The Alien movie franchise, which began with 1979's classic science-fiction horror movie Alien, has in nearly forty years generated three sequels, two prequels and two crossovers with Predator, 20th Century Fox's other sci-fi movie monster franchise. The Alien franchise and its iconic star the Xenomorph have also seen adaptations in literature, comic books, graphic novels, and video games, as well as inspiring works across many corners of the entertainment industry. As such, it is unsurprising that there is an appetite for a sequel to last summers Alien: Covenant from some fans of the franchise and general audiences.
As with any movie franchise, the studio responsible for its production is usually as eager as the fanbase to see said franchise continue. Since the release of Alien: Covenant, the second in a series of prequels to 1979's Alien, both 20th Century Fox and it's director Ridley Scott have assured fans a sequel is in development, rumored to be titled Alien: Awakening. Fans have speculated that Awakening will be the last movie in the Alien prequel series and that the movie will tie-in to 1979's Alien. However, there are a growing number of factors working against the possibility of Alien: Awakening ever being made.
#1 Comcast vs Disney
Currently, entertainment industry giants Comcast and Disney are engaged in a bidding war for the rights to most of the intellectual properties and assets owned by 21st Century Fox, of which include those owned by its film studio 20th Century Fox. The distribution rights to the Alien franchise is one of many of these properties, which also include the distribution and/or production rights to franchises such as the Predator, X-Men, Fantastic Four, X-Files, and Planet of the Apes, among many others.
Bidding war aside, a new installment in the Alien franchise could take up to twenty-four months to produce, and that is once director Ridley Scott is available and the movie's screenplay has been greenlit by Fox and/or Comcast or Disney. As long as Disney and Comcast continue to counterbid each other, the bidding war will delay the already lengthy process of redistribution, reallocation and the management of Fox's properties under its new head studio. Which will, in turn, add to the delay before a sequel to Alien: Covenant could be greenlit. Furthermore, with the possibility that Comcast and Disney may have different plans for the properties they will acquire if their bids are successful, Fox is limited by the creative and financial decisions they can make in the long term, in case the successful bidding companies plans are not in-line with those Fox would normally pursue. As such, unless they can reach a mutual creative decision with both bidders, Fox is currently bound to religate properties such as the anticipated Alien: Covenant sequel to development only, further adding to the delay that fans will have to endure for the next installment in their beloved franchise.
#2 Creative Indecisiveness
Covenant continued the story of synthetic android David, portrayed by German/Irish actor Michael Fassbender, from 2012's Prometheus. Covenant revealed that David had used the deadly pathogen created by the Engineers, both of which were introduced in Prometheus, to "engineer" the perfect organism, the Xenomorph. Following the release of Prometheus, its sequel was originally developed to be titled Paradise or Paradise Lost, with reports that the narrative of the sequel would follow David and Dr. Elizabeth Shaw, portrayed by Swedish actress Noomi Rapace, as they journeyed to the "where they (the Engineers) came from" in a quest for resolution and revelation.
However, due to polarizing critical opinion across social media platforms director Scott and studio Fox reassessed their plans for Prometheus' sequel. A narrative exploring the creation of the Xenomorph was instead developed, despite calls from director Scott that the creature was no longer effective as an antagonist and driving force for the franchise. The change in creative direction was echoed throughout the fandom, with Alien: Covenant splintering a fandom that had already been divided by 2012's Prometheus, and the two Alien vs Predator crossovers.
Early reports have suggested that with Alien: Awakening director Scott intends to further explore the character of David, exploring the theme of Artificial Intelligence, with speculation that the Engineers could also return to wage war against the rogue synthetic for his actions against their kin as witnessed in Covenant. This proposal, together with the growing fear among fans that Scott will retcon David to become the enigmatic "Space Jockey" (the dead alien pilot featured in 1979's Alien) has been received with a mixed opinion from both fans and critics.
As echoed in a statement by Fox's president Stacey Snider from last year, the creative direction of Alien: Awakening could be less certain than that of its predecessor, which could further add to the development and production time of the anticipated sequel mentioned above (see #1 Comcast vs Disney).
#3 Commercial Viability
As mentioned above, the heavy retconning of the mythology of the Alien franchise, as evident in Prometheus and its successor Covenant has splintered an already divided fanbase. This became evident when Covenant only earned $240.9 million in worldwide box office takings, as compared to Prometheus' worldwide box office earnings of $403.4 million. With both Prometheus and Covenant being produced with production budgets in the region of $100 million, Covenants low box office earnings suggests a significant drop in interest in the Alien franchise among general audiences, which is further supported by the mixed critical response to both Prometheus and Covenant.
No studio can justify continuing to invest $100 million in the production of installments to a franchise that is struggling both commercially and critically. Unless Alien: Awakening can be produced to a higher standard than its predecessors on a drastically reduced production budget, the likelihood that the movie will be greenlit by Fox and/or Comcast or Disney remains low.
Another factor affecting the commercial viability of Alien: Awakening is the growing, yet unfounded fear among the fanbase and general audiences that should Disney successfully outbid Comcast for 21st Century Fox's assets and intellectual properties that any r-rated properties, such as the Alien franchise will be marginalized for a PG-13 audience, similar to 2004's Alien vs Predator. While it is highly unlikely that Disney would negatively impact such r-rated properties (see Netflix series The Punisher as evidence in proof) the fear, and as such the possibility remains. Reducing the Alien franchise to a PG-13 would potentially open the series up to a larger general audience, but would also limit the darker elements of the series such as its horror genre tropes and its sexual themes.
#4 Ridley Scotts Longevity
There is no escaping the fact that this November 30th the British director of Alien, Prometheus, and Alien: Covenant, Ridley Scott will turn 81 years old. In addition to Alien: Awakening, Scott is currently attached to a number of film and television projects, including but not limited to adaptations of the Battle of Britain, S. Craig Zahler's novel Wraiths of the Broken Land, the 1968 British TV series The Prisoner, the Merlin Saga, and Greg Rucka's novel Queen & Country. While we commend Scott for continuing to work as a director at such an age (for comparison only, legendary Scottish actor Sean Connery, now 87 retired June 2006 at the age of 74), such a crowded filming schedule and the Comcast vs Disney bidding war could delay Alien: Awakenings release for another 3-5 years, at the very least. While we are sure Scott is in good health the chances that he may pass away before Alien: Awakening is greenlit, produced or released are ever increasing. Should Scott pass before, or even during Awakenings production the likelihood of the movie ever being released would fall dramatically, even if any of Scott's children (Jake, Luke, and Jordan) and/or contemporaries were attached to the project.
Comcast and Disneys heated bidding war for 21st Century Fox's assets and intellectual properties, the creative and commercial pressures of successfully completing a prequel trilogy to a movie with a divided fanbase, and the impending possibility that director Ridley Scott could pass away before a sequel to last summers Alien: Covenant is even greenlit puts the existence of a sequel in real jeopardy. Whether or not Scott passes away before Comcast or Disney's acquisition of 21st Century Fox, the successful bidder could, as already mentioned, delay a new installment to the Alien franchise even further, potentially not even continuing with Scott's vision. All of which begs the question of whether or not Ridley Scotts Alien: Awakening will ever be made?
If you're a fan of Alien / Prometheus and would like to discuss Alien: Covenant and its upcoming sequel with other like-minded fans, be sure to join in our Alien: Covenant forum! Ranked the #1 Prometheus forum back in 2012 and reigning as the web's top Alien: Covenant fan site, it's a great place to discuss the upcoming Prometheus sequels, dissect details from every trailer and engage with other fans just like you.
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