Written by Jo Craig
With the release of ‘Alien: Covenant’ landing this Friday in UK cinemas (US May 19th), and Ridley Scott’s recent blunder unveiling ‘Alien: Awakening’ as the third prequel, preceding possibly another three chapters, heads are starting to roll over the structure behind the franchises timeline. We know ‘Covenant’ will be the official sequel to 2012’s ‘Prometheus’, introducing another crew piloting the titular vessel that discovers an uncharted earth-like planet.
But how will this instalment stand with the previous featurettes, and will the timeline fall into place and tie to the 1979 original?
Let’s take a look at the chronological timeline to date:
‘Prometheus’ (2012) – Year 2091
Kicking things off with the first of Ridley Scott’s prequels, archaeologists Elizabeth Shaw (Noomi Rapace) and Charlie Holloway (Logan Marshall-Green) discover a star map to the moon, LV-223 and assemble on board the vessel Prometheus to travel to and excavate the uncharted planetoid, creating our first look at humanity’s interaction with the Xenomorph kind. Despite only encountering Facehuggers, with a brief look at an original Alien in the closing scene, the crew only battle with themselves and the attempted lift-off of the Xenomorph spacecraft. Scott never really revisits the confined ambience expressed in the original 1979 story, but makes an impressive representation of scale on LV-223 with the introduction of humanoid aliens and one of the first droids, David (Michael Fassbender).
‘Alien: Awakening’(?) – Set between 2091-2101
Originally featured in an interview with Fandango, Ridley Scott accidentally divulged ‘Awakening’ as his third prequel title, allegedly meant to be set after ‘Prometheus’ but before ‘Covenant’. This is where the timeline became a puzzle. Judging by the fact ‘Covenant’ is supposed to take place a decade after ‘Prometheus’, this would place Awakening somewhere in these ten years. Hopefully ‘Covenant’ will give some insight into what backstory will be featured in the prequel of a prequel.
‘Alien: Covenant’ (2017) – Year 2101
Sailing through the decagon and we’re presently at ‘Covenant’, where a new colonial ship, equipped with a fresh crew and next level droid, Walter (Michael Fassbender), explores a new planet they consider to be an ‘uncharted paradise’. You can find all the details we know about ‘Covenant’ further down this piece.
‘Alien’ (1979) – Year 2122
Discrepancies over what year Scott’s brainchild, ‘Alien’ was set in is still an on-going talking point among resolute aficionado’s, however the consensus states that the journey of the USCSS Nostromo took place around the year 2122, thirty years after the birth of the ships third in command, Ellen Ripley (Sigourney Weaver) and twenty-one years after Prometheus. During the first act, we’re introduced to the Xenomorphs and the discovery of their planet Hiveworld, where executive officer, Kane (John Hurt) is attacked by a Facehugger, later dying from the birth of its spawn, via Kane’s torso, the Chestburster. Ridley Scott and DoP Derek Vanlint created this oppressive nature with tight shots and choking vignettes that set the bar for future chapters.
‘Aliens’ (1986) – Year 2179
Fast forward fifty-seven years, while Ripley and her cat Jones are in hyper sleep, and we arrive at James Cameron’s sequel, logically placing the year as 2179. Although Cameron removed some of the weight previously seen in ‘Alien’, the terrifying threat of the Xenomorphs continued to terrorize Ripley and her return to a now human inhabited Hiveworld to try and exterminate the Alien species with a team of military personnel.
‘Alien 5’ (Rumoured)
Neill Blomkamp first hinted at his vision of the ‘Alien’ franchise while working with Sigourney Weaver on ‘Chappie’ in 2015, explaining his rendition would forget the events of ‘Alien 3’ and ‘Alien: Resurrection’ to be “more liberal” with the outcome of ‘Aliens’ characters, Newt and Hicks. With Ridley Scott’s assurance that ‘Covenant’ would go into production first, deterring any overshadowing, Blomkamp’s ambiguous sequel was put on “temporary hold” despite Weaver stating to EW “it’s satisfying to me to give this woman an ending.”
‘Alien 3’ (1992) – Year 2179 (approx.)
After another brief hyper sleep on the Sulaco, Ripley crash lands on Fiorina 161, a correctional facility situated on a foundry establishment. Ripley and the inmates lure and capture a Xenomorph that was birthed by one of the prisoners, concluding with the arrival of a rescue cavalry and Ripley’s pre-meditated suicide. Presuming that Ripley only slept within the same year that ‘Aliens’ was set, ‘Alien 3’ is placed within the same year, assuming she was only asleep for a short period of time. David Fincher helmed the third instalment (at the time) resurrecting the art-house horror effect that Scott produced in 1979.
Alien: Resurrection (1997) – Year 2379
Jumping 200 years into the future, Ripley returns as half-human, half droid from the DNA samples taken before her arrival on Fiorina 161. Droid Ripley is created on the USM Auriga, joining the crew to once again attempt to eradicate the Alien species after the escape of imprisoned Xenomorphs that a team of Scientists were experimenting on. Jean-Pierre Jeunet’s conclusive excerpt in the franchise appeared to be blatantly unaware of the approach of the previous three films, approving bizarre scriptwriting from Joss Whedon and half-arsed character building. Jeunet never harnesses the character of Ripley, albeit she was a clone, but ‘Resurrection’ does nothing to enhance her or continue Scott’s successful tactility.
What We Know About ‘Covenant’
Filmed in Australia and New Zealand, the sixth film of the series has elements pertaining to the poem of ‘Paradise Lost’, the original title for the film. Initially planning to follow Dr. Elizabeth Shaw on her next adventure, Scott explained that “Paradise cannot be what you think it is. Paradise has a connotation of being extremely sinister and ominous” thus revealing groundwork for the current narrative.
Travelling to an isolated planet on the far side of the galaxy, crew members, Daniels (Katherine Waterson) and Oram (Billy Crudup) of the colonial vessel Covenant, discover what appears to be undiscovered paradise. Upon this planet, they meet David (Michael Fassbender), the droid survivor from the futile Prometheus mission, and soon encounter an alien life-form that threatens their existence.
It’s clear that Scott wanted to represent ‘Paradise Lost’ from the very start, creating an alleged ‘paradise’ for the Covenant to uncover, later revealing the planets sinister nature when it’s exposed as alien turf.
The film’s original plot failed to hint at Elizabeth Shaw’s return, however after being spotted on an Australian set and added to the IMDB cast list, it is assumed her account will tie into Daniels mission, if only revealed in flashback from David’s account. David is also the only other link that would tie Prometheus to its sequel, as he will surely retell his account of the failed ships endeavour.
WALTER / DAVID
Firstly, Michael Fassbender is returning to play the previous films droid, David. ‘Covenant’ will explain that after the events of ‘Prometheus’, David travels to the planet of the ‘engineers’, to unearth the creation of mankind and why the Xenomorphs were created (possibly as weapons). “You’ve got to go back and find those Engineers and see what they are thinking,” Scott explained to Deadline.
Secondly, Fassbender will be portraying an extension to the David-8 synthetic line, Walter, with dark hair and an American accent. While no depth has been divulged for Walter’s role in this film, we know he will be on board the Covenant as part of the crew exploring the new planet.
Ridley Scott’s son, Luke Scott (Morgan), directed a short advertisement, ‘Meet Walter’, unveiling the manufacturing of the droid and the understanding that he has been constructed without human emotions. This is a significant upgrade from David, as Walter is believed to struggle to perceive the concept of friendship with crew member Daniels. Michael Fassbender even described him as similar to Spock.
Katherine Waterson will play lead, Daniels, alongside Billy Crudup as fellow colonist Christopher Oram. Fassbender will appear as the droids, David and Walter, as well as other crew members, Tennessee (Danny McBride) and Faris (Any Seimetz).
According to the IMDB cast list, Guy Pierce is set to cameo as Peter Weyland, along with a short performance from James Franco, helming the ship as Captain and Daniels’ husband.
While Ridley Scott is directing his third addition to the ‘Alien’ franchise, Scott, Amy Greene (X-Men: First Class) Mark Huffman (Prometheus) and Michael Schaefer (The Martian) will all produce, leaving cinematography to Dariusz Wolski (Pirates of the Caribbean) and music by Jed Kurzil (Assassin’s Creed)
After taking over screenwriting from Jon Spaihts for ‘Prometheus’, ‘Lost’ mastermind, David Lindelof jumped ship on this sequel completely, handing the story over to Jack Paglen (Transcendence) and Michael Green (Green Lantern) with screenplay by John Logan (Gladiator). Green is also penning Scott’s ‘Blade Runner’ sequel, proving Scott has a fair amount of trust in Green’s abilities,
With the noteworthy success of ‘Prometheus’, achieving a 72% on Rotten Tomatoes, we can expect ‘Alien: Covenant’ to contend as a commendable extension to the ‘Alien’ prequels, created in the safety of originator Ridley Scott. The duality of ‘Paradise Lost’, a theme that moulds the ‘Covenant’ plot, was hinted at in ‘Prometheus’ through Shaw’s excitement at LV-223’s discovery and was cleverly extended and enhanced for its follow-up. The ship’s crew look like they’ve returned to exist within the original franchise, as the ‘Prometheus’ crew appeared too refined and unbreakable in a sense. Michael Fassbender will lend a familiar layer to another unfamiliar vessel and voyage, as well as the return of the evolving Xenomorph species.
Noting from the trailer, it suggests ‘Covenant’ will be similar to its prequel in portraying grand scale with spectacular open terrain, but also harness the smothering environment and tension on the ship as the 1979 original mastered. Audiences will also be keen to find out how ‘Covenant’ will conclude and if it will perhaps give reference to the beginning of the Nostromo.
Overall, ‘Covenant’ will hopefully draw out the clinging terror that brought about the franchises original success, with ten times more Alien action and characters that you don’t want to be squashed by a spaceship donut.