It’s criminal that Jeff Nichols isn’t a household name. Mud ranks up there with Stand By Me in the coming-of-age category, Midnight Special is a gorgeous, twisty take on Amblin’s 1980s bread and butter, and Take Shelter is an outright masterpiece. Now, according to Deadline, Nichols will be writing and directing a remake of Alien Nation for 20th Century Fox.
Made during the faddish era of mismatched detective partners launched by Lethal Weapon, Alien Nation earns a lot of genre labels: science fiction, buddy cop, neo-noir, thriller. It’s also a morality play about the cost of racism and the value of accepting outsiders into your community—a tail-end swipe at the kind of early Cold War paranoia that The Twilight Zone openly mocked. The big bad plan in the original Alien Nation was to craft and disperse a devastating drug that only affects the formerly enslaved alien population of “Newcomers” who were making their transplanted home in Los Angeles; at the time, it was a not-at-all-subtle metaphor for what crack was doing to inner city black populations. James Caan played a racist cop who teams with Mandy Patinkin’s alien cop to solve a murder that, no surprise, leads to a much bigger conspiracy.
It feels a bit like Nichols is combining his two most recent films—Midnight Special and the TIFF premiere of Loving, a biopic about the couple who fought Virginia’s anti-interracial marriage law at the Supreme Court—in tackling Alien Nation. As far as the usual remake heartburn, it’s hard to get up in arms about this one. As great as Alien Nation is, it’s in the sweet spot for getting an update, and if Nichols is the one tasked with it, it’s something to get excited about.
Featured Image: 20th Century Fox