Last year, I reported on a planned relaunch of Alien Nation. The topical sci-fi flick from the 80s gave way to a TV show, and it’s premise continues to be as timely today as it was then. When I reported on it back in March of 2015, I shared with you the idea that Fox wanted to reboot the film and expand the story into a Planet Of The Apes style franchise. Back then, it was Art Marcum and Matt Holloway who had been hired to bring this vision to life. Now it looks like Fox has made a creative shakeup, and it’s a very intriguing one.
Deadline is reporting that Jeff Nichols has been tapped to write and direct Alien Nation. What makes that so intriguing? The fact that Nichols is a fairly serious filmmaker, and his films- up to this point- have been smaller, more thoughtful affairs. That’s not to say he hasn’t dabbled in sci-fi, as his Midnight Special brought plenty of Spielberg/Amblin-esque thrills long before people had heard a thing about Stranger Things.
It’s always interesting when big studios bring in real auteurs from the indie scene to get their feet wet on a tentpole movie, and it’s an approach that has had very hit-or-miss results. But, bearing in mind how well the relaunch of Planet Of The Apes has gone, Fox has had success with this formula. They hired Rupert Wyatt, who was very wet behind the ears outside of his indie The Escapist, to direct the blockbuster reboot Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes. Then they tapped Matt Reeves, who’d never made a movie on a budget of over $25 million, to direct their $170 million sequel Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes.
They’ve also taken a similar gamble on Justin Kurzel (Snowtown, Macbeth), whom they entrusted Assassin’s Creed with.
Nichols is a promising young filmmaker, with movies like Mud, Take Shelter, and his latest, Loving, all garnering critical acclaim.
Alien Nation is an interesting property to tackle, too, since it’s metaphor is so current and so relevant. Here’s how I described it last time.
“The 1988 film told the story of Detective Matthew Sykes (Caan) and his partner Detective Samuel “George” Francisco (Patinkin), and their dealings with the criminal underworld. The catch? George is an alien, and they live in a society where not only has first contact been made, but aliens have actually moved onto earth and integrated themselves into our society- despite mankind basically trying to keep them segregated and given little rights.”
To boot, Sykes also has a dislike and distrust of aliens, which makes the dynamic between them- and his individual arc- more interesting.
This Alien Nation reboot could be a pretty damn special merging of high concept, outsized budget, and a real filmmaker.