To the Head of 20th Century Fox,
Request of Current Procedure: produce film adaptation of 2014 horror-survival video game Alien: Isolation, all other Alien franchise projects secondary, current film in production: Alien 5, expendable.
Submitted for your approval: Alien: Isolation takes place 15 years after the events of your 1979 classic where Ripley’s resourceful daughter, Amanda, travels to the exact place where her mother disappeared and boards a space station that has in it’s possession a recorded message Ripley made for her daughter. Unfortunately, Amanda discovers that a majority of the station’s inhabitants are dead, its survivors are territorial, its androids are running amok and a big, scary xenomorph is lurking in the shadows, looking for its next victim. The object of the game is explained best by Wikipedia:
To advance through the game, the player must explore a space station and complete numerous objectives while avoiding, outsmarting and defeating enemies like human occupants or hostile androids. Objectives range from activating computers to collecting certain items or reaching a specific area in the game. The player has the ability to run, climb ladders, and sneak into vents. The player can also crouch and hide behind objects to break the line of sight with enemies, and covertly peek over or lean around to gain view. The player has also the ability to go under nearby tables or inside lockers to hide from enemies.
The alien creature cannot be defeated, requiring the player to use stealth tactics in order to survive. Along the way, the player can use both a flashlight and a motion tracker to detect the alien’s movements. However, using any of these increases the chance of the alien finding the player. For example, if the alien is moving and close enough, the tracker’s sound will attract the alien, forcing the player to wisely use the tracker and remove it as soon as it detects motion. The motion tracker cannot detect enemies when they are not moving and cannot determine whether the alien creature is up in the ducts or on the ground level.
If this explanation of the game’s objective doesn’t interest and/or confuses you, I suggest you pour yourself a cup of coffee, sit back and watch the game movie here.
Are you done? Good. Here’s why this game has potential to become a movie:
- We can give Sigourney Weaver a break. Don’t get me wrong, I love that woman as much as the next femgeek, but I want to see another woman hero fight/outwit xenomorphs. And in A:I they succeeded with Amanda Ripley, who’s more of an intellectual hero than an action hero. Nowadays we’ve come to the unfortunate conclusion that physical prowess should be the standard for any main female character in an SF movie and that teeters toward the philosophy of “might makes right”. By having an intellectual female hero on the big screen who’s technically savvy, keeps her cool and uses her head, girls (those that are old enough to see the film but are still of an “impressionable” age) will learn that it’s OK (and important) to be smart.
- It brings the franchise back to its horror roots. One of the reasons why Alien is one of my favorite films of all time is best said by the late, great Roger Ebert:
One of the great strengths of “Alien” is its pacing. It takes its time. It waits. It allows silences. “Alien” uses a tricky device to keep the alien fresh throughout the movie: It evolves the nature and appearance of the creature, so we never know quite what it looks like or what it can do. The 1979 “Alien” is a much more cerebral movie than its sequels, with the characters (and the audience) genuinely engaged in curiosity about this weirdest of lifeforms.
The words I highlighted in bold lead me to an unpopular view: many believe that the franchise started to decline in quality with Alien 3. I believed it declined with James Cameron’s much-loved 1986 sequel when he sidestepped horror for action-thriller and since then every film, comic and video game in the franchise followed in the footsteps of Aliens instead of Alien. Not so with Alien: Isolation and let me tell you, there’s some scary scenes in Alien: Isolation. So scary I was afraid to open any door in my house at night for fear that a xenomorph would jump out at me.
- It utilizes the technology of the film yet still looks believably futuristic. The technology in Alien reflects the retrofuturism of the 70s even though the story takes place in 2122. Alien: Isolation starts off 15 years after the first film but doesn’t use 2014 technology (the year the game was released). The technology is large, beige and bulky yet that never for once distracts the player/viewer. It works.
- It centers on a mother/daughter relationship that’s rare in a lot of fiction be it film, TV, or video games. Though I would change that relationship to aunt/niece (see below, though it still centers on female relationships).
However cinema has a history of disastrous video game adaptations (Super Mario Brothers, Street Fighter, etc.) so some changes may be needed to the story. Here’s some changes I would make if I were to write the screenplay.
- The first plot change I would make is to start the film (after Ripley’s famous last recording) on the Sevastopol space station where Captain Marlowe and his team discover the xenomorph eggs and Marlowe’s wife gets attacked by a facehugger. She is brought on board with the camera closing in on her covered face… then we cut to our first scene of Amanda Ripley.
- I don’t understand why the game has Ripley kill some of the other survivors of Sevastopol simply because “they don’t trust strangers”. Can’t she at least reason with them and try to convince them that she’s here to help? Can she walk in her mother’s footsteps and convince them that the best way to survive is through teamwork?
- Her discovery of her mother’s taped message shouldn’t be interrupted by Marlowe’s threats against Taylor’s life. It should be an isolated scene that the audience should linger on while the second movement to Howard Hanson’s Symphony No. 2 plays.
- I always found it peculiar that the name of the company that the Ripley’s work for is an English-Japanese hybrid, yet there’s never been a Japanese character in the entire franchise. I might change one of the secondary characters (like Ricardo or Waits) or create an entirely new character that’s of Japanese descent.
- I might change Amanda’s relationship to Ellen from daughter to niece. Why? Because the deleted scene in Aliens where Ellen asks about her daughter isn’t considered canon (though it’s often been included in many “Special Edition” releases) and for me seemed too left field when you remember that Ripley made no mention of having a daughter in Alien. Why would a single mom (no word on what happened to Amanda’s dad) leave her only child (once again, no word on whether Amanda has siblings) for extended periods of time? It would make more sense for a niece, who has a mother already, desire to emulate the aunt she admires by becoming an engineer and working for the same company, investigate her aunt’s disappearance.
This is the Lady, sole inhabitant of Planet X, signing off.
Now, dear readers, it’s your turn. Do you think Alien: Isolation would make a good movie? What did you enjoy about Alien: Isolation? What would you change? Sound off in the comments.