Aliens, the second installment in the Alien franchise, is a classic horror movie, and a possible Aliens 5 could benefit from following in its genre footsteps. In Alien, final girl Ellen Ripley, played to perfection by Sigourney Weaver, is the sole survivor of an alien attack on the crew of the Nostromo. The sequel film, Aliens, reprises this enemy in a slasher-villain storyline with a more pronounced sci-fi setting. Filmmaker James Cameron balances these two genres in Aliens in a masterful way. However, the following movies (and many of the video games) add more action movie elements and downplay the horror, a change that is harmful to the franchise.
The sequels to Aliens shift the focus from horror into action to the detriment of the franchise as a whole. In Alien 3, the previously subtle Weyland-Yutani Corporation from past films becomes an obviously evil action-movie gestapo, shooting all who get in their way. They were far more effective as a shadowy entity inexplicably working with the Xenomorphs intent on killing humanity. Alien: Resurrection is about the Company more than Xenomorphs, further taking the franchise away from its roots. The result is an unsatisfying jumble of genres, emphasizing more sci-fi action while weakening the horror elements which were the first two films’ biggest strength.
The decision to move away from horror to action shifts the focus to the origins and motivations of the alien Xenomorphs, rather than the effects of their killing sprees on the humans. Horror, at its best, is about human reactions to inhuman forces, which connects the viewer to the protagonists. A focus on action necessarily leads to nerfing the Xenomorphs because an action movie antagonist, unlike a horror villain, needs to be beatable. Various action-heavy Alien prequels and sequels have attempted to work around this problem with little success.
How A Return To Horror Can Help The Alien Franchise
The video game and comic Alien: Isolation provides a potential roadmap to revitalizing the franchise. This game is a direct sequel to the first Alien movie, and is a solid survival horror story. Movies like Alien: Resurrection reduce The Company to action tropes as the big bad, which lessens the true horror of the Xenomorphs. Alien: Isolation is much more compelling because it restores the primary tension of the Alien movie franchise as the player is trying to survive an existential threat and flee from a horrific monster.
Aliens 5 could take a similar approach to Alien: Isolation by going back to the horror roots of the franchise. This could involve a reboot of the series after Aliens to erase all the messy retcons, which would free the writers to focus on the survivors and how they cope with a relentless, deadly enemy. This would be a move away from the pure action tropes that alienated audiences, and bring the story back to its foundations. Horror as a genre employs numerous storytelling techniques, but the audience needs to identify with the protagonists, and a horror-based, survivor-focused Aliens 5 would be immensely fun to watch.
An Aliens 5 movie has been announced, and then canceled, several times since 2015. The current news suggests a movie is on the back burner, with a TV show more likely to happen. That opens up an avenue for a longer Alien prequel or Aliens sequel story. Horror is a much better genre with which to explore the threat of an unkillable and possibly immortal Xenomorph than action, and would restore the franchise to the terrifying feel that made Alien and Aliens classics.