Since 2012’s Prometheus, the demand for a new Ridley Scott ‘Alien’ film has been high among avid fans of the series. Prometheus only really gave Alien fans a taste of what they can expect from future movies. Instead of exploring the intimacies of the Xenomorph, Scott decided to explore the concept of human creation. This introduced the foreign species known as ‘Engineers’, whom audiences had only seen before in Scott’s original film ‘Alien’ (1979) as a stone-like monument bearing an elephant shaped mask. The plot of Prometheus focused mainly around how these engineers were the creators of all life. Alien fans are not left without reference to the much loved Xenomorph creatures, as the final scene shows what is referred to as a ‘Deacon’. This is an almost prototype version of the Xenomorph and provides a suitable link between Prometheus and Scott’s newest addition to the Alien universe, ‘Alien: Covenant’ due for cinema release on 12th May 2017.
Marketing of ‘Alien: Covenant’ has been fairly underground until a simplistic, yet powerful teaser poster was released around November 2016. Since then we were treated to a teaser trailer on Christmas Day and most recently a full length trailer revealing a load about the plot of the new movie, yet rings a fair few questions and excitement around avid fans of the Alien franchise.
So, to begin, we remind ourselves where Prometheus left off. Dr Elizabeth Shaw (Noomi Rapace) was seen to be leaving her current planet in search of the Engineer’s home planet, accompanied by the severed head of android David (Michael Fassbender). The trailer for Alien: Covenant shows little direct reference to these characters upon first viewing, but after examining certain shots, the links are most definitely there!
The opening shot of the trailer introduces us to the crew of the Covenant describing the purpose of their mission, procreation on a new planet. The large crew consists of couples, alluding as Scott has done previously in Prometheus to religious allegory. The shot is centered, alluding rather fittingly to Leonardo da Vinci’s painting of ‘The Last Supper’, presumably before the crew enter cryosleep. It is after this brief introduction that we are introduced to the new planet. We see wheat growing freely, a familiar form of human vegetation, drawing instant similarities between this new planet and the familiarity of Earth. This is however questioned by new female lead Daniels (Katherine Waterston) asking “Who planted it?”
Leading on from this peculiar site, we are shown some rather beautiful shots of the planet and introduced to the idea that the planet is dead or lacking life form as one of the characters points out the eerie silence and how they can hear ‘absolutely nothing’. As a reminder of the alien planet, a shot of the plant like spores spurting out an unknown gassy cloud that seems particularly ominous to those of us that watched Prometheus. With that link the trailer shows us the infamous ‘Juggernaut’ ship that crashed near the end of Prometheus and featured in the original 1979 film. The ‘Juggernaut’ seems to be overgrown with plant life in a remote area of the planet. Upon further inspection, we are shown familiar sites such as a slight image of the engineer statues that we saw in Prometheus in those dark and disturbing tunnels. It is in these tunnels that we have our first link to Dr Elizabeth Shaw. Daniels holds up a dog-tag and only on close inspection, zooming in can we see the dog-tags read Dr E. Shaw.
So here is the reference that we have all been waiting for. The infamous Xenomorph egg. From the shot we are given, it is kind of hard to tell if the design of the egg has been altered but apart from some slight changes, H.R Giger’s work remains still as significant as ever. It seems as though even the same sound design of the egg hatching (or opening) is in place, complete with the inevitable pouncing of a Facehugger.
The formula to an Alien film always starts with the beginning of a Xenomorph life cycle and then things go from 0-100 very quickly. Alien Covenant seems to be no exception and Alien fans worldwide have little to no objection to this formula. The next few clips we are given show the crew in a great deal of stress as they run into the inhabitants of this new planet. One guy looks infected from whatever it was that sprayed out from those spores earlier on in the trailer, safe to say he doesn’t look in the best of shape as he attempts to return to the ship in the arms of a fellow explorer.
Aboard the ship looks even more chaotic with either the same guy or another member of the crew suffering from what can only be descried as a ‘Back-burster’ as opposed to the familiar Chest-burster we have seen before in previous Alien films. Maybe this is a direct link to the rumored new Alien species, the ‘Neomorph’ which is speculated to be a cross between the Deacon from Prometheus and the original Xenomorph from Alien (1979). It seems likely that this is the creature we see at around the 1:46 mark. A new species that looks just as deadly as the rest!
Towards the end of the trailer there is a mysterious hooded figure. This is rumored to the original model of David from Prometheus, which has led to speculation that David will serve as a form of antagonist. Judging by the past examples of androids that we have encountered in previous films, with the discovery of new species, it is unlikely that David will side with the humans due to his respect for what previous androids have called ‘the perfect organism ’.
More confrontations between the alien species are seen, mostly Facehuggers as we see someone fall victim to being a host, whilst another member of the crew gets into a tangle with one on the end of his gun. Our leading lady Daniels asks “Where is it?” before we get our first head on glimpse of the original Xenomorph. We see it running in a circular motion, showing its climbing capabilities and sheer alarming speed. The film’s title graphics appear and the trailer climaxes in a particularly exciting fashion. The big reveal. And a surprisingly big reveal at that.
This point looks around the midway point in the movie; Daniels is clambering across the exterior of what looks like an emergency dispatch ship, whilst it is taking off, presumably off the planet into the arms of safety. It is at this moment that we see it in all of its glory. The classic Xenomorph.
Personally I wasn’t expecting such an in depth look at it in the trailer, but I think it’s pretty safe to say that if the trailer can afford to ruin this surprise then who knows what shocks and surprises we can expect to see in the full release. One of the fundamental keys to the success of the Alien movies is the use of prosthetic models to create a more life-like and terrifying creature. H.R Giger’s creation just would not hold the same value if all shots of it were C.G.I, without the aid of motion capture.
The Xenomorph is reportedly played by Javier Botet, a Spanish actor born with Marfan syndrome which leaves the sufferer with elongated limbs and joints. He’s made the most of his appearance and featured in many films providing motion capture including REC, Mama and The Conjuring 2. He is known as ‘horror’s greatest special effect’ and his work in Alien Covenant could prove to be his greatest work yet! Let’s face it; this is the prettiest (and most horrific) looking Xenomorph yet and is guaranteed to shock audiences.
So hopefully all of that has shed some light as to what we can expect from the movie when it is finally released. With a crew of this size on a completely unknown planet within Ridley Scott’s Alien universe, it is shaping up to be one of the most disturbing and most likely the goriest addition to the Alien franchise. All areas point to success for this movie. There is also a high possibility of a further sequel from this film as Ridley Scott stated that he wanted to do a trilogy leading up to the original Alien (1979) movie, starting with Prometheus. So we have a lot to look forward to, even in terms of the film’s marketing. There may be more TV spots and Giger inspired posters/artwork to support the release to look forward to for all the avid fans out there. It seems as though the only thing we are missing is Sigourney Weaver, but who knows? We may see her again as Ellen Ripley.