An Alien Nation Remake Is Coming From Midnight Special Director Jeff Nichols

A still from 1988's Alien Nation. Image: Fox
A still from 1988's Alien Nation. Image: Fox

It seems after helming Midnight Special, Jeff Nichols has still got a taste for science fiction. He’s just signed on to Alien Nation, a remake of the 1988 film turned TV series about a cop who teams with an alien in the city of Los Angeles.

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Deadline broke the news of the deal, which will see Nichols write and direct the film. The original starred James Caan as the human cop, forced to team up with an alien (Homeland’s Mandy Patinkin), who is struggling to assimilate to Earth. Using that relationship the film, and subsequent TV show, explored social issues such as racism.

Though Midnight Special is the biggest film Nichols has done, he’s best known for his smaller stuff. He made Mud with Matthew McConaughey, Take Shelter with Michael Shannon, and has an Oscar contender this year with Loving, starring Preacher’s Ruth Negga.

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Alien Nation is a brand that’s mostly faded away from the public conscious, but the idea remains incredibly timely: A group of aliens crash lands on Earth and do their best to peacefully join human society, but face a great deal of prejudice and fear. It’s no wonder Fox has been trying to resurrect it for a few years now. Happily, in Nichols they found a filmmaker perfect to delicately explore that with a modern spin.

Entertainment Reporter for io9/Gizmodo

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DISCUSSION

Though the original Alien Nation movie was mediocre and squandered the potential of its idea, the Kenneth Johnson TV series was brilliant, the best use of SFTV as social commentary since Star Trek, and rarely surpassed since. It’s a shame it isn’t better remembered, since it’s one of the all-time greats.

Tim Minear tried to develop a TV reboot of this a few years back, but I guess it didn’t go anywhere. A movie reboot seems pointless, since it would probably be no better than the original at dealing with the social and ethical questions (and we already had a pretty good movie along those lines in District 9 anyway). Honestly, what I’d rather see is a direct sequel to the TV series. I found the show’s universe so compelling and immersive that there were literally times when I’d be outdoors and see a bald man in the distance and, just for an instant, expect him to be a Newcomer. I’d love to see how that world had evolved in the past couple of decades.