The next installment of the prequel series, Alien: Covenant, serves as both a sequel to the 2012 film Prometheus and a bridge — possibly one of several bridges — between the events of that film and the franchise-spawning 1979 movie.
Directed by Scott from a script penned by Oscar-nominated screenwriter John Logan (Gladiator, The Aviator), Alien: Covenant stars Michael Fassbender, Billy Crudup, James Franco, Katherine Waterston, and Danny McBride, among many others. With Alien: Covenant scheduled to hit theaters May 19, 2017, here’s everything we know about the movie so far.
Dark and getting darker
That Alien: Covenant will be scary is a given — we’ve seen the blood-spattered images, after all. Still, the sci-fi horror flick might be even more chilling than you expect. Ridley Scott makes the Prometheus sequel sound head and shoulders above its 2012 predecessor in terms of fear factor.
“When I decided to resurrect the story, I felt I couldn’t let it go so dark so soon,” he told Variety. “When we did Prometheus, it was a more genteel way of easing back into it.”
While Prometheus (arguably) wasn’t as scary as the original Alien films, “genteel” is still an interesting way of putting it. If that was “easing” us in, now is probably a good time to prepare yourself for Covenant. Scott’s goal for the film is, in his words, to “scare the s–t out of you.” He also revealed that he considers the sequel “a thinking man’s scary movie;” it will explore the origins of his creepy creatures and why they exist. Answers are coming at last.
The next chapter
Alien: Covenant still hasn’t even opened in theaters, but the studio already has the next film is in the works. It looks like there will be a quick turnaround. Ridley Scott told Yahoo Movies that John Logan has delivered the script for the next movie in the prequel series and Scott expects to shoot the film “within a year.”
“It’ll be out within a year and nine months,” he said of the sequel. “It’s weird when you’re writing, doing, planning, thinking about franchises, it’s amazing how it opens up and starts to evolve.”
Unfortunately, Scott has not been forthcoming about how many films will follow Alien: Covenant before the prequel catches us up to the original film in the series, 1979’s Alien. It doesn’t seem like he plans to reveal that information, either. He would only put the number of horror flicks ahead at “maybe two more, or maybe one more.”
Either way, we’re glad the answer is “more.”
The return of the xenomorph
Prometheus was sadly lacking in xenomorphs, but as we’ve seen in promotional images and videos, Scott has reintroduced the deadly creatures in Alien: Covenant. The decision was made years ago, but he was recently candid about why he brought them back. It turns out that we have our fellow Alien fans to thank. Scott told Yahoo Movies that frustration from fans made him reevaluate the decision.
“They wanted to see more of the original [monster] and I thought he was definitely cooked, with an orange in his mouth,” the director said. “So I thought: ‘Wow, OK, I’m wrong.'”
When Alien: Covenant premieres, the xenomorphs will be back to terrify us all, alongside other horrors, like the terrifying neomorphs. This certainly doesn’t bode well for the passengers on the Covenant.
What’s past is ‘Prologue’
In honor of “Alien Day” on April 26 — so designated by the name given to the moon LV-426 on which Aliens is set — 20th Century Fox released a fascinating clip called Prologue: The Crossing, which serves as an “official prologue short” ahead of Alien: Covenant that will bridge the gap between Prometheus and its forthcoming sequel. In the clip, the android David (Michael Fassbender) narrates the journey he and Prometheus protagonist Dr. Elizabeth Shaw undertook to find the alien home world of the film’s “Engineers.”
In many ways, this journey was thought to be the natural progression the new sequel would take, but it seems instead that this part of the story serves simply as a lead-in to the new film’s storyline. Along with setting up a fascinating tee-off point for Alien: Covenant, the clip also partially demystifies the rumors about Noomi Rapace’s involvement in the new film (which we touch on further below). There has been much debate about just how big a part Rapace would play in Alien: Covenant. While we don’t yet know if her character will make it to (or off) the Engineers’ home world, from all the footage we’ve seen so far, it appears she isn’t a part of the Covenant’s main crew, and therefore she likely won’t be integral to the new film’s primary story arc.
As another addition to the “Alien Day” celebration, the studio also released a brief, immersive peek into the world of Alien: Covenant via a new, 360-degree video titled Alien: Covenant in Utero.
Available now for Oculus Rift and Samsung Gear VR, the two-minute virtual-reality experience lets viewers experience the terror of Alien: Covenant from the perspective of one of the film’s alien antagonists. The video puts viewers in the role of an alien on the cusp of emerging from its human host, then pursuing new prey after it makes its violent, bloody entrance.
“For me, it was about giving the audience an element of wish fulfillment,” said Alien: Covenant in Utero director David Karlak during a press event for the video earlier this week. “We’ve always been on the receiving end of [the] violence.”
The film is reportedly inspired by a scene in Covenant and uses various CGI assets from the project created by visual-effects studio MPC.
One of the recent, persistent rumors surrounding Alien: Covenant is that Katherine Waterston’s character, Daniels, is actually the mother of Sigourney Weaver’s character, Ellen Ripley, from the original Alien.
Given that the timeline for the franchise makes this entirely possible — Covenant is set approximately 20 years before the events of Alien — it stands to reason that Waterston’s character might be as much of a connecting thread as the aliens themselves. Asked about the rumor, Waterston didn’t deny the possibility and instead chose to plead ignorance of any potential connection.
“Yeah… I’m aware of the rumor,” she told SFX Magazine (via Games Radar). “There’s this episode of Fawlty Towers where John Cleese tells Manuel he has to lie about something. ‘Whenever anyone asks you, you say, ‘I know nothing.’’ So, that’s what plays on my mind whenever people ask me these spoiler questions.”
Behold: The Neomorph
Alien: Covenant is expected to connect the events of Prometheus with the original Alien in various ways, including the deadly creatures at the heart of the sci-fi horror series.
In April 2017, Empire Magazine posted a trio of new images from Covenant. Along with photos featuring one of the humanoid race of “Engineers” and actors Michael Fassbender and Guy Pearce as the android Walter and Peter Weyland, respectively, the set of images also included a shot of one of the new creatures making its debut in Covenant: the terrifying neomorph.
The neomorph — which seems to be an early iteration of the “xenomorphs” from Alien, Aliens, and the series’ subsequent sequels — is pictured in the midst of making a meal (or possibly hatching) from the body of a human victim. It’s a chilling look at what could very well be an ancestor of the iconic xenomorphs we know so well.
A pair of promotional videos from Alien: Covenant released in April 2017 tease some of the scares to come, but also offer some insight regarding the mission undertaken by the crew of the Covenant.
In one of the videos, Waterston’s character attempts to send a message to her father, only to have the video periodically cut to brief scenes from the film that suggest a dire outcome for the ship’s crew.
The second video features Crudup’s character reading some verses about the crew’s impending arrival on a new world. The video, like the one featuring Waterston’s character, is also cut with scenes from the film that hint at the trouble that awaits them.
A little John Denver, a big Easter egg
20th Century Fox released a new television spot for Alien: Covenant on April 2 that featured recycled footage from the previous trailers and promotional material, but eagle-eyed audiences quickly discovered that the ad also featured one new element: a hashtag that flashes on the screen ever so briefly near the end.
The #emohemekat hashtag appeared alongside the icon for social media site Instagram and eventually led fans to an account set up under the username @emoh_em_ekat. The account, which spells out “take me home” in reverse, featured a new teaser for Alien: Covenant set to John Denver’s 1971 hit Take Me Home, Country Roads.
Unlike the television ad, the teaser featured some never-before-seen footage from the film.
(Warning: What appears in the video could be considered a pretty major spoiler. Watch at your own risk. )
Of particular interest to fans will be the appearance of an identification tag for Dr. Elizabeth Shaw, Noomi Rapace’s character from Prometheus, and a holographic image that appears to show Shaw. Given the context of the discovery in the clip, things certainly don’t look good for Rapace’s character and her fate after the events of the 2012 film.
Is that … a queen?
20th Century Fox released a new poster for Alien: Covenant in mid-March 2017, and along with offering plenty of nightmare fuel with its terrifyingly crowded depiction of a pile of xenomorphs and their human victims, it also prompted some speculation among franchise fans.
It’s been suggested by quite a few fans — and fan media outlets — that the shape depicted at the top of the poster might actually be an alien queen’s head.
As initially seen in James Cameron’s 1986 sequel Aliens (and then again in 1997’s Alien: Resurrection and 2004’s AvP: Alien vs Predator), the egg-laying “queens” of the xenomorph species have massive, distinctively shaped heads. And that shape at the top of the poster looks a lot like a queen’s head, according to fan sites.
Here’s what the alien queen looked like in Aliens, for comparison:
Whether it ends up being a tease of what’s to come in Alien: Covenant or just a bit of wishful thinking by fans, we’ll likely have to wait until the film hits theaters in May to know for sure.
New trailer, same nightmares
Fans of the Alien franchise will likely feel a familiar terror from the Alien: Covenant trailer released in late February 2017, as it features one of the most detailed looks yet at the film’s deadly xenomorph.
The trailer features the tagline “The path to paradise begins in hell” and offers a bit more context for the colony ship’s mission and the (likely doomed) crew’s encounter with the dangerous alien creatures on a far-off planet. The trailer concludes with a scene that puts the iconic creature front and center as it hangs onto the outside of a ship and attempts to smash its way inside.
While a version of the xenomorphs only appeared at the end of Prometheus, they — or at least one of them — appear to be getting more screen time in the sequel.
Setting the stage
With a few months to go before the film’s premiere, 20th Century Fox released a short prologue to Alien: Covenant in February 2017 titled “Last Supper.”
The short film introduces the crew of the Covenant colony ship, including James Franco’s Captain Branson and his character’s wife, Daniels, played by Katherine Waterston. The crew (which is probably doomed, if past films and the title are any indication of what’s to come) appears to consist entirely of couples, and the prologue depicts the group sharing a raucous meal and drinks before being put into suspended animation via “cryosleep” for the final leg of their journey.
The short film was directed by Luke Scott.
What’s in a name?
After spending years referring to a possible Prometheus sequel as “Prometheus 2,” fans finally got word on the film’s title from Scott himself in September 2015. While making the promotional rounds for his Oscar-nominated 2015 film, The Martian, Scott opened up about his plans for the follow-up to Prometheus, and indicated that he planned to call the movie Alien: Paradise Lost — a reference to John Milton’s epic poem Paradise Lost, which chronicles the fall of man from a Biblical perspective.
“It sounds intellectual but there’s a similarity to it,” said Scott in an interview with HeyUGuys. “That’s where it stops.”
Just a few months later, however, the studio — and Scott — appeared to change their minds about the film’s title. An announcement made in November 2016 via social media revealed that the film’s official title would be Alien: Covenant.
— 20th Century Fox (@20thcenturyfox) November 16, 2015
The title refers to the name of the ship in the new film, but any deeper meaning remains a mystery. For fans of the original series, the return to the “Alien” affiliation may in itself be somewhat telling.
Few familiar faces
Given the events of Prometheus, the list of potential returning characters in Alien: Covenant was a bit limited from the start, but early speculation indicated that both Noomi Rapace and Michael Fassbender would reprise their roles from the 2012 film.
Fassbender’s return was eventually confirmed, but the actor later revealed that he’ll play dual roles this time around as both the android David from Prometheus and another, more advanced version of the David-model android, named Walter. While David assisted the crew of the ill-fated Prometheus expedition, Walter will apparently serve a similar purpose aboard the Covenant colony spacecraft.
The official Twitter account for the franchise posted a photo of Fassbender as Walter in January 2017.
— Alien: Covenant (@AlienAnthology) January 6, 2017
As for Rapace, her role in the film was initially reported as a certainty, only to have her character reportedly dropped from the story a few months later, then re-confirmed again in June 2016. It’s uncertain how much time has elapsed between the events of Prometheus and Alien: Covenant, so the question of whether Rapace’s Dr. Elizabeth Shaw will appear in flashbacks or have an active role in what occurs during the film is still unanswered. However, the clip released on April 26 called Prologue: The Crossing appears to clear up the murk a bit. While we don’t know if Shaw will appear later in the film, it appears her part may be limited to this lead-in clip that sets up the new story.
Also expected to return in some form is Guy Pearce’s Peter Weyland, the billionaire founder of the powerful Weyland Corporation, who funded the Prometheus expedition but died during the events of the film.
The new crew
As with many of the previous installments of the Alien franchise, the plot of Alien: Covenant unfolds around the crew of a spacecraft that — either through accident or intended action — gets caught up in a terrifying encounter with deadly extraterrestrial creatures.
This time around, it’s the colony ship Covenant that’s on a collision course with the titular aliens. The crew of that ship is led by 127 Hours actor James Franco’s Captain Branson, who’s married to a terraforming expert named “Daniels” played by Inherent Vice and Fantastic Beasts actress Katherine Waterston. One of the first actors to join the cast of the film, Waterston is expected to be the lead character in Covenant.
Waterston was later featured in a photo released by the studio on the film’s official Twitter account.
— Alien: Covenant (@AlienAnthology) January 25, 2017
Along with Franco and Waterston in the cast are Eastbound and Down actor Danny McBride as the ship’s pilot and Watchmen actor Billy Crudup, who’s also listed in the role of the ship’s captain, leaving the fate of Franco’s character somewhat tenuous. They’re joined by Demián Bichir (The Hateful Eight), Jussie Smollett (Empire), Amy Seimetz (Upstream Color), Carmen Ejogo (Selma), and Callie Hernandez (La La Land), among other actors.
Aliens, aliens, everywhere …
The acid-dripping, chest-bursting xenomorphs that were first introduced in 1979’s Alien didn’t make much of an appearance in Prometheus, but Scott assured fans that won’t be the case in Covenant.
“There was always this discussion: Is Alien, the character, the beast, played out or not?” said Scott in a December 2015 interview. “[In Covenant], we’ll have them all: egg, face-hugger, chest-burster, then the big boy. I think maybe we can go another round or two.”
A year later, Fassbender let slip (during an interview with BBC Radio) that an entirely new variation of alien could make its debut in Covenant, too: Neomorphs. Said to be similar to the traditional xenomorphs that carved a bloody path through Alien and its sequels, the neomorphs are also rumored to have an intriguing and unique method of entering host creatures (like humans) before making their gory exit.
Finally, the gigantic aliens known as Engineers are expected to make a return appearance in Covenant, as the surviving members of the Prometheus crew were last seen rocketing off into space in search of the Engineers’ home. It’s unknown at this point if they actually found it, but wherever they end up is expected to bring the Engineers back into the picture.
The story so far, and what’s to come
Set between the events of Prometheus and Alien, the new film picks up at an undisclosed time after Dr. Elizabeth Shaw (Rapace) and the android David (Fassbender) set off in a gigantic alien spacecraft at the end of Prometheus to find the homeworld of the mysterious Engineers, the gigantic race of creatures that lost control of the oozing, tar-like biological weapon the crew discovered on the distant moon LV-223.
With the fate of Shaw and David a mystery, Covenant follows the crew of a colony ship that comes in contact with a strange, beautiful planet that initially seems like a paradise. David is the planet’s sole inhabitant — or so they think. Soon, they find themselves pursued by more of the terrifying creatures linked to the Engineers and the doomed Prometheus expedition.
Scott has indicated that Covenant won’t be a direct bridge between Prometheus and Alien, but will likely be followed by several more sequels that more directly connect the events of the two films and provide answers to some of the many questions lingering around the franchise.
In December 2016, studio 20th Century Fox released a red-band trailer for Alien: Covenant, offering the first peek at footage from the film. In keeping with the general tone of the series, the preview presented a decidedly dark, moody tease of the horrors to come for the crew of the Covenant.
Pictures of terror
Throughout the second half of 2016, Scott and Alien: Covenant studio 20th Century Fox kept fans’ anticipation high for the film by releasing a series of photos from the set and promotional images for the film.
One of the first photos to make the rounds was a shot of Scott and McBride engrossed in conversation behind what appears to be a pilot’s seat aboard Covenant.
A few months later, the studio celebrated Scott’s November 30 birthday by giving fans another photo from the set of the film — this time, featuring Scott in the foreground and the iconic “Space Jockey” set from Alien and Prometheus in the background.
— Alien: Covenant (@AlienAnthology) November 30, 2016
More photos soon followed, with the official Twitter account for the franchise releasing one image each day right up until the debut of the film’s first trailer. The photos didn’t skimp on the gore, and suggested that Alien: Covenant will — as is expected at this point — not pull any punches (or claws, or teeth).
Among the photos was a shot of a foreboding hallway with a familiar, alien structural pattern, and a blood-spattered room inside a spacecraft.
— Alien: Covenant (@AlienAnthology) December 21, 2016
— Alien: Covenant (@AlienAnthology) December 22, 2016
The original Alien won an Academy Award for its visual effects, and Scott has made it clear that practical effects will remain a hallmark of the sci-fi horror franchise under his watch.
In a July 2016 interview, cast member McBride praised the creative — and occasionally terrifying — effects that were created around him while filming Covenant.
“Most of the stuff is practical effects: When you’re running from an alien, it’s really a dude in an alien suit coming after you!” he said. “The sets are incredible and you’re in them: We go through some inclement weather at one point on the spaceship, and this whole gigantic set is on a gimbal, shaking up and down. You don’t have to use your imagination.”
McBride’s assessment was accompanied by a short video released bye the studio that same day, featuring a visual effects team hard at work on crafting a believable xenomorph’s hand. (Or is it a claw?)
— Alien: Covenant (@AlienAnthology) July 6, 2016
Alien: Covenant arrives in theaters May 19, 2017.
Updated on 05-17-2017 by Stephanie Topacio Long: Added comments from Ridley Scott on the tone of the film.
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