Ridley Scott’s Alien: Covenant, which arrives in UK cinemas in May, shows us a new scene that clearly pays homage to the classic dinner table chest-burst sequence from Alien. But there are hints of something new…
Okay, for some the latest “sneak peek” from the Alien: Covenant marketing team will confirm fears that this prequel to Alien/sequel to Prometheus is just a glossily dressed remake/re-imagination of Scott’s sci-fi classic. After all, in the pre-release scene we’re privileged to shows us a colonial space crew sitting around a dinner table chatting while one appears to choke before being relieved by a pat on the back. But it sounds familiar. And Scott knows exactly what he’s doing by playing with the audience’s knowledge of Alien.
But Scott’s better than this. Some of us actually enjoyed his take on Robin Hood which gave us something very different from what we’d seen on-screen previously. Scott has said in interview that he isn’t a fan of the Alien Versus Predator spin-offs and feels the original franchise ran its course. That alone suggests Alien: Covenant is going to take us in a different direction. Factor in Prometheus – the ideas it proposed, the wider universe it brought into the equation, the meditative approach to much of the science – and we know this Ridley Scott isn’t the same Ridley Scott who made Alien. He’s moved on. And he recognises the Alien franchise must move on too.
What we can take from the scene is that it is reminiscent of Alien’s most famous sequence in which John Hurt’s character Kane is killed at the dinner table by a creature exploding from his chest. But that’s why it excites me. I want to have the excitement of those early Alien films reignited in me. Paying homage to some of Alien’s best bits is a good way of fuelling the fire.
Yet, Scott has discussed at length his admiration for the “creature” or the “beautiful monster” as he calls it. For a long time he’s wanted to either make or see someone else make an origins story. The original Alien film from 1979 features none of that origins stuff that has become entrenched in the zeitgeist of today’s cinema diet. Indeed, Alien played on the unknown and now Scott has the chance to fill in some of the gaps.
Scott has been quite open about what he wants to achieve. What he’s certain about is that Alien: Covenant is not a remake of Alien. He’s admitted his surprise that no one (filmmakers and writers attached to previous Alien franchise films) have asked where these creatures came from. Prometheus opened the door for him to explore his fascination, Alien: Covenant is what happens next.