It’s been a quarter century since Rockne O’Bannon’s Alien Nation first hit theaters and introduced us to the charming, cantaloupe-headed, sour-milk-drinking, not-fans-of-seawater alien Newcomers who wound up stranded on Earth after landing in the Mojave Desert. Since that original film, it’s been resurrected as a Fox TV series, five TV movie spin-offs of the show, and a series of related books and comics. Well, nobody’s poked at it for a couple of years now, so here comes the inevitable: The Tracking Board reports that Fox is developing a feature film reboot of the franchise.
Both the original Alien Nation film and the show that followed were essentially buddy-cop stories with a sci-fi twist, pairing a human detective with a Newcomer partner (played by James Caan and Mandy Patinkin in the original film, respectively) and letting them solve crimes while bickering good-naturedly and aww man now I’m sad about Almost Human getting canceled again. This new version is said to be sticking with that same basic concept, and executive producers Mark Roybal and Ryan Jones are currently looking for the right writer for the project.
Far be it from me to point them in the direction of Buffy-verse veteran Tim Minear, but seriously, I’m pointing at Tim Minear right now. He was actually developing a new TV series version of Alien Nation back in 2009, but it “died on the vine” during that Sci-Fi Channel → Syfy transition where the cable network decided it needed to fill its airwaves with horrible paranormal “reality” shows and wrestling. So, as much as I would love to see Minear’s take on Alien Nation, and as much as I think he’s an interesting and talented enough guy to come up with a genuinely compelling new take on the material, I can’t imagine he’d want to go back to that well again. Unless it’s filled with money. Besides, he’s busy with FX’s American Horror Story these days.
Anyway, this will definitely be a project that’s going to live or die on the script, because in and of itself the concept of Alien Nation is one that’s been done to death over the years — sometimes really well (District 9). Still, it’s going to be a lot easier to make a forgettable Alien Nation movie than it is a good one. Honestly, I’d rather see it become a show again, since the concept is flexible enough that it could be used to explore all manner of modern issues. But if we have to get another Alien Nation movie, I hope Fox will follow the template of the Godzilla reboot and the upcoming Jurassic World. Both of those films are being used as the first welcome-to-the-majors projects for promising young directors who made a name for themselves with smaller genre projects — Monsters’ Gareth Edwards and Safety Not Guaranteed’s Colin Trevorrow, respectively.
We’ll keep you posted about the Alien Nation reboot as details become available. Now spray on a coat of nostalgia and revisit the trailer for the original.