Alien: Covenant, following on the heels of the 2012 Prometheus, sees the return of Michael Fassbender as the synthetic David along with the series trademark aliens, the facehugger and chestburster, that have been synonymous with the series’ otherworldly creatures since its first installment that Ridley Scott introduced to us back in 1979. The film takes place 10 years after the events in Prometheus and features a new group of
victims explorers on a colonization mission to a distant planet to settle in their new home. Along the way they get sidetracked after picking up a familiar audio signal in the form of a human-oid humming to the tune of John Denver’s Take Me Home, Country Roads. The possibility of meeting other humans and finding a world that’s habitable for all 2000 members on board the ship is just too good to pass up and so the crew agrees to take a detour. But when will our protagonists of the horror film genre ever learn that when something appears too good to be true, it probably is?
It is no small fact that Ridley Scott’s Alien prequels have gotten a lot of flack. The two entries so far, Prometheus and Alien: Covenant, have been criticized for the characters who are supposed to be well trained experts in their respective fields of study making dumb cliched horror movie decisions. Once again in Covenant, we see these supposedly well trained crew members taking off their helmets on an unknown alien world and completely disregarding safety protocol in order to help their fellow researchers. Now I too have criticized these movies for having such dumb character moments, but I will say that the characters themselves, along with the movies, have extraordinary goals and interesting thoughts on the world around them.
This is where these movies start to stand out for me. The sheer scope of their plot line is so incredibly interesting that it transcends its predecessors’ classic horror themes. The prequels are not simply movies that are made to scare and create tension between a predator and its prey. They are reaching towards the sky in order to answer questions about what it means to be human. While he is not the main character in either Prometheus or Covenant, the androgynous android David is the star of the ongoing series for sure. He is again the most interesting character in these films based on his motives. David has spent his life studying human behavior and that of our creators through recorded history and his own interactions. And it’s what he has found that is the key component to the Alien prequels. The connection or relationship between The Engineers, Humans, and Androids is that of creators and their creations.
Covenant goes beyond your typical Alien movie themes in that it explores the inner thoughts and feelings of the android David. If you were created with no real reason other than just because, then maybe you would have a tainted outlook on life. Some people turn to religion in order to believe in something bigger than themselves, while many search within for a purpose to their life. When David asks his own creator why he was made he is slapped in the face with a very shallow answer from Dr. Charlie Holloway stating “We made you because we could.” Though David already knew the reason for his own creation he still asked and his response is very telling of how he feels about humans when he said to Holloway “Could you imagine the disappointment if your creator said the same to you?”. As David studied human history he began to notice that their flaws are the causes of all of their grief and bloodshed. David knows he was made without these flaws so he is in a sense a perfect being. David is not restricted to mortality, only by wires.
When the crew meets the Engineers in Prometheus they discover the weapon that the Engineers created to destroy the humans. The reason for destroying the human race was never revealed but David sees this as an opportunity, a glimpse into the future. Humans were made to die whereas he was not. After the events of Prometheus David goes into studying and developing his own creation. He believes that the human race is flawed and that it’s time to replace them with a more superior life form. This is where Fassbender shines in his role as the Hannibal Lecter equivalent of a calculating evil genius android. David dedicates the last 10 years since Prometheus working on creating the master race, something that could not only extinguishes the human race but the Engineers as well. David believes that the only way to understand one’s meaning and purpose is by destroying the things that created them. For David this means destroying both his creators and the Engineers as well. David wants to become a god.
These are the things that make these movies so fascinating to me. They bring up major questions and interesting ideas as to what it means to be human and understanding that everyone and everything has its own flaws.