alien-nation-remake

We’re big fans of director Jeff Nichols around these parts. I loved his science fiction drama Midnight Special when I saw it at SXSW earlier this year and it’s still my favorite movie of 2016 so far. His other 2016 release, the drama Loving, was ranked number two on our list of most anticipated Fall movies and our own Angie Han has written a rave review from TIFF. And then there’s the fact that his filmography also includes gems like Take Shelter, Mud, and Shotgun Stories. Nichols is one our most humane filmmakers and he’s brought his gentle touch with him even as his budgets have steadily grown bigger.

And that makes the prospect of him signing on to remake the science fiction buddy cop movie Alien Nation one of the most intriguing and promising pieces of movie news to arrive this year.

We first heard news that 20th Century Fox was looking to remake Alien Nation earlier this year, but Deadline has revealed that Nichols is officially attached to the project. And honestly, there has never been a better time for a new version of this story, which has only grown more timely since the original’s 1988 release.

Directed by Graham Baker, the original Alien Nation takes place in Los Angeles shortly after a spaceship carrying 300,000 extra-terrestrial refugees arrives on earth. After years of quarantine, the “Newcomers” have begun to integrate into human society, resulting in all of the cultural clashing and prejudices you’d expect. James Caan plays a racist cop with a bone to pick with the Newcomers. Mandy Patinkin plays his new partner, the city’s first alien police officer. And if you think these two will find common ground, become best friends, and solve the case of their lives…congratulations! You’ve seen a movie before.

In all seriousness, Alien Nation is one of the better buddy cop movies of the ’80s and a strong science fiction film that manages to use the human/alien dynamic as a metaphor for race relations without being too ham-handed. This particular sci-fi world should be even more effective and topical now, as so many countries are currently dealing with an influx of refugees from the Middle East who are fleeing the turmoil in their home countries. Alien Nation was always political, but our current climate should allow for a film that really embraces this metaphor and explores how we treat “outsiders” who join our communities.

And Nichols is a perfect fit for this material. In Midnight Special, he showcases a knack for hard, smart, character-driven science fiction. With Loving, he has been garnering acclaim for his portrait of race relations in America. If we’re lucky, he’ll continue to cast from the same stable of actors he’s been using for a decade. Who doesn’t want to see a science fiction buddy cop movie starring Michael Shannon and Joel Edgerton? Hell, I’ll just come right out and saw it: cast Shannon as the alien partner, please.

It’s still early days for Alien Nation yet, but this is a film that I fully intend to keep on my radar. Unlike Aquaman (for which he was sought), this is a major studio movie that truly aligns itself with Nichols’ sensibilities as a storyteller. Color me excited.

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