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Why does Ridley Scott hate James Cameron’s Aliens so much?

Ridley Scott on the set of Alien: Covenant.

Last October, much was made of Ridley Scott, the director of 1979’s Alien, seeing an early cut of the new Alien franchise entry Alien: Romulus, which will be released on August 16, 2024. Alien: Romulus writer/director Fede Álvarez reported that Scott told him that the film was “fucking great,” despite the fact that “he’s really tough, particularly if it has something to do with his movies.” Case in point are his disparaging comments about Blade Runner 2049, the sequel to his Blade Runner.

Scott’s appreciation for Álvarez’s film may have something to do with the fact that it will be set between the original Alien and 1986’s Aliens, thus relying only on Alien, Prometheus, and Alien: Covenant – the three films in the franchise directed by Scott – for backstory. Scott has long resented films that add to Alien’s original lore – and that goes back to his reaction to the film’s first sequel, Aliens.

The snub that took the franchise away from Scott

Ripley the superhero in Aliens.
20th Century Fox

Instead of bringing Scott back to direct the sequel to his massive sci-fi hit, 20th Century Fox sought out young filmmaker James Cameron (hot off The Terminator) to both write and direct. (Scott was poison at the time, as Blade Runner, released in 1982, had garnered baffled reviews and lost money.) In a 2023 interview, Scott said that Cameron himself was the one to tell him that he was replacing Scott, via a phone call. Scott recalls being “pissed” and “deeply hurt,” saying that he had believed the first Alien should have been “a one-off.”

As it turned out, Cameron’s approach to the material was drastically different than Scott’s had been. Abandoning the intimate, spine-tingling body horror of the 1979 film, Aliens is a gung-ho action movie. As Scott put it, “I’m not a superhero fan … Everything gets less and less real … I think Sigourney Weaver’s a superhero in Aliens.”

Scott evens the score with Prometheus and Covenant

David 8 experiments in Alien: Covenant.
20th Century Fox

It’s no surprise, then, that when Scott regained control of the franchise with his 2012 prequel Prometheus, he quickly retconned most of the lore that had been developed by the five Alien sequels released up to that time. Perhaps most relevantly, he eliminated the “alien queen,” a supercharged version of the franchise’s xenomorphs who births the standard-issue aliens and the big bad/final boss in Cameron’s film.

In Prometheus and its 2017 sequel Alien: Covenant (also directed by Scott), we learn that the xenomorphs were created by a rogue AI (Michael Fassbender) experimenting with new life forms, and that no queen comes into play.

Prometheus - Official FULL Trailer [HD]

Scott’s no fan of any of the film’s sequels, saying in 2019 that “Alien vs. Predator was a daft idea.” (It’s hard to argue with that assessment.) Generally speaking, though, he insists, “Fundamentally, you can’t” do a sequel to Alien. His resentment of the very idea surely began with Aliens, as a franchise that should have always been his — if it existed at all — was snatched away, and an idea he helped develop began to evolve in a very different direction.

Alien is streaming on Hulu. Aliens is also available to stream, but to honor Ridley Scott’s distaste for it, we will not tell you how to watch it in this article.

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James Feinberg
James Feinberg is a writer and journalist who has written for the Broadway Journal and NBC's The Blacklist.
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