The Art Of Sequels: Alien: Covenant

Visionary Ridley Scott crafted a bold, uniquely terrifying, visceral experience flush with the attitude and swagger of a classic Alien movie

In space, no one can hear you scream. After nearly four decades, those words remain synonymous with the sheer, relentless intensity of Ridley Scott’s masterpiece of futuristic horror, Alien.

Now, the father of the iconic franchise returns once more to the world he created to explore its darkest corners with Alien: Covenant, a pulse-pounding new adventure, set ten years after the events depicted in Scott’s 2012 hit Prometheus, relentlessly returning to the roots of the director’s groundbreaking saga with a uniquely terrifying tale filled with white-knuckle adventure and monstrous new creatures.

With this, the sixth installment in the blockbuster series  (screenplay is by John Logan and Dante Harper, from a story by Jack Paglen and Michael Green) , the visionary director edges ever closer toward revealing the mysterious origins of the mother of all aliens, the lethal Xenomorph from the original film.

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All is quiet aboard the spaceship Covenant. The crew and the rest of the 2,000 souls aboard the pioneering vessel are deep in hyper-sleep, leaving the synthetic Walter to walk the corridors alone. The ship is en route to the remote planet Origae-6, where, on the far side of the galaxy, the settlers hope to establish a new outpost for humanity. The tranquility is shattered when a nearby stellar ignition shreds Covenant’s energy-collection sails, resulting in dozens of casualties and throwing the mission off course. Soon, the surviving crew members discover what appears to be an uncharted paradise, an undisturbed Eden of cloud-capped mountains and immense, soaring trees far closer than Origae-6 and potentially just as viable as a home. What they’ve found, however, is actually a dark and deadly world full of unexpected twists and turns. Facing a terrible threat beyond their imagination, the embattled explorers must attempt a harrowing escape.

Welcome Aboard The Covenant

From the beginning, Ridley Scott was out for blood.

“I think Ridley’s first line was, ‘We’re going to make a hard R-rated film, and we’re going to need a lot of claret,’ which is a term for film blood,” recalls Alien: Covenant producer Mark Huffam. “That was the very first conversation—we’re out to scare the pants off everybody.”

If anyone knows how to terrify audiences with smart, sophisticated storytelling, it’s Scott. His original Alien remains a standard bearer for the horror genre, a psychologically taut, uncomfortably claustrophobic film, as lean and effective as the sleek, vicious beast that first stalked Ellen Ripley and the crew of the starship Nostromo back in 1979. “In a funny kind of way, I always thought of Alien as a B-movie, really well done,” Scott says. “The subtext was pretty basic—it was seven people locked in the old dark house and who’s going to die first and who’s going to survive.”

Director Ridley Scott is a renowned Academy Award®-nominated filmmaker honored with Best Director Oscar® nominations for his work on Black Hawk Down, Gladiator and Thelma & Louise. All three films also earned him DGA Award nominations. Scott’s most recent release was the critically acclaimed box office phenomenon The Martian.

Scott and his late brother Tony formed the commercial and advertising production company RSA in 1967. RSA has an established reputation for creating innovative and groundbreaking commercials for some of the world’s most recognized corporate brands. In 1995, the Scott brothers formed the film and television production company Scott Free. With offices in Los Angeles and London, the Scotts produced such films as In Her Shoes, The A-Team, Cyrus, The Grey and the Academy Award®-nominated drama The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford.

In 1977 Scott made his feature film directorial debut with The Duelist, for which he won the Best First Film Award at the Cannes Film Festival. He followed with the blockbuster science-fiction thriller Alien, which catapulted Sigourney Weaver to stardom and launched a successful franchise. In 1982 Scott directed the landmark film Blade Runner starring Harrison Ford. Considered a sci-fi classic, the futuristic thriller was added to the U.S. Library of Congress’ National Film Registry in 1993 and a director’s cut was released to renewed acclaim in 1993 and again in 2007.

In 2003 Scott was awarded a Knighthood by Queen Elizabeth II in recognition of his services to the British Film Industry. He received the 30th American Cinematheque Award at the organization’s annual gala in 2016 and the Lifetime Achievement Award in Motion Picture Direction at the 2017 Directors Guild of America Awards.

For Alien: Covenant, the Oscar-nominated filmmaker sought to recapture the same foreboding atmosphere of constant danger and dread while also offering new insights that would add richness and depth to the larger Alien mythology. That approach was necessary, he says, to keep the storytelling fresh and surprising.

“You can’t keep being chased down a corridor by a monster—it gets boring,” Scott says. “It came to me that no one had asked the question, who made this and why. You could say monsters from outer space, gods from outer space, engineers from outer space invented it. They didn’t. Alien: Covenant’s going to flip that around.”

John Logan received the Tony, Drama Desk, Outer Critic Circle and Drama League awards for his play Red. This play premiered at the Donmar Warehouse in London and at the Golden Theatre on Broadway. Since then Red has had more than 200 productions across the US and has been presented in over 30 countries. In 2013, his play Peter and Alice premiered in London and I’ll Eat You Last: A Chat with Sue Mengers opened on Broadway. He also co-wrote the book for the musical The Last Ship and is the author of more than a dozen other plays including Never the Sinner and Hauptmann. As a screenwriter, Logan has been three times nominated for the Oscar and has received a Golden Globe, BAFTA, WGA, and PEN Center award. His film work includes Skyfall, Spectre, Hugo, The Aviator, Gladiator, Rango, Genius, Coriolanus, Sweeney Todd, The Last Samurai, Any Given Sunday and RKO 281. He also created and produced the television series Penny Dreadful for Showtime.

Alien: Covenant marks the third collaboration for Michael Fassbender and the director after Prometheus and The Counselor.

Together, the actor and filmmaker explored all the complex circuitry hard-wired into David, the Covenant’s loyal synthetic, even tapping into his sly, subversive side. “Ridley and I tried and find the humor in him, the funny beats with him,” Fassbender says. “We all let our guards down when we laugh, so we’re more likely to experience other things like shock and horror to a fuller effect when we haven’t been numbed because there’s been a lack of humor.”

“Alien: Covenant, for me, is in a lot of ways like the first Alien,” Fassbender says. “It’s gritty and dark, and from the get-go, when the Covenant hits the space storm, it sets a series of events in motion that don’t stop until the final frame. Ten minutes into the film, it becomes relentless. I think this is going to be the scariest one of all the films.”

It’s true. With Alien: Covenant, there’s no question that visionary Scott has returned to his element, crafting a bold, uniquely terrifying, visceral experience flush with the attitude and swagger of a classic Alien movie. Expect nothing less than relentless, heart-stopping, R-rated terror.

“I hope the film gets people very uneasy, helps your arteries start pumping, sets hearts pounding,” says the filmmaker. “I hope you have a very dry throat but can’t take your eyes off the screen. To really scare the shit out of people is quite difficult, but his might give them nightmares. And that’s a good thing.”

Alien: Covenant was shot over 74 days at the stages of Fox Studios Australia and on location in Milford Sound, New Zealand in 2016.