The Alien Nation Remake Might Sound Too Much Like District 9

By  · Published on March 26th, 2015

Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation

The premise of Alien Nation is so perfect in its obviousness, as in of course someone eventually came up with that idea and of course it was able to work as a movie, TV show and a series of tie-in novels. If Rockne S. O’Bannon hadn’t written the script for the 1988 feature, another person in Hollywood would have made the claim to a sci-fi take on the buddy cop trope where a hardened detective is reluctantly paired with an extra-terrestrial for a partner (back then we got James Caan and Mandy Patinkin as the duo in the movie). It’s surprising that it took as long as it did given the popularity of aliens and Lethal Weapon type movies during that era.

It’s too bad the movie isn’t better. And that the show wasn’t better. (I never read the books.) But their mediocrity means it’s a great property to remake and aim for improvement. According to The Hollywood Reporter, Fox is not only looking to redo the movie but also turn it into a whole new rebooted film franchise, said to be along the lines of their new Planet of the Apes movies. Apparently there are multiple movies planned because the remake is described as “the first” installment and is focused on the origins of the aliens, how and why they wound up on Earth. Maybe we won’t even get to the buddy cop element until the sequel.

In the original, the aliens arrive on our planet by mistake in a slave ship. Once here, many of them turn to crime. There’s a lot of prejudice against them. If that sounds to you newbies like District 9, there are definitely some similarities on paper. And without the buddy cop narrative being the focus, that parallel will show through even more. Writers Art Marcum and Matt Holloway, who worked together on the script for the first Iron Man and have also been working on the Highlander remake, may need to reconsider the original backstory so it doesn’t seem like deja vu for today’s audience.

Christopher Campbell began writing film criticism and covering film festivals for a zine called Read, back when a zine could actually get you Sundance press credentials. He's now a Senior Editor at FSR and the founding editor of our sister site Nonfics. He also regularly contributes to Fandango and Rotten Tomatoes and is the President of the Critics Choice Association's Documentary Branch.