fox’s Twitter Feed, ALL the the news, inside sources, and rumors you’ve been hearing about the last few days is just internet blather.
A Fox spokesman named Chris Petrikin stated that the Ridley Scott prequel to ALIEN is NOT called PARADISE (which seemed highly dubious, anyway), and that the project is not planned to be be made in two parts.
Even though I did make pains to caution that none of this was confirmed, I’m as guilty as all the other internet sites of lending credence to these rumors, afraid of being lost in the dust.  My apologies for jumping on the bandwagon.
In fact, at this stage, we can’t  still be sure that the production has or will be greenlighted. Although Ridley Scott had previously said that he had two movies planned, with both parts already scripted, that could well mean that he has a script for the prequel, and another with  potential to be a stand-alone sequel to that film.
Since then there’s been news from Scott that intimated that things are moving along towards production in the near future.  But developement money and  pre-production investment do not necessarily guarantee going into production. Hopefully, the ALIEN prequel will come to fruition.
We’ll try to follow up when more when official statements are made.

'Alien' Prequel NOT Delayed?

 ALIEN_giger_1Contrary to earlier reports, New York Magazine maintains it has the straight scoop on Ridley Scott’s ALIEN Prequels: They NOT going to be pushed to 2013 and 2014.
According to the site, there was some talk of delaying production of the films so that Leonardo DiCaprio (INCEPTION) could play a major role. Since that’s not going to come to pass, there’s no reason for the long wait.
The title for the prequel (at least the first part) is apparetly PARADISE—not a title that immediately springs to mind for the ALIEN franchise.
The source claims that PARADISE is akin to a reboot of  the original ALIEN in which people encounter predatory alien life forms, presumably for the first time.  The female lead “Elisabeth Shaw” is rumored to be a role that could be filled by  Noomi Rapace. Another stronge female part is said to be the 40-something “Vickers”, with Michelle Yeoh under consideration.
A Bishop-like android, “David” is also reported to be in the script.  It’s claimed that the part was offered to Michael Fassbender, whose reps wanted too much money.
WARNING: All of the above is completely unverified, as far as I can tell—just as I cautioned about the original report.
UPDATE 12/10 : As warned, none of this information can be considered reliable.  See NEW ITEM

'Forever War' Screen Writer Revealed

The Forever WarOn his blog, science fiction author Joe Haldeman revealed that Ridley Scott’s film version of his classic novel The Forever War has a screen writer, and that several drafts have been completed.
Who’s is the writer? From Haldeman’s clue, it’s got to be David Webb Peoples, who wrote the screenplay for Scott’s BLADE RUNNER, adapted from Phillip K. Dick’s Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?

Peoples also wrote the sci-fi films LEVIATHAN, TWELVE MONKEYS, and  SOLDIER.

From Joe Holdeman’s Blog:
“…I heard, it was the fourth rewrite. I’ve talked to the writer — he has good credits, like “Unforgiven.”
I’m not among the people who assume that the novel will be desecrated by the movie. It will be interesting to see somebody else’s take on it.
Incidentally, I wasn’t asked to submit a screenplay, though I’ve been a member of the Writers Guild for almost thirty years and have solid production credits. No surprise. They don’t want the book’s author saying “Hold it! I wrote the book, and that’s not the way it goes.”

While it’s disappointing to know that Haldeman wasn’t asked to submit even a draft of the film as a jumping off point, at least David Peoples has some solid science fiction film experience. (As opposed to other screen writers.)
For those not familiar with the 1974 Nebula and Hugo Award-winning novel, The Forever War tells the story of college student William Mandella, who after an attack on Earth ships by the alien Taurans, finds himself drafted into an outer space war. Due to the effects of time dilation, he ages only a few years, while much time passes on this world. Alienated by massive social changes and with no family links, he and many of his fellow soldiers keeps re-uping for additional tours, as centuries pass back home.
Two sequels, Forever Free and Forever Peace followed in the 1990’s.

Damon Lindelof To Rewrite ALIEN Prequel

Damon-LindelofAccording to Deadline, a late night deal has been reached for LOST writer Damon Lindelof to re-write Ridley Scott’s upcoming prequel to the sci-fi classic ALIEN. According to Deadline:

In a development as vexing as a Lost plotline, studio insiders said that while Lindelof indeed met with Scott and the studio for that rewrite job, the exchange of ideas between them sparked a take that could well turn out to be a free-standing science fiction film. The studio will decide when Lindelof turns it in. Scott Free is producing and Lindelof’s CAA reps closed his deal last night.

For fans of the series, the choice can be seen as a good one considering the mass appeal of LOST as well as the fact that Mr. Lindelof is also writing & producing the STAR TREK sequel. He is definitely a man who knows his sci-fi. It seems as if the beloved ALIEN is indeed in good hands.

Joseph Kosinski To Helm ARCHANGELS

Joseph KosinskiFor Sci-Fi films, everything seems to be coming up Kosinski…Joe Kosinski that is. The relatively new face on the major motion picture scene has landed a surprising number of high-profile movies in a very short amount of time including the upcoming TRON: LEGACY, the post-apocalyptic OBLIVION, and another Disney reboot in THE BLACK HOLE. Prepare to add another side-dish to an otherwise full plate as Heat Vision reported that Mr. Kosinski has signed on to direct ARCHANGELS, a new sci-fi spec to be produced by Ridley & Tony Scott’s production company Scott Free. The script is written by Andrew Will, another newcomer to the big screen.

The script is set in the near future and is described as a “Bourne”-style thriller crossed with alien elements. The protagonist is part of an elite force that is tasked with tracking aliens who get past Earth’s defense system.

If the early footage from TRON is any indication, then we may have another summer blockbuster to look forward to.

Ridley Scott on 'Alien' Prequel

The Space JockeyCovering the L.A. Times Hero Complex screenings and Q&A, Ain’t It Cool reported Ridley Scott’s revelations about the ALIEN prequels.
Yes, there are two movies planned, with both parts already scripted.

Scott told the audience his inspiration:

“…In the first Alien, when John Hurt climbed up and over the top of the rise… there was a massive giant lying in a chair. The chair was either a form of engine or some piece of technology and I always thought no one has ever asked who was the space jockey?”

Apparently, the film will be set long before the events of ALIEN, and we’ll discover that the space jockey seen in that film might have been a kind of space suit, rather than a decayed corpse. The audience will be shown who the ‘Jockey’ was, and where he came from.
“Terraforming” (re-making a planet into a preferred bio-sphere) will be a theme of the film, and there will be an attempt to depict space travel and this kind of project in a manner somewhat more realistic than most science fiction films.
Read many more details regarding making ALIEN, and about Ridley Scott’s attempts to bring Joe Haldeman’s SF Novel The Forever War to the screen.

UPDATE: Scott Breaks Silence on Alien Prequel/s 3D

Director Ridley Scott
Director Ridley Scott

MTV have been speaking to Ridley Scott (ALIEN, BLADE RUNNER) during his ROBIN HOOD press tour and have managed to squeeze some exciting information out of him in regards to ALIEN 5. We’ve been aware that Scott has signed on to direct the prequel for a while but the director has remained largely silent on the project. That is, up until now.
According to Scott the script is progressing well,

“As we speak, I’ve got a pile of pages next to me; it’s like the fourth draft. It’s a work in progress, but we’re not dreaming it up anymore. We know what the story is.”

As for what exactly we can expect from this story Scott says,

“It’s set in 2085, about 30 years before Sigourney [Weaver’s character Ellen Ripley]. It’s fundamentally about going out to find out ‘Who the hell was that Space Jockey?” He adds, “I’m basically explaining who that Space Jockey — we call him the Space Jockey — I’m explaining who the space jockeys were.”

He also mentions changing the appearance of the alien with original designer H.R. Giger,

“I have to design — or redesign — earlier versions of what these elements are that led to the thing you finally see in “Alien,” which is the thing that catapults out of the egg, the face-hugger…Once I get more serious and get going, and the big wheels start turning, we’ll certainly talk. And maybe we’ll come up with something completely different.”

It’s good to hear Scott finally talk about ALIEN 5 and if I had to choose anyone to direct the film it would be him but I still have my reservations about the project. Every single ALIEN film since ALIENS has been pretty dire and prequels are rarely successful ventures. Furthermore, focusing on the Space Jockey race of aliens and redesigning the original alien will be extremely hard tasks for Scott to pull off but if he does, it could be the true return to form the series so rightly deserves.
There’s no official release date for ALIEN 5 as of yet but Scott says he’s, “Hoping to have it in theaters in late 2011, or maybe the best date in 2012”.
UPDATE: Collider have also been grilling Scott about ALIEN 5 and apparently it’s two films, not one, and is going to be shot in 3D. Scott says, “It’ll be two. Prequel one and two, then ALIEN 1 .” When asked if he will be filming them back to back, his response was, “At the moment I’m just trying to get the first one out.” He was also asked if it’ll be in 3D, to which he replied, “Of course, it’ll be 3D”. Pretty big news then, but I can’t say either are indicative of quality. If anything, this has just made me even more sceptical about the project.

Ridley Scott returning to Alien franchise

Variety reports that Ridley is attached to return as director for an ALIEN prequel, to be scripted by Jon Spaiths. Scott Free will produce the film for 20th Century Fox, home of the franchise. No plot details are available yet.
Spaihts is a buy writer these days. His other genre credits include SHADOW 19, a sci-fi film; PASSENGERS, an epic space journey; THE DARKEST HOUR for Timu Bekmambetov (DAY WATCH); CHILDREN OF MARS for Disney; and ST. GEORGE AND THE DRAGON for Sony.

Legend (1985) – Retrospective Film & DVD Review

Ridley Scott’s first three feature films (THE DUELISTS, ALIEN, and BLADE RUNNER) earned praise from fans who thought he was a brilliant visual stylist and criticism from those who thought his work was all empty visual flash, with no substance. With LEGEND, he offered up a piece of evidence that seemed to support his critic’s contention: the film is a visually beautiful evocation of a fantasy world (with amazing costumes, sets, and creature makeup), but it is dramatically lifeless, without the sense of wonder that distinguishes masterpieces as diverse as THE WIZARD OF OZ and LORD OF THE RINGS.
Attempting to craft a fairy tale story of Good versus Evil, LEGEND is built around the premise that Darkness (Tim Curry) wants to stop the sun from rising, which involves sending his goblin minions to steal the horn of a unicorn. Darkness also sets kidnaps a beautiful princess (Mia Sara), but Jack O’The Green (Tom Cruise) joins up with a group of elves and fairies to rescue her and save the world.
Ridley Scott’s handling of the material (which was written by William Hjortsberg, author of Falling Angel) seems a bit confused. He uses production design, costumes, lighting, and makeup to suggest a sumptuous world of magic and wonder, but he cannot quite embrace the simple morality of the fairy tale form. Instead, he undercuts it with cheap jokes and modern vernacular in the dialogue. (“Adios, amigos!” cries one unfortunate henchman as he is dragged down into darkness. The line not only fails to get a laugh; it ruins what should have been a dramatic moment.)
There is a hint that the film wants to be a more adult exploration of the darker themes underlying fairy tales  (a la Neil Jordan’s THE COMPANY OF WOLVES), but Scott seems afraid of trespassing too far from the PG rating.* Consequently, LEGEND seems to be set less in the land of the Brothers Grimm than in some kind of cinematic limbo, where characters have neither purity to be simple archetypes nor the depth to be truly believable. Ridley Scott and William Hjortsberg may feel obligated to serve up the happily ever after, but they fail never to create a story wherein the conclusion feels anything but obligatory.
Tom Cruise, a rising star at the time, seems out of place in the fantasy surroundings. The supporting cast is played by some competent character actors, but they seldom get a chance to shine. Annabelle Lanyon (as the Tinkerbell surrogate Oona) shows a flash of fire and passion that makes you wish her character had been emphasized more. Absolutely unrecognizable beneath an excellent Rob Bottin makeup, Robert Picardo is great in what amounts to a bit part as the carniverous witch Meg Mucklebones – a ghastly combination of horror (she wants to each Jack) and humor (showing a hint of vanity, she is distracted by her own reflection in his shield).
The true highlight of the film is Tim Curry’s performance as Darkness. A magnificent, Satanic figure (in another fantastic Rob Bottin makeup), Curry’s dark lord captures the larger-than-life mythic tone better than anything else in the movie, emerging as a memorable portrait of evil.
Because of the strong visuals (and Curry’s performance, which is mostly limited to the final twenty minutes), the film is worth seeing. But it is not the film it should have been, and what’s wonderful about it only makes the failings more painful.


After its initial preview, Ridley Scott recut LEGEND for its European release, from 150 minutes to 94 minutes. The American release was held up a year while the film was recut again, this time to 89 minutes.
The European version of LEGEND was scored by Jerry Goldsmith (who previously worked with Scott on ALIEN); the American version abandons the Goldsmith music in favor of a new score by the German group Tangerine Dream (who also provided music for the Tom Cruise film RISKY BUSINESS). The results were detrimental, to say the least. The Goldsmith music provide something otherwise lacking in the movie: a lively sense of adventure and romance. Although at times effective, the Tangerine Dream soundtrack emphasized what was already there (the weirdness of this exotic fantasy world), making the soulless nature of the film even more obvious.
Both the American and the European cuts of LEGEND begin with Darkness summoning his Blix (Alice Playten, in a make-up designed to suggest a goblinesque version of Keith Richards).

  • In the European cut, Darkness is obscured behind the back of a chair; we hear his voice but see only the gestures of his hand and arm.
  • The American version, apparently desperate to throw down its trump card  in the first reel, reveals the character fully, but look of the make-up is somewhat obscured by bathing character in a black-light that distorts the colors.

Several scenes in the first and second act are shortened in order to rach Darkness’s lair as soon as possible. The worst example is the already too brief appearance of Meg Mucklebones, who is barely on screen before she is dispatched.
The two versions of LEGEND diverge most sharply after Darkness has been defeated.

  • The European cut show Jack diving to the bottom of a lake to retrieve a ring that will revive Princess Lili (Mia Sara). After she awakens, we see Jack’s comrades in this distance, with the unicorns, signaling that the world is back to normal.
  • The American version intercuts Jack’s recovery of the ring with footage of the unicorns, including a shot of the stolen horn being replaced on the wounded unicorn’s head. Since the loss of the unicorn’s horn is the pin on which the whole plot turns, this shot helps wrap up the loose ends more tightly, providing a more satisfying conclusion, instead of leaving the audience to wonder why there are two healthy unicorns with the elves at the end of the film. While this final sequence plays out, the Tangerine Dream score has a vocal and lyrics by Jon Anderson (of Yes) added on top, creating a brief song ( titled “Loved by the Sun”). As the credits roll, Tangerine Dream’s music is replaced by a song (“Is Your Love Strong Enough”) written and sung by Bryan Ferry.


Universal’s “Ultimate Edition DVD,” released in 2002, is a double disc set that includes both versions of LEGEND. Despite their different lengths, each is separated in 18 chapter stops, which is not really enough to pinpoint your favorite scenes. Although created in the days before widescreen televisions were the norm, the letterboxed transfers work quite well on a large plasma screen. There are also several bonus features, including an audio commentary, a making-of documentary, trailers, storyboards, and missing scenes.
Disc One features the European cut, with an audio commentary by Ridley Scott, who discusses his influences on the film (including BEAUTY AND THE BEAST) and elaborates on achieving fantasy special effects in the days before computer-generated imagery. He seems particularly proud of a small light dangling on the end of a fishing line, used to represent a fairy, but he admits there is one problem: asking the gaffer holding the fishing pole to make the light move “more like Tinkerbell.”
Disc Two includes the American cut of LEGEND, plus these bonus features:

  • Creating the Myth: The Making of Legend
  • Isolated Music Score by Tangerine Dream
  • Lost Scenes
  • Storyboards
  • Trailers
  • TV Spots
  • Photo Galleries
  • Bryan Ferry Music Video for “Is Your Love Strong Enough
  • Production Notes

Creating the Myth” is an extensive documentary featuring interviews with Ridley Scott, William Hjortsberg, Rob Bottin, Mia Sara, Billy Barty, and several other members of the cast and crew. Having been madeover a decade after the film’s release, it has the benefit of hindsight, which separates from the usual making-of supplemental features scene on most DVDs. Although it deals with subjects in chapters separated by title cards (e.g. “The Storyteller”), “Creating the Myth” is not chapter-stopped, unfortunately. It’s most interest section details the process that went into altering LEGEND for its U.S. release, with Scott claiming he was not coerced by Universal Studios but getting cold feet after a disappointing test screening.
Isolated Tangerine Dream Score: Watching the film this way the may be of some interest to fans. The mix includes extended versions of music that was trimmed for the film (this means the isolated score occassionally goes out of synch with the film), and there are also some alternate tracks not heard in the final mix of the theatrical release. Unfortunately, watching the film without dialogue soon grows wearying, especially as the music drops out at several places, leaving only dead silence. (This feature would have worked much better with some interview comments to fill in the blanks, as Danny Elfman did with his isolated score for the EDWARD SCISSORHANDS DVD.) The worst problem is the ending – a long visual sequence with virtually no dialogue, which is viewed completely in silence, with Tangerine Dream’s music totally missing. (Apparently because Jon Anderson sings a song on top of the music, this was not considered part of the Dream’s “score” for the film.) The problem continues with the closing credits, also in silence, the Bryan Ferry song having been removed. All in all, this feature would have worked better as a separate soundtrack CD, including all the Dream’s music, whether or not it was heard in the film.
Lost Scenes: There are two, neither very interesting.

  • Alternate Opening: The first lost scene  is a long sequence (presumably intended to run under the opening titles) with four goblins heading to a cave where they meet Darkness (visualized as a giant floating shroud, whipped by the wind), rather than in his castle. It is interesting to know that yet a third version of the opening was considered, but there is little entertainment value in seeing this abandoned version. The source for this footage is a worn-out videotape; the unfinished sequence suffers further from weak sound, recorded on-set (with someone other than Tim Curry voicing the dialogue for Darkness).
  • The Faerie Dance: The second lost scene remains lost, at least the visuals. The salvaged soundtrack has been illustrated with some still photos and storyboards. The overall impression is that we are not missing much, and the song sung during the dance is not memorable.

Storyboards are provided for three sequences: Lily and the Unicorns, Jack’s Challenge, and Downfall of Darkness. The most interesting is the last one, which features sketches of Darkness that more resemble Chernobog in the “Night on Bald Mountain” sequence of FANTASIA than the Rob Bottin makeup seen in the final film. This alternate, unfilmed ending features an interesting surprise: a unicorn (the mate of the one whose horn was stolen) provides the coup de grace to Darkness, impaling him through the chest.
Photo Galleries: There are galleries for Publicity Photographs, Images of LEGEND, and Continuity Polaoids.
Trailers: Two are included, one for the U.S. theatrical release and one for the international release. They seem redundant: except for the Universal Studios logo at the beginning of the U.S. trailer, they are virtually identical.
TV Spots give a good indication of the reason for including the Bryan Ferry song over the closing credits of LEGEND: the song is prominently displayed in two of the four spots, suggesting a music video as much as a movie promo.
Production Notes provide a brief history of the making of LEGEND, up through the fire that destroyed the original forest set (built on the so-called “James Bond Stage” at Pinewood Studios). Each paragraph is nicely illustrated with a still from the movie, but it ends abruptly, and the information mostly repeats what is available in “Creating the Myth.”
NOTE: When inserted into your computer, the DVD prompts you to install “interActual Player,” which promises to allow you to access additional content on the Internet. I’ll stick with my own DVD player – thank you very much.


This well-done DVD presentation is not going to convince anyone that LEGEND is a lost classic, but the film is not without merit, and the discs display its best qualities to good effect. Ridley Scott’s original cut fell short of his intended goal, but the attempt to improve it for American audiences only made things worse. This DVD presentation is worthwhile if only for the chance to see the European cut with Jerry Goldsmith’s score intact; plus, the audio commentary and the documentary provide useful insight  into the filmmaking process and the behind-the-scenes decisions that led to the alteration.
LEGEND (1985). Directed by Ridley Scott. Written by William Hjortsberg. Cast: Tom Cruise, Mia Sara, Tim Curry, David Bennent, Alice Playten, Billy Barty, Cork Hubbert, Robert Picardo.

  • The first draft of the script headed in an even more adult direction, at odds with Ridley Scott’s desire to make a fairy tale film a la Jean Cocteau’s BEAUTY AND THE BEAST. William Hjortsberg made explicit the dark sexual undertones of Darkness’s attempted seduction of Princess Lily; this of course was toned down to secure a family-friendly PG rating.