Having very messed-up things happen is a key ingredient in the recipe for the Alien film franchise. While audiences have come to expect gory explosions and the like, there’s a chance that this May’s Alien: Covenant might still hold the power to shock fans.
Last night in Austin, before the showing of several new clips from Alien: Covenant, Ridley Scott greeted the crowd by saying that while his goals have changed over his movie-making career, his mantra has always stayed the same: “to scare the living shit out of you.”
The first clip began on the spaceship Covenant, showing the crew as they prepared to send a lander down to the surface of a newly discovered planet. The scene highlighted the different personalities of the crew members, with bawdy banter and clipped snippiness meant to communicate camaraderie and tension. For example, one character grumbled “I hate space,” prompting another to quip “This is why you need yoga.” As mentioned in the most recent trailer, the crew on the mission is made up of couples and flirty jokes across different pairings drove home the closeness of the Covenant explorers. After the launch sequence for the lander finished, momentary panic set in when the mothership lost contact with the lander crew during descent to the planet. Radio contact was re-established, everyone breathed a sigh of relief, and the smaller craft touched down in a rough landing.
That relative calm was completely evaporated by the second scene, which began with two crew members hobbling back to the lander after being wounded. They were hurried into medical by a panicked colleague, who was tearfully looking for any kind of help from Tennessee or Billy Crudup’s Captain Christopher Oram. But, back on the mothership, Tennessee could only hear what was happening on the surface and Oram, leading another contingent back after their own unseen yet bloody encounter, was still too far away.
The two members—one of who is played by Carmen Ejogo—got sealed in the med-bay. Things escalated quickly with lots of frantic screaming, some of which has been seen in already released footage, and blood sprayed out of the wounded man’s back. As Ejogo pounded on the door demanding to be let out, her male colleague’s back started to crack open and a crimson, viscous sac flopped out. A pale, baby xenomorph—about the size of a kitten—clawed out of that sac and hissed at Ejogo. She freaked out, backed up onto a counter, and grabbed a blade to brandish at the lifeform.
It pounced at her face and clawed her to death, scrabbling to the door where the frightened crew member outside continued to lose her shit. The baby xeno bashed its head at the door’s glass window, breaking it open and going after the remaining human woman. She grabbed a gun but missed repeatedly in her attempts to blast it into oblivion. Her wild shots landed into a stack of flammable tanks, starting a fire that quickly caused the ship to explode, just in time for Captain Oram and his party to see that they have no way off the planet. Amidst the chaos, the baby xenon escaped into the night.
So far, the clips all showed beats familiar to fans of the long-running scifi horror series, however, the third one harbored the most morbid twist. In it, we saw Captain Oram talking to an android played by Michael Fassbender. However, this wasn’t the newly revealed Walter model. It’s David, the android last seen in Prometheus, who explained to Oram that he’s become something of an amateur zoologist. As the camera lingered on dissected specimens, David revealed he’s been studying the xenomorph. He explained that he’s mapped how insectoid carriers burst from spores to infect hosts and create hybrid lifeforms. Davis spoke admirably about the adaptive qualities of the xenon as he led Oram to a subterranean chamber filled with the iconic Alien egg sacs. Oram asked about the status of these sacs and David replied that they’re “waiting for mother” and assuring the human they’re “perfectly safe, I assure you.” The flaps of one sac opened, showing motion behind a cloudy membrane. Oram leaned over the opening to peer inside and a face-hugger leapt onto his head. David watched impassively as Oram struggled and died.
Based on the footage shown, it seems like Covenant will shade the AI characters in this Alien movie more complexly than in previous entries. In this instance, David appears to be the living link between Prometheus and Alien: Covenant, becoming the vector through which the xenomorphs move from one place to another. It remains to be seen what the interaction will be, if any, between Walter and David. If the plot point teased by the third clip is what it seems, one version of the artificial lifeforms created to help mankind will become instrumental in the propagation of the galaxy’s greatest threat.
After those three new clips, Scott returned for brief comments, followed by a showing of the Walter and red-band trailers. The Covenant portion of the evening ended with a Q&A session with Scott and cast members Fassbender, Katherine Waterston, and Danny McBride. I’ll upload snippets from that when I get back to a better internet connection.
Alien: Covenant opens on May 19.