I love Alien Nation. Love it. I even love the TV show that followed the movie. What bums me out is the fact that Alien Nation feels sort of forgotten and left behind.
There are two things that make Alien Nation special to me (besides Jimmy Caan and Mandy Patinkin, of course!): it’s one of the few science fiction films that’s more about ideas than it is about hardware and FX, and it’s an all-too rare movie where the action is allowed to be smaller and more personal. The film doesn’t end with Caan blowing up a mothership or anything, and it actually leaves many elements up in the air at the end. Perhaps too many – maybe audiences would have rather seen an invasion by the race that enslaved the Newcomers than a couple of mismatched cops fighting an alien drug ring.
But it’s really the concept – literal aliens immigrating to our world after an ET slave ship filled with ‘Newcomers’ crashes in the Mojave – that tickles me. That sort of almost on the nose metaphor really appeals to me, so Alien Nation is just delightful.
The universe created in the movie and the show is also ripe for revisitation. It’s about twenty years since the Newcomers first came to Earth, and I doubt their assimilation has gone all that smoothly in the intervening decades, but they’re probably a little more entrenched in human society. And it’s been a while, so maybe it could be time for the aliens who enslaved them to show up looking for their cargo…
All of this fanwank comes from one sentence that Gale Ann Hurd, producer of the film, said to my buddy Jenna Busch over at UGO in response to a question on remakes: ‘I’d love to do a new Alien Nation. That was one of my favorite films that I’ve produced.’
And she produced T2 and Aliens!
Gale, don’t remake Alien Nation. The story of the original isn’t exactly gripping enough to deserve a real remake. Just take the concepts and move ahead with them. Make a sequel that feels like a standalone, a movie that simply plays in the world set up in the original. And that title doesn’t even lock you into a cop story.
In fact, avoiding a remake allows you to examine new almost on the nose metaphorical concepts in the film. Illegal immigration is less of a hot topic today than it was even a year ago, but race relations remain a big issue. Hell, could someone have amended the Constitution in the Alien Nation world to give Newcomers a shot at the White House? I’m just giving these fanwank ideas away for free!
It’s all Oh Don Piano anyway, but maybe it’s given me a chance to remind you of – or introduce you to – a movie that’s been slightly forgotten. Click here to get the DVD of Alien Nation for an incredibly cheap 10 bucks – this sucker is due for a nice special edition, though.