Will The “Alien” Fanfilm Contest Revitalize the Classic Franchise?

Matthew Loffhagen
20th Century Fox
(Photo: 20th Century Fox)

20th Century Fox has announced a strange plan for the 40th anniversary of “Alien”. Instead of making anything new with an official license, the studio is throwing the doors open to fans with a special contest.

A short film competition allows creators around the world the opportunity to do something different with the source material.

This is perhaps the smartest thing the studio can do with “Alien”.

It’s no secret that this franchise has somewhat struggled in recent decades. The first two movies in the series are great, but everything after that has ranged from passable to downright dire.

(I’ll let you decide which movies you think are the true stinkers among the lineup.)

Same Old, Same Old

Part of the problem, I think, is that the series has stagnated. Creators are trying so hard to recapture the magic of earlier movies that they can’t comfortably introduce anything new or original.

It doesn’t help that whenever something original does get thrown into the mix, it kind of sucks. I’m looking at you, “Prometheus”.

Ridley Scott has made some very honest remarks about how the “Alien” franchise is essentially his retirement plan. He wants to keep cranking out movies for as long as he’s allowed, and I’m not sure how much he actually cares about the trappings of this particular series.

Both “Prometheus” and “Alien: Covenant” pay lipservice to the “Alien” brand, while actually telling Christian allegories wrapped up in futuristic musings on artificial intelligence.

A promotional video for “Covenant” is titled “Last Supper”, and features James Franco as a sickly Jesus figure. This series has ended up at a weird place.

So with Scott slowly poisoning the well of inspiration for the series by mixing in a load of foreign contaminants, and movies like Neill Blomkamp’s “Alien 5” getting cancelled to make more room for Scott’s prequels, it’s clear that Fox can’t really be trusted with this series.

The best hope for the future of “Alien” comes from this fan competition.

Sure, many of the films will be a little crummy, as fanfilms usually are. But, somewhere among these entries, talented filmmakers will produce genuinely solid works. There’s even some great funding available for those whose initial pitches get accepted.

We’re going to get a series of really cool, original “Alien” short movies. What’s more, we could be looking at work that will lead directly to feature length films.

The Genius of Untapped Potential

I’m reminded of the career of William F Sandberg, director of “Lights Out” and “Annabelle: Creation”. The horror director actually got his start a few years ago with a short horror movie that won a competition.

I can imagine that Fox might be hoping to discover a similar unknown director who could be the future of the series.

If we’re very lucky, this fan competition could well lead to a fresh face at the helm of an “Alien” movie, and the first chance in years that we might get a feature length xenomorph horror movie that’s actually work watching.