Warning: Below There Be Spoilers!
When you try to please as many people as possible, you can end up disappointing everybody. The more I think about Ridley Scott’s Alien: Covenant, the more impressed I am with the universe he is creating, the metaphysical questions he’s posing, and the Biblical allegory he’s woven into a truly compelling tapestry. At the same time, the hardcore Alien fan in me feels misled, frustrated—even duped.
Since the release of the Red Band Trailer released on Christmas Day (below), Scott has been promising a true prequel to the Alien franchise, but what he delivered was much closer to Prometheus 2. And despite the filmmaker’s assurances that future installments will dovetail into Ripley’s (Sigourney Weaver) story, Covenant feels like a further departure from the universe of Dallas (Tom Skerritt), Bishop (Lance Henricksen), and Hicks (Michael Biehn). I can only imagine future Prometheus-spawned sequels will only make these storylines increasingly incompatible.
Scott has admitted that fan backlash over Prometheus greatly influenced the direction of Alien: Covenant; indeed, the final production bears little resemblance to the original synopsis of a planned Prometheus 2, one that would have delved deeper into The Engineers’ mythology (even revealing that Jesus Christ was an Engineer). While such a film would have likely further alienated (no pun intended) Alien fans, it would have strengthened Prometheus as a stand alone.
Related Article: Dissecting “Alien: Covenant”: David is Satan
If I had to hypothesize, I’d say Ridley Scott really doesn’t want to make any more Alien movies; he’s much more interested in this epic journey for mankind’s cosmic roots, and the story of an A.I. who’s grown to despise his creators (an anti-Pinocchio, if you will). It’s a universe where the existence of xenomorphs isn’t unfathomable, but in regards to The Engineers and David’s (Michael Fassbender) quest to annihilate humanity, they aren’t even necessary. Essentially, he’s trying to do 2 things at once, at the risk of doing neither well.
While Prometheus fans are singing Covenant’s praises, I’m perplexed over the lack of outcry over Elizabeth Shaw’s (Noomi Rapace) death. It’s the biggest dick move since Hicks, Newt (Carrie Henn) and Bishop were offed in the opening credits of Alien 3. It makes me wonder if Scott wrote the character out in an effort to please Alien fans by shifting focus to the xenomorphs. I understand that David is now the central character of the franchise (with Daniel’s [Katherine Waterston] future role as yet undetermined), but what was the point of bonding with Shaw if her destiny was to serve a facehugger fodder? In retrospective, The Crossing prologue, which featured tender moments between Shaw and David (below), feels like little more than a bone we were tossed—one without any meat on it.
The truly unfortunate part of this entire situation is the there were other options. Scott could have concentrated on creating an Alien-adjacent Prometheus franchise while passing the future of the original franchise off to Neill Blomkamp, who had already produced a treatment for Alien 5. Blomkamp could have given horror fans a conclusion to Ripley’s story, one that truly honored the character’s legacy; Scott could have delved deeper into The Engineers’ mythology, the Messiah connection, and mankind’s purpose in the universe. The 2 separate but spiritually related franchises could have overlapped via crossovers along the lines of the Alien vs Predator films.
In an effort to make Alien: Covenant the story he wanted to tell while simultaneously giving franchise fans what they’ve been demanding, Scott risked failing at both. While Alien fans may justifiably feel like we’ve been yanked around, Prometheus fans can ponder what wondrous horrors await in the next installment. Scott has the skills to make Prometheus a fantastic franchise; I just hope he doesn’t completely dilute the Alien franchise in the process.
The original “Covenant” refers to God’s assurances to Noah following the floods, the promise never to destroy humanity again. By putting the word “Alien” in the title of his film Scott made a covenant with fans who endured the jarring and enigmatic Prometheus; it was a promise that our patience and patronage were about to be rewarded. But Alien: Covenant is simply not a return to the claustrophobic, brutal body horror of 1979’s original; not even close.
And let’s not forget we were originally promised that Prometheus would be an Alien prequel. I went into that film expecting to learn how the Space Jockey ended up on LV-426. In interviews, Scott seems to imply it’s fans’ fault for misunderstanding his intentions, but that’s bullshit. We were promised an Alien prequel in 2012 and we didn’t get it. Period. 5 years later, it feels like I’ve fallen for the same practical joke or method of false advertising. Of course, if I’ve been fooled twice, perhaps I have only myself to blame.
By my count, this is Strike Two for Scott’s return to the franchise he launched in 1979. He can risk striking out or he could avoid losing the game/series by simply walking away from Alien. Giving Prometheus his full attention by officially splitting one franchise into two will drastically increase the chances for both to succeed. In this case, I think “separate but equal” is the best answer—maybe even the only way to save what remains of Alien’s amazing and unique legacy.
At this rate, Scott may become to Alien what George Lucas became to Star Wars.
Official Synopsis: Bound for a remote planet on the far side of the galaxy, members (Katherine Waterston, Billy Crudup) of the colony ship Covenant discover what they think to be an uncharted paradise. While there, they meet David (Michael Fassbender), the synthetic survivor of the doomed Prometheus expedition. The mysterious world soon turns dark and dangerous when a hostile alien life-form forces the crew into a deadly fight for survival.