As a huge Alien franchise fan, I am popping out of my own chest cavity with excitement for the new prequel, Alien: Covenant which hits theaters nationwide on Friday, May 19th. However, if you are like me it can be tough to remember what happened in a long running film series. When I go to see the latest X-Men movie I spend my time in the theater before the lights go down frantically Googling the plot points of the previous several films to try and get myself back up to speed with what old Wolverine has been up to. Plus, with filmmakers sprinkling in tons of Easter eggs and series references, I don’t want to be the guy whispering “I don’t get it” when all the fan boys start giggling and high fiving each other.
That is why for those of us with fading memories of the last time we saw a face hugger climb out of a Ovomorph egg, I have put together a brief recap of the Alien franchise with what you need to know going in. We will be screaming “Get away from her you bitch!” in no time!
Note: it is safe to say that there will be SPOILERS if you have not seen all of the Alien movies – which you should probably have done by now!
Alien: Covenant is the second in the prequel series that started with 2012’s Prometheus. Chronologically speaking Prometheus is the beginning of the Alien story with events taking place thirty years before the events of 1979’s Alien.
In Alien we follow the story of Warrant Officer Ellen Ripley (Sigourney Weaver), as part of the crew of the starship Nostromo, a shipping vessel owned by the Weyland-Yutani Corporation. Nostromo’s crew is awoken from hibernation and they are sent to a planetoid after they receive a signal from a derelict alien spaceship which has crashed there at an unknown time. At first they think it is a distress call, but Ripley figures out that it may actually be a warning to stay away. Crew members find a deceased, large, humanoid alien pilot of the spacecraft who had his chest cracked open from the inside. Then we are introduced to the iconic aliens when in a room full of large egglike pods, aboard the alien ship, one cracks open and a facehugger attaches itself to one of the human crew, attempting to impregnate his face.
At first he thinks he is OK, back aboard the Nostromo, he discovers he has been infected when the alien makes a dramatic entrance; bursting through his chest and escapes into the ship. Turns out this is how they reproduce in a host organism! The crew proceed to try and track and kill the morphing alien but it kills almost all of them except for the badass Ripley who kills it instead and escapes in a shuttle.
So back thirty years before Ripley uses a custom-built flamethrower to take out a nest of Alien eggs aboard her spaceship like a boss, a pair of scientists make an interesting discovery on Earth. In Prometheus we follow archeologists Elizabeth Shaw and Charlie Holloway who discover similar star maps located it the ruins of several ancient yet unrelated human cultures. This inspires them to launch an expedition aboard the Prometheus, to follow the star map they believe to be an invitation from “The Engineers” – who used their own DNA to help foster intelligent life on Earth. It’s just like 2001: A Space Odyssey but with much angrier aliens.
Like in the other Alien films, the crew sleeps in hibernation pods to traverse the great distances of space, this time with an android named David watching over them. The trip is funded by the 101-year-old CEO of the Weyland Corporation (a forerunner to the Weyland-Yutani conglomerate that Ripley works for). The star map takes them to a moon in the Zeta Reticuli system which is the same star system that the planetoid Ripley and the Nostromo will crash on. The ship lands near a large alien structure that the crew explores, discovering strange and intriguing sculptures that are totally creepy. To top it off they discover several bodies of The Engineer aliens, (the same alien race as that of the dead pilot in the old spacecraft in Alien!) in the structure. This includes a severed head of an Engineer, which once tested back in the ship is found to match the DNA of humans. Woah!
A storm forces the crew to go back to the Prometheus, but two of the crew members, Millburn and Fifield don’t make it out and are trapped in the alien structure overnight. They must face a weird goo like substance that melts Fifield’s helmet and kills Milburn.
The ever-curious android David takes the same alien substance and secretly brings it aboard the ship and slips it into the drink of, Holloway to see what will happen. Holloway in turn has sex with the sterile Shaw. The next day the crew returns to the alien structure where they find Milburn’s corpse. David the robot discovers a room with one Engineer alive and in hibernation, along with an advanced three-dimensional star map pointing to Earth revealing that they had been planning on returning to Earth before they were killed. He finds that the room is actually part of an Engineer spacecraft, similarly designed like the one that will be visited in the original Alien film. At this point Holloway is getting much sicker. Rushing back to the Prometheus, he is refused entry and burned to death with.. you guessed it; a flame thrower!
Shaw discovers shockingly that she is pregnant; with an alien. Using an automated medical pod to remove the squirming creature from her stomach, in one of the greatest alien hatchings of the series. She is able to survive in order to fight and kill Fifield who has mutated and is attacking the crew.
The captain theorizes that the Engineers created this moon outpost as a military base where they lost control of the gooey biological weapon which turned on them and killed them. Remind me to keep an eye on the Playdough! Before the remaining humans return to the alien ship to awaken the Engineer it is discovered that the centenarian CEO Weyland has been aboard the ship in stasis the whole time and is hoping the Engineers will somehow use their technology to help him avoid death. He accompanies them with David to go talk to the ancient alien father of humanity, hoping “immortality” is covered under his insurance plan. However after waking up the Engineer, David speaks an alien language, supposedly relaying Weylands health care request. However the large humanoid becomes enraged and rips off David’s head in response, while activating his space ship.
A still working David, warns Shaw that the Engineer is going to head to Earth with the bioweapon goo and destroy every living creature for some unknown reason. In response, the remaining crew purposely crashes the Prometheus into the Engineer’s spaceship. Once on the ground Shaw finds that her alien – fetus gestation has grown full size, with all kinds of crazy tentacles coming out of it. The angry Engineer comes after her and in retaliation she sends her alien hybrid offspring on the Engineer and it shoves an ovipositor down his throat. Shaw is able to escape with the remains of android David, who tells her there are other alien spaceships on the moon to use as an escape. She decides she is going to go visit the Engineers home planet and investigate exactly why they want to kill their own creation.
The Engineer getting the old facehugger treatment leads to the best scene in the whole film when we finally get to see an alien burst through the Engineers chest!
And that is where we left off with Prometheus which disappointed some fans for one particular reason. While taking place in the Aliens universe, Prometheus did not deliver enough actual on screen aliens. This would be the equivalent of having a prequel to The Terminator that does not feature any killer robots, but focuses on the life and times of Sarah Conner as a struggling waitress. From the trailer we already know that Alien: Covenant will not have that problem.
Prometheus and Covenant are the two prequels… if we don’t count the cross-over Alien Vs Predator movies which take place in “present day” early 21st century. Aside from a kick ass battle between the two species, these films have divided fans and the series’ principals, (Sigourney Weaver said the idea sounded “awful” and Ridley Scott refused to watch them) technically those films ARE canon. This manifests itself in a fun way with the co-founder of the Weyland-Yutani Corporation, billionaire “Charles Bishop Weyland” being portrayed by the same actor, Lance Henriksen who played “Bishop” the android in Aliens and Alien 3. The writer- director of Alien Vs Predator later explained that 150 years in the future the corporation honored their founder by creating an android with his face, saying, “It’s kind of like Microsoft building an android in 100 years time that has the face of Bill Gates.”
While there may be some tongue and cheek references to the other Alien sequels, I think this is where we need to be to get ready to enjoy the new flick. Check back next week for my full review of “Alien: Covenant!”