Storytelling has a way of addressing current events – especially along the sometimes uncomfortable lines of politics and religion – that rarely is duplicated by any other medium.
If you think back to the 1988 film and subsequent Fox television series Alien Nation (not to be confused with the nation of the geek persuasion), immigration was a primary subject matter – both integrating immigrants into a larger society as a whole, and accepting those immigrants for who they are.
But Jeff Nichols, the writer and director behind the historical drama Loving that hit theaters earlier this month, said his take on the Alien Nation franchise will explore those themes far more deeply. And yes, it has a lot to do with the current American political climate that led to the election of Donald Trump.
It’s not that writers wish to pontificate, however, Nichols told Entertainment Weekly. It’s just that audiences come to something like Alien Nation already lugging the political baggage behind them.
“I think films at their best are reflections of the society that produces them. I know for a fact that an audience, when they’re walking to the theater, they bring their issues with them. And I’ve always been fascinated by that since my first film. Especially with my first film, I was just in a bubble making something, and then I saw the outside world come in and start to put all this stuff on it.”
That film was 2011’s Take Shelter starring Man of Steel‘s Michael Shannon and Zero Dark Thirty‘s Jessica Chastain about a man plagued with apocalyptic visions, debating whether to shelter his family from that perceived disaster, or from himself.
Nichols continued that with Loving, which features the interracial couple behind the U.S. Supreme Court case that eventually outlawed the outlawing of interracial marriages among the states.
Although same-sex marriage was not even a thought in most people’s minds in the 1960s when that court case was going on, Nichols knows that audiences coming to see his film are very much thinking about the more recent Supreme Court ruling, in 2015, that ultimately legalized same-sex marriage in the United States.
Even if Nichols wanted to approach the new Alien Nation in a different bubble, shielding it from what’s happening in the world, he says he simply can’t do it.
“With this next film I’m still, like everybody, trying to figure out what all this means for us. But whether I want it to or not, it’s going to be a reflection of the world.
“And I want it to.”
The original Alien Nation – written by future Farscape and Syfy’s Defiance creator Rockne S. O’Bannon – starred James Caan and Mandy Patinkin as a human-alien detective team tackling an integrated world that it seemed at the time to only exist in science-fiction.
Fox would adapt that film into a television series in 1989 starring Gary Graham and Eric Pierpoint that would last just a single season. It would lead to a string of television movies in the 1990s.
Graham and Pierpoint would be reunited in a sense in 2005 episode of Star Trek: Enterprise called “Terra Prime,” where Graham played Vulcan ambassador Soval and Pierpoint the recurring character of Harris. It was a bit of a role reversal for the two, as Graham played the alien in this instance and Pierpoint the human, although the two didn’t share a scene together.
Twentieth Century Fox has not announced a timeline for Alien Nation as of yet, but initial plans have it hitting theaters in 2018.
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