The Prometheus sequel, Alien: Covenant arrives in UK cinemas on May 10th. But will it be a new beginning or a franchise killer?
Director Ridley Scott’s 1979 Alien reworked It, The Terror From Beyond Space into a big budget old dark house movie set on board the spaceship Nostromo. More horror than sci-fi, the basic premise had foolish Earth astronauts taking aboard a monstrous hitchhiker with acid for blood who then proceeded to scoff his way through most of their number. With its macabre ‘organic’ production design, drawn from the work of Swiss surrealist H.R. Giger. and Jerry Goldsmith’s jittery score (some of it borrowed, on Scott’s insistence from his earlier, Freud: The Secret Passion) it scared up some serious box office dosh.
Five films later the franchise has had a few hiccups but is still going relatively strong with the introduction of a prequel series set decades before the crew of the starship Nostromo first tangled with a terrifying, acid-blooded alien creature.
Production company Fox always play their cards close to their chest with these movies, but that chest has burst open of late to reveal that the next installment of the prequel series, Alien: Covenant, serves as both a sequel to the 2012 film Prometheus and a bridge between the events of that film and the 1979 original.
The story involves a colony ship, called Covenant, landing on an uncharted planet. Shortly thereafter the crew discovers a sole inhabitant – the android David (Michael Fassbender), first seen in Prometheus.
Directed by Scott from a screenplay by the Oscar-nominated John Logan (Gladiator, The Aviator), the film stars Michael Fassbender, Billy Crudup, James Franco, Katherine Waterston, and Danny McBride.
It has to be said that Prometheus was a bit of a disappointment, and Fassbender’s character was one of the weakest and most poorly developed in the entire movie. Beyond all that, the movie left viewers confused. They wanted another Alien but didn’t really get it. Obviously conscious of this, Scott himself has said: “Covenant is really going to show you who did it and why.” Cheers for that.
It seems now that Ridley has come to his senses at last and realised that people want more concrete connections to the Alien franchise, hence this title and not Prometheus 2.
Earlier in the year he attended CinemaCon in Las Vegas to present a preview of his new film to exhibitors, footage of which provided firmer details of how each film is linked.
It’s Michael Fassbender’s robot David who provides the films with their connection, and he’s the one who creates the “horrific world” depicted in Alien: Covenant.
The sneak preview begins with the spacecraft from the last film arriving at the Engineers’ home world. Surprised, startled or curious about this ship’s arrival, hundreds of Engineers have gathered below. As they look on, the base of the ship opens and we find David walking on a deck. A mass of bombs fall from David’s ship, dousing the Engineers with a black ooze that quickly transforms them into hundreds of alien creatures as David watches from above.
It looks like the planet the ‘Covenant’ crew have landed on is either the Engineers’ abandoned home world hundreds of years after David’s actions or a sister planet that David has also seeded with alien spores. As the first trailer depicts, this crew of the colony ship the Covenant lands only to find themselves infected with the same alien monstrosities that besieged the crew of the Prometheus.
The future of the Alien franchise
At 79 years of age one might think that Ridley Scott would be slowing down a little but that doesn’t seem to be the case at all. Now he has completed the Prometheus follow-up he is ready to get on with the next step of the franchise, and it appears the sequel to Covenant is already written and ready to go.
“You’ve got to assume to a certain extent success and from that you’d better be ready,” he says. “You don’t want a two-year gap. So I’ll be ready to go again next year.”
This was said in an interview he did in 2016, so that could mean production going ahead later this year. Before Prometheus was released, Scott was talking of sequels that would venture further away from the Alien franchise, focusing on Noomi Rapace and Michael Fassbender’s characters as they set off to find the home world of the Engineers.
This could all change, but it does seem all roads lead back to the original Alien, land Scott has a master plan in mind.
Where does this leave Neill Blomkamp’s Alien sequel? Not in a good place. The District 9 filmmaker showed off some fan art of his online and there was talk of a film that would pick up after the events of Aliens and bring Sigourney Weaver and Michael Biehn back into the franchise.
Bloenkamp is a big Alien fan who has always wanted to stake his claim on the franchise “My favourites are the first two movies,” he said. “So I want to make a film that’s connected to Alien and Aliens. That’s my goal. I’m not trying to undo Alien 3 or Alien: Resurrection, I just want it to be connected to Alien and Aliens.”
Sigourney Weaver certainly seems to be fully on board with this creative decision. “It’s just as if, you know, the path forks and one direction goes off to three and four and another direction goes off to Neill’s movie,” the actress revealed.
Not having had the chance to preview Alien: Covenant before we went to press, we have to say that we are not hugely enthusiastic about the storyline, which harkens back to a huge number of previous sci-fi epics including Planet of the Vampires (1965), often said to have provided some inspiration for the original Alien.
In that, as in countless other sci-fi flicks, a spaceship lands on a mysterious alien planet and discovers the natives aren’t friendly. It’s a cliche Jim, and just as we know it.
Oh well, we won’t have long to wait now to find out if Scott has been able to recapture the fearsome magic of the Alien franchise. Will we be hearing punters screaming or just groaning in annoyance? Fox will certainly hope it’s the former, but hey, don’t worry guys. because you can’t hear either in space.