Ridley Scott insists he is not a nostalgic person, but you wouldn't know that looking at the 2017 movie calendar. Not only are audiences getting another Alien movie, Alien: Covenant, today, but also a long-time-coming Blade Runner sequel in October.
Scott made his name in Hollywood with Alien in 1979. It was the kind of genre-busting horror that continues to inspire pale imitations to this day. And then, in 1982, his futuristic neo-noir Blade Runner gave a new aesthetic to our dystopian future. It may have confounded most upon its release but the sublime mind-bender has gained a cult and eventually popular following over the years.
While the titles might suggest otherwise, Scott says he's more interested in "what's next".
"I never look back," Scott said recently. "I only look forward and think I'm very lucky to be able to do that."
In fact, he's so focused on what's next that even while talking big ideas about creation and Alien: Covenant, Scott was doodling an image for scene 103 of his upcoming John Paul Getty kidnapping film, All the Money in the World.
"I can do very good telephone doodles and they actually turn out as storyboards," Scott said matter-of-factly. "I'm storyboarding as we speak. I'm able to do that. It's all in my mind. I think I've got a kind of photographic memory. I was born with it. You either have it or you don't. So that's been quite useful."
Alien: Covenant is intended to be a sort of bridge between Scott's original Alien and the 2012 prequel Prometheus. Scott has wanted to explore the origins of how that creature breathing down Ripley's neck came to be and ask the question that Alien didn't: Why would anyone make such a monster?
The question is brought up in Prometheus, technically the fifth film in the Alien universe, but most people who saw the 2012 prequel left feeling deeply confused. Scott is well aware of this and promises there will be some clarity in Covenant.
"Prometheus leaves us with a lot of questions and Covenant answers a lot of those questions," he said.
Alien: Covenant brings in a new team, the crew of a colony ship, including Katherine Waterston, Billy Crudup and Danny McBride, who believe they've found a paradise. Of course, that turns out not to be the case.
Michael Fassbender's Lawrence of Arabia-loving android David is back too, as is a new android, Walter, also played by Fassbender, and the monster itself.
"We found out that the good old beast was still very popular with the audience, so I decided to reinject some of his presence back into it," Scott said. "It gets pretty gnarly. I'm very pleased with it actually."
Scott says audiences can expect some philosophising and spectacular visuals, including an idea he came up with to solve the problem of how the ship would continue getting and storing power in deep space: massive sails, about the size of six football fields that can soak up the radiance in space and store it as power.
"I discovered recently that's exactly what Nasa is doing," Scott said. "You can make a fabric that is stronger than metal and you can fold it up into a massive box and it will fold away like a good sail on a sailing ship so I apply that kind of thinking and there we have it. It works. And then you get it in the hands of the visual effects people and it all looks pretty good. So we're going to send it to Nasa to see if I can speed up the process for them."
That the film is being promoted as an Alien film rather than a Prometheus sequel is confounding to some, including Forbes' box office writer Scott Mendelson, who points out that Prometheus was rather successful. It made over $400 million worldwide against a $130 million budget.
"They're selling its relationship to a franchise that is well known but isn't insanely beloved. It's a geek franchise," Mendelson said.
Still, Scott has ideas for at least a few more Alien instalments.
"In answering the question 'who, why and when was this thing made and for what reason', it presents a whole different universe, so the universe starts expanding, which I think is healthy. Why switch it off?" Scott said. "What it's leading to is the question of creation. And creation, I don't care who you are, is on everyone's mind."
Who: Director Ridley Scott
What: Alien: Covenant
When: In cinemas today