‘Alien’: Noah Hawley Says “Monsters Aren’t Enough” & Series Is An “Exploration of Humanity’s Goods & Evils”

One of the most anticipated TV shows of 2024, which actually might land in 2025, we’ll see (the creator has contradicted himself a bit on the timeline, so let’s stay hopeful is FX’s “Alien” series. Created by Noah Hawley, also the creator of FX’s long-running “Fargo” series, many genre fans are chomping at the bit to learn every detail they can about the show. And well, to that end, in a recent interview with Kim Master’s excellent The Business podcast, Hawley arguably gave the most insightful, thoughtful, and extensive preview into the series he’s ever given, what his aims and intentions are, what it’ll be like, and what the show will truly be about, thematically, archetypically, etc.

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And the good news, especially if you’re not a big fan of franchise TV that hasn’t ever really hit the mark, it sounds like Hawley is going for something more adult, thoughtful, and grown up in the vein of, say, “Andor” or “Monarch,” or hell, his excellent “Fargo” series.

Hawley began the conversation by talking about “Fargo” and whether his initial idea has enough meat on the bone or not (he said “Fargo” season three, for example, didn’t have enough, so he introduced the David Thewlis storyline after the fact to beef it up). When crafting “Alien,” one of his realizations was that the xenomorph creature and horror itself weren’t enough, and he had to build around it to justify the existence of a TV show.

“If it were just a monster movie [or TV show], I don’t think there would be enough there,” Hawley admitted, noting that he still sees TV as one kind of long movie with a beginning, middle, and end and that he made 50+ hours of “Fargo” so far. “It’s one of the great monsters of all time, but when you think about making ten, twenty, thirty, forty hours of something, even if you had 60% of the best horror action around, you still have 40% of, ‘what are we talking about’? What’s the show about? Thematically, character-wise, it has to exist as a drama outside of those other elements.”

“So that was the challenge for me,” Hawley continued about finding some more meat to dig his teeth into and what his strengths as a storyteller are. “And if I have a skill at anything, with this niche that I’ve carved for myself of reimagining great films in long form, it’s understanding how the movie made me feel and how to create that feeling in others while telling you a totally different story.”

Fortunately, Hawley seems to have an innate understanding of the archetypical elements of “Alien” and recognizes —when it’s at its best—that it’s something much deeper than just a horror tale and a narrative about humanity’s hubris and the various evils that run through it beyond just the aliens.

“The thing with ‘Alien’ is that it’s not just a great monster movie; it’s the story of humanity trapped between its primordial, parasitic past and the A.I. future, and they’re both trying to kill us, so there’s nowhere to go,” he explained. “So it’s really a story of: does humanity deserve to survive? Does humanity’s arrogance in thinking that we’re no longer food, and its arrogance in creating these A.I. beings who we think will do what we tell them, but ultimately might lose their minds—is there a way out?”

Hawley highlighted a quote in James Cameron’s Aliens” that encapsulated his overall thematic aims.

“There’s a moment in the second film where Sigourney Weaver says, ‘I don’t know which species is worse; at least the [creatures] aren’t screwing each other over for a percentage,’ and I think there’s something really intriguing in that idea for me,” he teased. “Which is an exploration of humanity in all its goods and evils and then trying to recreate for an audience those feelings that you had in watching those first two films.”

Hawley also made it clear it only seems like he’s taking his cues from Ridley Scott’s “Aliens” and James Cameron’sAliens,” and didn’t seem to have a lot of love for those other installments. He said recreating that special audience feeling “isn’t easy in a franchise that has had four subsequent films and another film coming out soon, but I think I have some tricks up my sleeve.”

Asked about whether his series connects to “Prometheus” or “Alien: Covenant,” which revealed a lot of backstory about how the alien was created, Hawley suggested not so much.

“Ridley and I have talked about this and many elements of the show, but I think for me, this perfect lifeform, as it was described in the first film, is the product of millions of years of evolution that created this creature that may have existed for a million years out there in space, and the idea that it was a bio-weapon created half an hour ago is inherently less useful to me,” Hawley explained about what works for him dramatically and what doesn’t. “In terms of the mythology and what’s scary about this monster.”

He also said he had to make a choice about the series aesthetically. He noted one contradiction that bothered him. Ridley Scott and James Cameron’s films are retro-futuristic and lo-fi sci-fi with oil drips and ASCII text on the old school computer monitors. Whereas Ridley Scott’s prequels, “Prometheus” and Beyond, were all super slick and high-tech.

For Hawley, he felt like he had to choose which style to go with, and he decided to stick with the original film’s look.

“There’s something about that that doesn’t compute for me,” Hawley said about the contradiction, “I prefer the retrofuturism of the first two films, and so that’s the choice that I’ve made to embrace that. There are no holograms; the convenience of beautiful Apple store technology is not available to me.”

I don’t know about you, but to me, this is all music to my ears. Hawley seems to fully comprehend that there are at least three foundational evils to the series: the monsters themselves, the corporation, and the inherent wicked churning gears of capitalism and humanity’s arrogance in believing they can control A.I. and the aliens and play God (which circles back to what Ridley Scott was trying to achieve with “Prometheus”). Whether it’s 2024 or 2205, hot damn, we will be there.