In the past, James Cameron has been fairly blunt about his lack of appreciation for the third and fourth films in the “Alien” franchise which followed in the wake of his 1986 masterpiece “Aliens”.
Part of his distaste is that the ending of his film was left feeling wasted when “Alien 3” opened and all the hard-fought survivors of the previous film, bar Sigourney Weaver’s Ripley, had died. Cameron, who was at Comic-Con over the weekend to celebrate Aliens’ 30th anniversary, spoke with io9 about why he didn’t like “Alien 3”:
“I thought [the decision to eliminate Newt, Hicks, and Bishop] was dumb. I thought it was a huge slap in the face to the fans. [Alien 3 director] David Fincher is a friend of mine, and he’s an amazing filmmaker, unquestionably. That was kind of his first big gig, and he was getting vectored around by the studio, and he dropped into the production late, and they had a horrible script, and they were re-writing it on the fly. It was just a mess. I think it was a big mistake. Certainly, had we been involved we would not have done that, because we felt we earned something with the audience for those characters.”
Cameron is much more impressed with the script that “District 9” helmer Neill Blomkamp has done for a hypothetical direct sequel to “Aliens” which would ignore the subsequent films. Talking about that script, Cameron says:
“I think it works gangbusters. He shared it with me, and I think it’s a very strong script and he could go make it tomorrow. I don’t know anything about the production, and I don’t know what Ridley [Scott]’s doing. But hopefully there’ll be room for both of them. Like parallel universes.”
The Oscar nominations for Cameron’s “Aliens” helped change the thinking on sequels in Hollywood and explained the pitfalls of approaching it wrong:
“The rule when we made Aliens was that a sequel would cost twice as much and make half as much. It never really looked like a particularly good business model, so they were relatively rare… I think there’s a tricky balance when you’re doing a sequel, between making it fresh, surprising the audience, but not surprising them with such a swerve that they feel that it’s not honoring the first film. You’ve got to play to expectations, you’ve got to play against expectations. And I always think that it’s about answering a question that you didn’t know to ask. But when they see it, it seems obvious.”
The film’s producer Gale Ann Hurd says sequels have gotten out of hand these days and offers some advice to studios: “As opposed to formulaic filmmaking, go to an auteur and have the auteur write the script, and re-invent the story while staying true to canon.”