After much talk about a sequel to Ridley Scott’s Alien prequel Prometheus, and even a proper fifth installment of the Alien franchise to be helmed by Neill Blomkamp, we finally have news on what’s next for the Alien franchise. It’s now been confirmed by 20th Century Fox, that the Ridley Scott will be moving ahead with his sequel to Prometheus, which is now titled Alien: Covenant and set for release on October 6, 2017. With more clarification on what to expect next from the franchise, I thought what better time to discuss five things I want to see in Alien: Covenant to help it deliver on some of the unfulfilled promise and hype of Prometheus.
A clearer connection to Alien
Prometheus is clearly a very divisive film. I know some who were impressed by the ambition and scope of the film, whilst many more were disappointed by it’s lack of a coherent story and characters who lacked clear motivations and common sense. Personally, despite recognising how flawed it is in places, I’m a fan of Prometheus but even I realise its major flaw, its lack of connection to the Alien franchise and wider mythology.
Despite exploring ideas and themes all of it’s own, Prometheus’ link to the Alien mythology is muddled at the best of times. The clearest link is the reference to the ‘space jockey’ that appears in the seminal 1979 classic. Through introducing the Engineers, Prometheus explained some of the backstory to this alien race and their possible hand in the creation of both man and the xenomorph, but too little explanation was given in how they got there. Personally, this part of what I admire about Prometheus in that it doesn’t give clear answers, but even as a fan I was frustrated with some of the elements it alluded to. Too often it felt like the filmmakers themselves didn’t have a clear understanding of where they were going with the story and how it all connected.
Therefore many see Prometheus’ link to the Alien franchise tenuous at best and you could be forgiven for not even recognising that they both existed within the same universe. It seems Alien: Covenant already seems to be addressing this fact, most notably in it’s title. Clearly this film will address the ‘Alien’ aspect of the franchise and this is something that is echoed in the plot synopsis that 20th Century Fox have released which reads:
“Ridley Scott returns to the universe he created in ALIEN with ALIEN: COVENANT, the second chapter in a prequel trilogy that began with PROMETHEUS — and connects directly to Scott’s 1979 seminal work of science fiction. Bound for a remote planet on the far side of the galaxy, the crew of the colony ship Covenant discovers what they think is an uncharted paradise, but is actually a dark, dangerous world — whose sole inhabitant is the “synthetic” David (Michael Fassbender), survivor of the doomed Prometheus expedition.”
As you can see. the plot synopsis directly mentions that Alien: Covenant will directly connect to Scott’s 1979 original. This is very clearly stating that this Prometheus sequel will be an ‘Alien’ movie with all the trimmings. Therefore, it seems incredibly likely that more tenuous plot threads in Prometheus will be readdressed and I believe that Alien: Covenant will be a much better movie because of it.
Whatever your opinion on Prometheus, it’s hard not to agree that Michael Fassbender was the best thing about the film. His performance as David was deliciously dark and was as memorable as the franchise’s previous unsettling androids, Ashe and Bishop. He stole every scene he was in and with his Peter O’Toole mimicking and dubious actions, he was a complex character that was more interesting than any of the flesh and blood characters.
Therefore, it’s not surprising that Fassbender’s David is the only character from Prometheus that is mentioned in the synopsis. However, I really hope that his appearance is not merely confined to a cameo. The synopsis also clearly mentions a colony ship called Covenant and one would assume that this would be filled with a crew of new characters. Hopefully, these characters will have more character than the red shirts on Prometheus and don’t hog too much of the screen time from Fassbender.
With his rising star, Fassbender will be even hotter property come Alien: Covenant’s release, especially with a possible Oscar nomination looming. Therefore, I hope he is given the screen time he deserves and can overcome his somewhat immobile predicament he finds himself in at the end of Prometheus.
More ‘Alien’ atmosphere
If I had to choose my favourite Alien film it would be the original 1979 film. The appeal of this classic is that it’s pretty much a haunted house movie set in space. With this set up the film is rich in atmosphere. From the H. R. Ginger influenced art design of LV-426 to the claustrophobic confines of the Nostromo, everything about Alien oozes atmosphere.
Part of its appeal is how it combines the ordinary with the extra-ordinary. H. R. Giger’s designs are twisted yet have a Freudian familiarity. The Nostromo itself feels like a much lived in ship with a fully functioning Kitchen and posters plastering the walls.
I felt as though this was something that was lost in Prometheus. Admittedly, the ship Prometheus was the most advanced of its age and financed by the largest cooperation in the fiction’s universe. Therefore, you would expect it to have a few more modern touches compared to the Nostromo, but for me it felt too clean. This took away from the suspenseful atmosphere I believe an Alien movie should have.
The epic scale of Prometheus also felt at odds with Alien’s deceptively simple setup. I understand that re-running a similar scenario would make for a lesser film, but Prometheus felt as though it lost sight of the series’ roots. Therefore, when it came to the more tense and frightening moments of the film, it failed to deliver as it hadn’t suitably set up the foreboding, uneasy atmosphere it needed to. Alien: Covenant therefore would benefit from providing a simpler set-up that focuses on a tighter more taut atmosphere that fans of the series have come to expect.
Not too many loose ends
Another criticism leveled at Prometheus is the number of loose ends it presented viewers with. I enjoy films that leave certain plot threads open to interpretation, but Prometheus was just plain irritating in places. Leaving as many questions as Prometheus did, did want me wanting more but too much was left too muddily explained as though the writer’s themselves didn’t have a clear idea of where the story was heading.
Therefore, I hope Alien: Covenant doesn’t leave too many plot threads unanswered and has a clearer direction than Prometheus did. That’s not to say that it should lose some of Prometheus’ ambition and unpatronising approach to storytelling, but the story should at least know where it’s heading. That’s why it worries me slightly when the plot synopsis mentions that Alien: Covenant is the second chapter in a prequel trilogy. I hope this doesn’t mean that Alien: Covenant will only serve to set up the inevitable final film in the trilogy. I have no issue with trilogies and series of films but I believe that each entry of any film franchise should stand on its own.
To make Alien: Covenant a bookmark in a larger story would be a mistake as the film should still be accessible to those who have never watched a single Alien film. This would make Alien: Covenant appeal to a larger audience and help the film succeed on it’s own merits rather than relying on just the ‘Alien’ baggage and history.
Don’t throw away everything to do with Prometheus
Despite its many flaws, there are many things I admire about Prometheus. It clearly asks a lot of big questions about human existence, the wider universe and our place within it. I enjoy how it places Noomi Rapace’s Elizabeth Shaw as a scientist, who clearly has some conviction in her faith, amongst the backdrop of possibly meeting mankind’s creators. It also touches on the series’ long running themes of pregnancy, maternity and gender.
Some of these elements are the most interesting and complex aspects of the series and to throw them out just because Prometheus wasn’t as critically well-received as anticipated would be a mistake. One could argue that Prometheus was merely too ambitious for it’s own good. The film also left us with several questions that I want answering and to whitewash the fact the Prometheus existed, which I feel there is a risk of, would be just as frustrating as not addressing some of Prometheus’ flaws.
Therefore, build upon the far-reaching themes of Prometheus whilst addressing it’s more illogical aspects of it’s plot. Don’t just turn Alien: Covenant to another sub-standard Alien movie. Combine what worked with Prometheus, sprinkle in a few familiar Alien troupes and fuse together with a clearly defined script with characters that we can invest in. I’m not asking for much really.
So are you looking forward to Alien:Covenant. What do you want to see in the film or has Prometheus ruined the whole concept of a sequel for you? Let me know in the comments below.