Is it possible to establish canon in absence of official guidelines?

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Alien EggsWhile discussing yet again Prometheus (in the intent to convince people is not as bad as they think), something interesting came up. While not directly referring to the franchise (since the timeline, like it or not, is pretty clear), the question of what is canon came up to me. 

As you might now, sometimes ago I in fact made an article stating Prometheus hate is consequence of non-canonical theories. Some of these theories came from comic book runs, while others were most likely fan theories. The comic book runs were officially licensed, which is the reason why they were considered canon. Of course, once Batman made its way into the Alien and Alien vs Predator comics, it was pretty clear those were no more canon, or at very least became questionable.

It goes without saying that both AVP movies are not canon.

However. what about Alien: Isolation? For those who don’t know, that’s the name of an officially licensed 2014 videogame published by SEGA, and follows Amanda Ripley’s (Ellen’s daughter) investigating her mother’s disappearance. 

The game itself doesn’t present any conflict with the film timeline, as in fact it happens between Alien and Aliens. However, when talking to Metro, the game lead console designer Clive Lindop stated:

we always avoided the question of canon to a certain degree because we’re never going to retcon the story or suddenly make massive rewrites to what happened in it

Basically, he’s stating that wanting the game’s story to be part of the canon was never a goal. 

Which is understandable, as it gives you complete freedom when writing the game. The fact that it has no conflict is probably a coincidence.

Of course, same case could be made with Aliens: Colonial Marines, one of the worst tie-ins ever made (if you’re asking, Isolation is a very good game).

Keeping it to the Alien franchise for one more bit, there are rumors that Alien 3 and Alien: Resurrection will exit the continuity if Neill Blomkamp’s Aliens sequel will be produced.

Anyways, the question of what is and what’s not canonical has been subject of controversies for a long time, as not always it was specified officially. 

X-Men Days of Future PastIf we enter the superhero landscape, we have a perfect example, and a really, really, bad example.

The perfect example is the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Every movie has its place in the timeline and it’s perfectly placeable. Even the TV universe (Agents of ShieldAgent Carter and the Netflix heroes) are all part of it, yet the choice was made to not intertwine them too much as the style differences are quite problematic. 

The really, really bad example is the Fox/X-Men franchise. To be fair, I’m not talking about the productions’ quality, rather the continuity mismanagement. As y’all probably know, the franchise continuity is all over the freaking place. Before Days of Future Past, we had the main trilogy, which was pretty easy to maintain intact since, you know, they are direct sequels (even though we still have some minor issues). Than we had X-Men Origins: Wolverine, which literally broke the timeline with Sabretooth (here’s Wolverine brother, he dies at the end, yet he’s in the first X-Men not recognizing Wolvie at all) and a Cyclope origins incipit that conflict with the original trilogy.

We arrive at First Class, which is suppose to be a reboot, yet Wolverine makes a cameo, hence becomes a prequel where Xavier and Mystique grew up together and separate in the end, yet in the original trilogy they don’t give much of a damn about each other. We have The Wolverine, which fits perfectly after The Last Stand.

We arrive to everyone favorite’s Days of Future Past, which serve as a sequel to First Class, a prequel to the original X-Men trilogy, and a reboot because the resolution creates a totally new continuity. And, until here, nothing wrong except Wolvie’s claws are made of bones and not metal at the end of his second stand-alone movie. Then we have Apocalypse (which is part of the new timeline), and nothing wrong with this. Last but not the least we have Logan, which I think is simply a sequel to Days of Future Past new future timeline.

Just because I want to make things easier, here it is:

  1. X-Men Origins: Wolverine Prologue
  2. X-Men: First Class
  3. X-Men Days of Future past 
    1. X-Men: Apocalypse (new timeline)
    2. X-Men: Supernova (if this will be the title)
  4. X-Men Origins: Wolverine – after prologue
  5. X-Men
  6. X2
  7. X-Men: The Last Stand
  8. The Wolverine
  9. X-Men: Days of Future Past Old Future Timeline
    1. Logan (new future timeline)

Deadpool is somewhere in there, probably after Apocalypse and even Supernova (if that will actually be the name).

You can see it yourself. When nothing is officially specified, is quite difficult to build things up. 

That’s why sometimes companies come up with a way to officially establish canon once and for all. You can see that with what Disney did with Star Wars, as it literally released an official timeline, stating what’s canon and what’s not, with the latter simply called Legends.

Star Wars - The Old RepublicIn Disney case, it was done to have more freedom for future productions. In fact a sequel trilogy existed in novel form, but for obvious reason it was scrapped to become ‘legends’. As of now, even The Old Republic novels, comics and game are not canon anymore (despite the 4,000 years difference between these events and A New Hope), probably because something based on that fictional time is in the works.

So, in absence of actual guidelines, how should we define canon?

Generally speaking, you establish what’s the primary form of the franchise: in this day an age, most likely a movie or a game, less likely a TV series, most likely not a novel or a comic-book.

The primary narrative form of the franchise will have absolute priority in establish continuity. After that, any so called tie-n product will be canon unless it conflicts with the continuity established by the main narrative form.

While it’s not a vital problem, I think this could help the audience. Even though it’s nothing official, but more a logical puzzle.

Post Author: Luca Ripamonti

Filmmaker of 23 years old, gamer since the dawn of time. Crazy about football (the real one), basketball and pro-wrestling.
  • Higgens

    “in the intent to convince people is not as bad as they think”

    If you have to convince people that a movie is “not as bad as they think” it is worse than YOU think. From a story standpoint the movie is a fucking convoluted mess and the characters are morons despite being top of their field, I could go on, but that would require me rewatching the movie, I wont be doing that.

    • LukeRIpa

      1) The story is implicit on purpose. Not a convoluted mess, it doesn’t explain you some stuff because there’s no need to. Not everyone is Chris Nolan that needs exposition to explain their plots.

      The only thing that is explicitly addressed is that the guys are not top of their field. Just Shaw and his husband. And someone can’t have an opinion? I mean, I get people don’t like the movie because it’s not Alien, or Aliens, it’s barely an Alien movie also, it just happen to be part of the same franchise.

      Then, everyone can have his opinion. I recognize there’s some problems, but it’s not a bad movie per se, is a decent to good movie. I know people were expecting more, though.

      2) Sorry if I took sometime to answer, didn’t get the notification.

      • Higgens

        I dont say its a bad movie, but it ISN’T a good movie, its mediocre.
        Halfish of the crew was hand picked by the 2nd of the entire company, Im sure she hand picked morons. Like I said, the very fact people feel the need to try and convince others the movie “isnt as bad as they think” means it is in fact worse than you think.
        “The only thing that is explicitly addressed is that the guys are not top of their field.”
        I will require a citation for this, the company spent a TRILLION dollars on this mission, Weyland himself is on the ship, Why would they employ ANYONE who is substandard? Oh so they can act like morons and get the owner of the company killed?

        Its fine if you enjoy it. I enjoy Lake Placid. I am not ever going to try and convince people its better than they think though. Becasue it isnt, its a B-rate monster flick. This is a B-rate space flick with a AAA budget.

        • LukeRIpa

          Weyland represents the average American Corporation. So, even if Mr. Weyland is the owner, he needs to convince the board to get fundings (which I doubt was about trillion of dollars given it’s the future, or it could be, depending on what’s the inflation). Realistically, saying ‘On this planet there’s the secret for immortality’ is stupid and there was no chance he would get budget for that. So he finds what Shaw discovered, and takes advantage of that. They needed to depart ASAP, so there you go space morons. They needed to be good enough for minimal work (aka map the thing). Shaw doesn’t handpick anyone, it’s clear from her discouragement when she presents the mission to the crew the first time. In addition, she expose that through dialogue when she talks to her husband.

          While the Weyland corporation is a theory (although makes sense since it is an American corporation), the rest is communicated through shots, acting and directing. You might not catch it, but it’s there.

          The most stupid thing in the movie is Charlize Theron’s death, but even there she never came off as smart, just as an asshole.

          Lots of people entered with the mindset of an Alien movie, when the concepts and the writing is hundreds time more complicated. I blame this on the marketing that completely failed to communicate that the movie is not an Alien movie, just takes place in the same universe.

          It’s not even a case that quite a few directors liked the movie (although Tarantino likes a lot of horrid stuff). It’s clear Ridley knows what he’s doing, but he’s doing what you don’t want him doing (including having no answer in the end, the movie builds up for that). It’s all along a producer-creator relationship throughout the movie.

          Then, again, you might not like it, but it’s better than what most people think nonetheless, since they don’t get what the movie is even about (because, again, the marketing kept the Alien vibe around).

          • Higgens

            K so, first off, Weyland is a British Company, so There is one thing you are wrong on, Secondly the movie flat out says, the mission cost 1 trillion dollars. I never said SHAW hand picked anyone, I said the 2nd of the COMPANY hand picked, halfish of the team, thats Charlize.
            Is there ANY dialogue to support that the largest, most successful company on the planet, chose, for their trillion dollar mission, less than the best in terms of crew? Pretty sure NOT, its is entirely reasonable to assume a company of that size with a mission of this scope would choose to pick the best. Not, what they could find ASAP.
            No, the writing is not complicated, its poor. The concepts are not complicated, they are convoluted.

            Again, if you have to convince people the movie is not as bad as they think, its worse than you think.

          • LukeRIpa

            “Again, if you have to convince people the movie is not as bad as they think, its worse than you think.”

            Or maybe someone that doesn’t watch the movie since forever doesn’t understand anything? Because I assure you still watch with the same mindset of the first Alien (which even a 1 year old kid could understand) and not believing is watching something more.

            Or, maybe, you just plain out didn’t understand the movie. Since those concept are there.

            And, besides, don’t clutch at straws saying it was a British company. It’s the same fucking thing. And it’s subtext, it was obvious.

            Why not handpicking the best scientist? Are you kidding? You think they would have had Mr. Weyland do what he wanted to do if everyone was so smart and had a moral?

            I mean, Alien is literally full of stupid people, yet you guys shit on Prometheus simply because it wasn’t the movie you wanted.

            That’s why Hollywood keep making the same stuff over and over again.

          • Higgens

            Struck a nerve apparently. Sorry Prometheus is a more on Par with Alien:R and Alien. I enjoyed discussing this until you tried to claim that I cant understand what makes a lame movie good. NO, its just a lame movie, sorry.

          • LukeRIpa

            You didn’t struck any nerve.

            If you’re willing to discuss, you should just stop to put assumptions over and over again. Because people then answer the same way.

            Alien is full of stupid characters. Yet people keep finding excuse like ‘they’re ignorant’. It’s not, they are surely trained for life in space (because, you know, they work there). They are just stupid. Even Ripley, but then she gets a grip.

            And, you know, I’m ok with that. Nothing need to be super intelligent.

            In Prometheus, the biologist would have died anyway, approaching that snake anyway. You know why? Because it’s his job. I may or may not agree that the way he approaches the snake was over the top, but it’s not relevant to the plot since in a way or another it would have happened anyway. Yet, everyone grips so hard on this, mostly because they don’t know what a biologist is, what he is supposed to do.

            And it’s all this kind of things. You guys don’t seem to think beyond what you see. For some movies you need to. It is the first time for an Alien movie you need to do this. And everyone did not do it.

            Prometheus has more in common with The Dark Knight in terms of storytelling than Alien. And TDK is another movie you enjoy even more if you think beyond what you see.

            However, nolan had Batman Begins as a set up, while Scott had literally mindless movie as a set up.

            Again, most filmmakers liked this movie. Critics actually appreciated it (nothing crazy good, but nothing bad either). Don’t you think that for a slightest moment you didn’t catch some stuff because you thought you watched an Alien movie, that generally requires no brain to be enjoyed?