The Disney/Fox Speculation — Welcome Home X-Men & Fantastic Four?

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The big news for the past week has been about Disney in talks with 21st Century Fox to buy a bulk of its film studios and its intellectual properties. While the initial news had it that talks have stopped the possibility remains that both parties will resume negotiations. What is driving Disney’s desire to expand its entertainment empire is the need to bolster its upcoming streaming service when it is available in 2019. The film studio 20th Century Fox has a huge film library with many viable franchises such as the Alien films, Avatar, and Planet of the Apes. But more importantly, Fox still has the rights to the original Star Wars films and the missing pieces in Disney’s Marvel films: the X-Men and the Fantastic Four.

The following I wrote back in September 23, 2017 for another site that is going defunct soon. It’s related to the current situation and illustrates how wildly things have changed from just a few weeks ago. I decided to repost it here and will add some final thoughts afterwards.

What rankles many fans of Marvel Studios’ Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) is that two of Marvel Comics’ top properties, the X-Men and the Fantastic Four are not part of it.

The obvious reason for this is because the film rights for both properties are being held by 20th Century Fox, who is determined to hold onto them. Long before The Walt Disney Company brought Marvel Comics, the comic book company sold the film rights of its characters to many film studios, including Fox. Over the years, even before the success of the MCU, Marvel Studios sought to regain the rights to its characters. For the most part they have succeeded and the top prize for the studio was getting to share the film rights to Marvel’s top character, Spider-Man.

But the only major hold outs were the X-Men and the Fantastic Four. Fox has had great success with their X-Men films even though some of them were reviled by fans and critics for not being faithful to the source material and being downright terrible. Meanwhile, their efforts with the Fantastic Four never took off. The most recent failure being the DOA 2015 reboot that buried director Josh Trank’s career.

Given the poor track record with their Fantastic Four films, one has to wonder why Fox would want to continue making them. Despite the negative reaction from their reboot, the film studio is still trying to develop more films based on the superhero team and even spinoffs featuring Dr. Doom and the children of Reed and Sue Richards. Naturally the reaction to the news is one of despair and anger. Most fans see that the Fantastic Four would fit naturally into the MCU and their villains are some of Marvel’s greatest. Marvel Studios cannot use Galactus in their films because he is a Fantastic Four villain, the same thing goes for Magneto. While the X-Men films did a terrific job with their presentation of Magneto the same cannot be said for Dr. Doom and Galactus. In fact, in his onscreen debut, Galactus was just a giant space cloud!

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There were rumors that after the reboot debacle, Fox was ready to sell back the rights to Disney/Marvel but a snag in negotiations derailed that idea. Many were hopeful that after Marvel allowed Fox to start making TV shows based on the X-Men properties that perhaps the deal was that the Fantastic Four would go back to Marvel. But that does not appear to be the case.

Right now, there are only vague allusions to Marvel being allowed to use the two properties but in far off terms. One curious thing is that Marvel Studios still has not announced what the Phase 4 MCU films will be. This gives hope that maybe the Fantastic Four could make a splashy debut. It is possible; when Spider-Man joined the MCU it was a surprise.

What it took for Spider-Man to join the MCU was the failure of his recent films and the shaky status of Sony Pictures. Fox does not have the same financial problems of Sony, so they can afford to weather out the storm of bad films until they strike gold. This almost happened with their attempt to reboot Daredevil, but the rights lapsed and Marvel regained him. From there, Marvel saw great success with their Netflix version of Daredevil. Perhaps Fox executives feel that they can find the right formula and are more patient. At that rate, it will be quite some time before Marvel Studios regains the Fantastic Four. That and an insane amount of money.

With the X-Men films doing so well, it is ridiculous to think that Fox would ever relinquish the rights to Marvel. For this to happen, fans would have to vigorously boycott all X-Men-related films and TV shows. The property has to be seen as too unprofitable for Fox to want to keep, but this scenario may not happen. Look at what is going on with the Fantastic Four, their films are poorly received and the property is not as popular as the X-Men yet Fox still won’t let them go.

So, is it just a pipe dream? Are the Fantastic Four and X-Men doomed to never join the MCU? Well, it can happen but be prepared to wait and protest.

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Aliens: Looking Back At The Sci-Fi Action Classic

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When James Cameron’s classic Aliens was releases 30 years ago, it was instantly regarded as one of the best sci-fi films of all time. It is a fantastic blend of action, futuristic war, as well as a followup to another genre favorite, Ridley Scott’s Alien. The strengths of this sequel comes in many forms.

First is the continuation of having many interesting and aliens marinesiconic characters that inhabit this universe. The most famous is of course the only returning character from the first film, Ellen Ripley played to perfection by Sigourney Weaver. Her portrayal of Ripley as strong and reliable is balanced by her affection for the little girl Newt who is the only survivor of a distant colony overrun by the horrific Xenomorph aliens. Michael Biehn from Terminator fame plays the stoic colonial marine Corporal Hicks, and is a great counterpart to Ripley. The strong cast also includes Bill Paxton as the brash but somewhat bumbling Hudson, Paul Reiser as the slimy company man Burke and Lance Hendriksen as the android Bishop, someone Ripley hates and distrusts at first but later comes to see as an ally. This group of loud and tough space marines contrasts to Ripley’s apprehension and fear of what is coming when they travel to the colony Hadley’s Hope to investigate why contact was lost. Cameron’s depiction of futuristic soldiers was highly influential and has resulted in countless imitations in movies and video games that continues to this day. Everything from Doom to Halo and the film version of Starship Troopers all owe some debt to this film.

ripley and newtAnother brilliant aspect of the film is its perfect blend of action and horror. While Aliens is much more action packed when compared to its predecessor, it still has moments of tension and fear, especially when the marines first land on the colony and try to find any signs of life. The audience (as well as Ripley) already know what happened to everyone there, and the anticipation of finally seeing the deadly creatures definitely raises the tension level. When the aliens do make their appearance, an all out battle ensues with the marines suffering greatly despite their enormous firepower. The movie can go from quiet and nervous to chaotic and hectic in a flash, and yet it all works. Later in the film after another big battle between the marines and aliens, the film ripley and loadersuddenly takes on another scary tone when Newt is kidnapped and Ripley has to journey into the Alien Queen’s lair to rescue her. This foreshadows the epic climax when she fights the Alien Queen in a souped-up power armor/construction device while onboard the ship after the colony is vaporized after a pulse pounding countdown to its destruction. Ripley’s victory against the creature helped to cement her as one of sci-fi’s best heroines and added to her characterization as the ultimate survivor and great example of human ingenuity succeeding despite all odds. The quiet note on which the film ends again parallels the first movie and seemed to set up future adventures with Ripley and her new surrogate family of Newt and Hicks. Unfortunately this didn’t happen with the next film taking on a different direction.

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All of this is set against the backdrop of the fascinating Alien universe that has kept audiences coming back and not just in films. Many books, games and comics have explored this  world and perhaps the star attraction of it all is the alien creature itself. H.R. Giger’s unparalleled design that is both disgusting and captivating has kept fans always anticipating new adventures set in this universe. A universe of bleak distant worlds, corporate intrigue, and insidious alien beings that are perhaps the most deadly ever seen on film. Aliens was the first time that so many of these creatures were seen at once. Dozens of them swarming all over the place was terrifying and a sight to behold. The design of the Alien Queen was also new and the size of it was simply staggering. None of the subsequent films in the franchise have yet attained the level set by Aliens, but with a new Alien film by Neill Blomkamp on the horizon that is supposed to be a direct followup, hopefully another sci-fi epic will continue the story of Ripley, Hicks and Newt. Regardless, Aliens will always be seen as an absolute high point of the genre, one of James Cameron’s best films, and will be well remembered even 30 years from now.

C.S. Link

 

Falling Skies Rising

The science fiction war drama TV show Falling Skies just concluded its second season on TNT with the episode “A More Perfect Union”, and proved that it never rests on its laurels.

Falling Skies stars Noah Wyle as Tom Mason, an ex-history professor and now second in command of a rag-tag militia called the 2nd Mass. Originally based in the Boston area (and for the entirety of its first season), the unit abandoned New England early in the second season to head for the supposed safe haven of Charleston, South Carolina.

As with most filmed road trips stuff happened, usually to progress a storyline or develop characters. For instance, Tom started a tender relationship with the group’s field medic Dr. Anne Glass (Moon Bloodgood), dealt with recriminations from being abducted then released by the alien invaders (from the end of the first season) and had to accept that his children had grown up. The oldest Hal (Drew Roy) became a competent, deadly soldier and a future leader; the youngest Matt (Maxim Knight) grew up too fast and is now doing sentry duty; but the most interesting son is his middle one, Ben. He had been abducted (along with many of Earth’s children) by the aliens before the show started and fitted with a biomechanical device on his spine that enslaved him. Ben was rescued last season but this season covered the repercussions and gave Ben one of Falling Skies’ best arcs. It became clear that he had been altered by his experience, seen with his enhanced physical skills and the psychic links he shared with aliens whenever they were nearby.

This was instrumental in one of the main arcs. It was revealed that some factions of the arachnid-like alien Skitters were rebelling against their masters and were seeking help from the humans. Tom and others had to overcome their mistrust of the rebel Skitters and while some of the show’s plots moved along a bit too fast, this one had the right pace. This helped viewers to see that things weren’t black and white when it came to the aliens who conquered Earth.

So what waited for them in Charleston? Supposedly the city was the new capitol of the United States with a working government and armed military. More importantly to the beleaguered 2nd Mass., the city offered the promise of a return to normalcy: hot showers, meals and safety. In the penultimate show of the season, “The Price Of Greatness”, they discover that the city had moved underground, leaving behind ruins to throw the aliens off their tracks. Despite a warm welcoming and comforts, things weren’t so great in the underground city. Our heroes were caught between Tom’s old mentor (Terry O’Quinn), the civilian leader, who basically wanted to remain hidden from the aliens and the General Bressler (Matt Frewer), who wanted to go after the aliens. By that episode’s end, the military initiated a coup but that didn’t solve anything.

The final episode of the season had the 2nd Mass. undertaking a covert mission to assassinate an alien Overlord and destroy a cobbled-together installation. There was genuine tension, excitement, deaths and new developments to carry over to the third season. The acting and character development was very well done, it even made viewers feel for an inhuman rebel Skitter when it was killed. That alien never spoke and was quite hideous, but anyone would’ve felt its plight as it desperately tried to fight its alien enemies.

There are many questions unanswered in the show, chiefly, what do the aliens want with Earth? By the end of “A More Perfect Union” it seems as if the aliens are at war with another alien race, but it’s unknown if the new aliens can be counted as allies. Falling Skies gave viewers enough bait to entice them to keep watching.

Many second seasons for shows are make or break in terms of quality. Luckily for Falling Skies, it has found its bearings in the second season and like any worthwhile TV show leaves viewers eager for new episodes and new seasons.

Lewis T. Grove

Prometheus

EDITOR’S NOTE: Ridley Scott’s film Prometheus brought out significant debate among our writers who fell into two differing camps. Presented are two separate viewpoints on the film, both pro and con. Warning: Spoilers ahead.

PRO: This is an excellent movie!

According to the folks behind the film, it’s supposedly “not-an-Alien-prequel” set in Ridley Scott’s Alien universe. The story revolves around the Weyland Corporation crew of the spaceship Prometheus searching for life on a far away planet. Not just any life, but searching for ones who may have created the human race.

Noomi Rapace and Charlize Theron both did a great job in Prometheus portraying scientist Elizabeth Shaw and Weyland administrator Meredith Vickers respectively. Also, I should mention the acting of Guy Pearce (as Peter Weyland ) and Michael (X-Men: First Class’ Magneto) in another great role as the android David. Good casting all around.

The first Alien movie creeped me out for years. Jim Cameron’s Aliens was more action and suspense. Prometheus is more about discovery, revelations of the origin or mankind, alien biohazards and questioning religious faith in the disturbing world of the Alien universe. Fans of the original film were begging for Scott to return to the Alien Universe. After a few false starts, he finally was able to get the greenlight to direct Prometheus.

It should be noted that 1979’s Alien was a co-creation of a core team of brilliant filmmakers. Directed by Ridley Scott; alien designs by H.R. Giger; interior spaceship designs by Ron Cobb; spacesuits by comic book artist Moebius; produced by Walter Hill and David Giler and written by Dan’O Bannon and Ron Schusset. But no one individual could have produced the first movie on their own. There was no singular vision from one of them. It was a dynamically active collaboration between all of them during the production of the movie. It’s like they all have shared creative custody to the dreaded Alien creation.

After plenty of sequels which were not directed by Scott, it was nice to see many of Alien’s original founding fathers return—with plenty of ideas– Scott, producer Walter Hill, Giger and his designs. Many unexplored concepts that those original Alien founding fathers had are readily extrapolated in this movie.

The settings of the first Alien movie are there, like the space jockey’s horseshoe-shaped ship; the Weyland Corporation; a seemingly psychotic android; a relief sculpture inside the horseshoe spaceship, seen in darkness when a character points the flashlight on the wall that looks like Giger’s alien; human victims unwillingly hosting alien parasites (plenty of those). Also, all the ancillary Giger grey, bony biomechanical structures of the alien ship and tech are very well recreated. It’s got plenty of elements from the Alien universe.

The bio menaces in the movie are built up to show it’s not-the-face-hugger, not Giger’s alien, not-the-eggs, so there’s a whole new set of bio menaces in Prometheus. Believe it or not (can’t help it), Scott’s movie appears to take it in a new direction. Set-in-the-Alien-universe-but-seemingly-not-Alien this new movie proves that Scott is a sly guy. The final seconds of the movie reveal how this movie ties into Alien. Not to spoil it too much, but during the final seconds, the audience in my theatre expressed their approval by uttering, “wowwww”, “nice”, Oh, ok!”

The production design & CGI are truly well done, kudos to the crew. I’m ordering the book Art of Prometheus and the Cinefex issue with the article on the movie.

Thumbs up. Go see Prometheus in theatres. There’s nothing like being spooked by these master storytellers who helped create the Alien franchise. And finally, don’t believe the “not-an-Alien-prequel” marketing campaign. It’s a great addition to the franchise and stay to the end.

GEO

Con: While I do agree with GEO on many of Prometheus’ technical merits (production design, effects, acting), I had many problems with the film.

The first half of the movie was fine, good buildup and all. It begins with humanoid Engineers seeding a planet with their DNA, then Earth scientists in 2089 discover ancient clues leading to the Engineers’ planet. The film jumps ahead a few years later to a spaceship called Prometheus arriving at an Engineer planet with a scientific crew. At this point, I give the filmmakers credit for trying to do more than just a prequel to Alien and the approach was different. Instead of a grungy, beat-up and cramped spaceship like the Nostromo, we get a spacious, state-of-the-art explorer craft with eye-popping holographics (one of the best reasons to see Prometheus in 3D).

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But in the second half of the film, after the crew awaken things that should be left alone, then the film just fell apart thanks to the sloppy writing that left plot holes larger than those organic looking entryways into the Engineers’ ships.

Characters do dumb, illogical things, plot points are brought up, dropped without warning then taken up again; seriously how rushed were writers Damon Lindelof and Jon Spaihts? No one in production or in the editing room brought up these glaring mistakes?

Let’s go over some of them. During an expedition into the Engineers’ deserted pyramid, two scientist freak out and decide to leave the main expedition, but get stranded inside the structure when a storm approaches. So what do they do? They camp out in a chamber that holds countless vases with mysterious goo and after seeing a hammerhead slug-like creature they act like it’s a puppy, approach it and get attacked! Weren’t they scared by the entire place? Where did their scientific training go? Why not back away instead of leaving yourself open to attack? All of this could have been taken care of if the creature attacked them by surprise.

Later, the Prometheus crew goes back to look for them, finds only one body, make a comment about needing to find the other scientist and the matter is dropped for the next plot development. Of course, the other scientist shows up later and attacks the crew when a few thrills were needed.

Then there’s Elizabeth Shaw’s unexpected pregnancy. That entire plot development was chilling and worked well until after she has the alien fetus removed surgically. Shaw gets up and runs around afterwards after having major surgery! Any woman will tell you who had a cesarean, that running and even walking are impossible. That surgery slices open abdominal muscles that are needed for just walking. The film could’ve thrown in some line about advanced healing therapy in the form of an injection (as was shown later when a paraplegic Weyland was able to walk), something real quick could’ve been shown. But no, this glaring plot hole eluded the production team.

Another problem stemming from this sequence is that nothing is done about the alien fetus by the rest of the crew! No one really pays much mind to Shaw, despite the fact that by this point she’s running around all bloodied and that earlier she was treated as someone who was contagious! The list just goes on, but the point is that these glaring plot holes just took me out of the film.

Ordinarily, minor quibbles can be glossed over and forgotten but when a film just piles one shoddy mistake after another then that’s a problem. I can forgive the fact that the film never answers why the Engineers are so hostile to humans and so on. Those are valid questions set up for a sequel. But when characters lose all common sense and behave irrationally or plot developments don’t make sense, well then it’s time to admit that the film is flawed. Prometheus has many things to admire about it, but sadly too many detractions as well.

José Soto

The Alien Movies Ranked

The Alien movies are some of the most well-loved films in science fiction and with the upcoming prequel Prometheus about to be released in the U.S., here are the films that preceded it in order of my personal preference:

1. Alien (1979) Ridley Scott’s sci-fi/horror masterpiece set the standard for this genre. Over the years I have come to regard this one as the best of the bunch because of how well it works. These are the elements that work: the claustrophobic feel of the freighter ship, the slow, but scary, build up to the mystery of what is on the planet that the crew land on and what exactly is picking them off. The infamous chestburster scene is still effective to this very day. The director’s cut on DVD and blu-ray is also very good and even shows a scene where Ripley (Sigourney Weaver) finds Captain Dallas in a cocoon after being attacked by the alien and burns him alive to put him out of his misery.

2. Aliens (1986) James Cameron created a sci-fi war epic that is one of the best films ever made. It created the image of the space marine that is so prevalent in films and video games today and is a great thrill ride from start to finish. The main character Ripley was joined by Newt (Carrie Henn), Hicks (Michael Biehn), Hudson (Bill Paxton) and others that  audiences grew to love. The extended edition shows the back story of the colony Hadley’s Hope and how the aliens took it over. On a side note there will be a video game next year entitled Aliens: Colonial Marines for the PS3 and Xbox 360 that will continue the story.

3. Alien 3 (1993) An underrated David Fincher film that is striking in its visuals and feel. Lone survivor Ripley crash lands on a  prison planet and is followed by a single alien that proceeds to wipe out the prison population harkening back to the original film.  I think this movie is excellent and unfairly hated because fan favorites Newt and Hicks were killed off. Many wanted a follow up to Aliens and instead got a dark almost existential film about Ripley at the end of her rope. This film had a video game adaptation for the Super NES in 1993 that actually played like a side scroller action game with lots of guns and aliens to fight. Quite different from the actual movie. There is also an alternate cut of the movie available on blu-ray and DVD. It restores a subplot of one of the prisoners worshipping the alien and releasing it when it was trapped by Ripley and shows the alien bursting out of an ox instead of a dog as in the theatrical version. Definitely something for fans to check out.

4. Alien Vs. Predator (2004) I’m putting this one ahead of the 4th film Alien: Resurrection since it is simply a better movie. Why it is hated so much is strange. A very good film that shows predators coming to Earth to hunt aliens in the south pole that they placed there as a rite of passage for their young. The set up with the archaeologists finding the eggs and alien queen in the underground temple is great and the battles between the two franchise monsters is lots of fun.

5. Alien: Resurrection (1997) The last Alien film with Ripley. It is set 200 years after her death and has her cloned to extract an alien queen from her body. It has interesting concepts with Ripley actually having alien DNA and blood in her system. The scene where she finds the previous versions of herself is both fascinating and disturbing. The movie returns to the idea of multiple aliens chasing down a rag tag group of mercenaries trying to escape a doomed ship. Seeing Ripley finally returning to Earth is also a nice way to finish her story.

6. Alien Vs. Predator: Requiem (2007) This entry is the only real misfire of the bunch. A follow up to the much better Alien Vs. Predator, the idea of a predator/alien hybrid sounds okay but looks kind of dumb when seen on film. The characters are very forgettable and the whole thing feels more like a bad Syfy movie of the week. Although it is neat to see the aliens crawling around a present-day town in Colorado, since most of the other movies are set in space and the future. I get the feeling that under another director this would have been so much better since the core story of a single predator hunting down aliens on earth is good and there are some good battles between the creatures.

C.S. Link