The Alien franchise is one that has certainly seen its fair share of commercial success over the years since its initial inception. Whether it be through film, video games, or merchandise, it has been marketed to an ever-broader audience over the years. While this has its own array of ups and downs, Ridley Scott seems to be of the mind that a return to form mixed with this new-age horror business is of grave necessity and in the best interest of the saga itself. I can’t say I disagree.
Alien: Isolation was something of a rare gem for me just a few years ago when it released- managing to bring the tense action of the original film, mixed with some story background in the lore, to the forefront of a series previously only known for video games of the typical sub-par quality. Alien vs Predator and Colonial Marines are the other two most recent games of any renown in the series and neither is a good indicator of the quality work people should come to expect of it. Similar to Isolation being a breath of fresh air for the video game counterpart, I think Covenant can and should be the film iteration that bridges the gap between Aliens and Prometheus- being able to do what the first films did well as well as on the grandiose playing field of lore Prometheus introduced, albeit in a confused manner.
As the name would suggest, Alien: Covenant seeks to tie the prequel trilogy to the main body of films in more ways than just a shared history and shared name. There are bound to be countless characteristics from both the new and old films and history, plus there are still plenty new threats to be introduced on-screen that have yet to be seen. I love how Ridley Scott isn’t afraid to up the stakes by adding more revelations and more variation to the alien species itself, but that he also plans to still directly tie things together and come full-circle at some point as well. What once began as a small-scale story should and ultimately seems to be headed towards resolving itself that way as well, whatever galaxy-wide implications and revelations and earth shattering lore dumps may come between those two points.
The first film is renowned for its tense, atmospheric horror and its bursts of action, among other cinematic qualities. The second is known for broadening the scope of the infestation and introducing us to an even broader cast of characters and setting. The third film attempted to venture down some semblance of a path between the two original titles while the fourth went full-blown science fiction and started a downward spiral of plot and sensibility in many respects. As far as the four main sequence Alien films go, they taper off towards the end if only for general concerns over plot and making sense of it all.
We’ve also been gifted with a few Alien vs Predator films which managed to tie-in the popular and cult classic Predator character and universe to that of the Alien setting. While that has largely been a marketing success, it has never been nearly as successful in terms of producing quality projects on par with what each series has managed to do separately. On the whole, even the confusing and ambitious yet inevitably fallible Alien-prequel Prometheus has done a better job of that. Prometheus managed to take some higher caliber actors and throw them into the existing universe (at least for us movie-goers) while forcing them to combat a threat altogether new to their characters. It has been criticized largely for its plot but on the whole it does what it intended to do all along- establishes a baseline from which the prequels and main series can stem.
I was way more excited than I honestly had any right to be when I saw the first few trailers for Covenant just last week. I’m not sure if it was the trailer itself or perhaps my own reaction to a series that I’ve been close with since my early days, but I really enjoyed it and have thought about writing this blog for several days now. I do not think it will be the cramped corridors of Dead Space 1 (er, Aliens 1) but that’s not to say it isn’t seeking to return to the successful format of the first film in many ways. Just look at the trailer yourself- the evidence is there, even if it’s presented on a larger than life level at times. By now I think we have to in some ways embrace the fact that it is the twenty-first century and grandiose posturing is a large part of cinematic film-making and camera angle, lighting, and amazing effects are here and now. So just because Prometheus or Covenant do or did a ton of special effects should not take away from the overall story or end project quality.
I’m curious to learn more about the paradise and hell that these new and familiar faces alike have stepped into. I’m also eager to push past Prometheus and head towards Alien, both in terms of setting and story and influence. I’m more than okay with injecting new ideas and new life into what is otherwise an old tried and true formula, but I also want to see it be more successful and more simplistic and meaningful. You can have your lore and your grand plans but sometimes less is more and not the other way around. All in all, these are just my musings on the tail-end of a crazy weekend and I hope that everyone else has already formulated their own (and already seen Logan).