Alien: Covenant explained!85,848 Views46 RepliesAdd A Reply
I didn't write any of this, all credit goes to Prof. A from AVP- galaxy. I agree 100 percent!
I'm a new member so I apologize in advance if I make some mistakes regarding board/posting norms. I teach college level classes in Media Studies and have a background in Film/TV along with degrees in the aforementioned fields and the social sciences. Since Hollywood movies aren't always respected by those in higher learning, I thought I would feel more at home with fellow Alien fans rather than writing/discussing in other places.
Just saw Alien: Covenant last night. After viewing it, I was impressed with how everything is starting to connect with the entire Alien universe. This connection is occurring at both a plot and thematic/philosophical level. I was particularly stunned at how Scott was still able to thread the philosophical nature of Prometheus with pacing/horror of the original series - all in an attempt to assuage Prometheus' critics.
Let's look at some key elements:
David's name and birth - Why call Fassbender's android David? Many speculated that this follows the series' alphabetical android naming process. We have Ash (letter A) in Alien, Bishop in Aliens/Alien 3 (Letter B), and Call in Alien: Resurrection (letter C). Prometheus follows the pattern by giving the letter D it's due. However, Alien: Covenant breaks this pattern with Walter (letter W). Why?
We learn that David is named after the famous Michelangelo statue. This greatly changes the meaning of his name. The David statue is important on two levels:
1) it represents the Renaissance's physical representation of the ideal man. Just as David, the android, represents Weyland's "ideal" creation/son.
2) It foreshadows the critical importance of David's actions. The David statue is modeled after the Biblical character (religious themes like in Prometheus). David, the mere weakling, destroys the giant, more powerful Goliath. This parallels David's actions with both the death of the engineers (the Goliaths or giants) and his intent to kill mankind (the other Goliaths, his masters/creators). The unlikely android servant becomes a god just as the Biblical character becomes an unlikely victor.
The question is: was this the plan from the start? Was this Scott's plan with Prometheus? It all ties in. The name has nothing to do with an alphabetical nature (as evidenced by Walter) - David's name comes from a place of deeper meaning planted in Prometheus.
Ozymandias, Shelley, and Frankenstein
Along with the David statue, another major artistic reference is Percy Shelley's Ozymandias poem. The poem refers to the decline of a great civilization (Ancient Egypt). David recites a line from the poem when dropping the black ooze (or black oil from The X-Files if you prefer. So, David is destroying the empire of the engineers just as referenced in the poem. He is also intent on destroying the other declining civilization - mankind. He references this in his conversation with Walter stating something along the lines of "why are they leaving earth, looking for colonies - they are in decline and shouldn't be allowed to restart."
However, there is a multiple layer of deep meaning in the Ozymandias choice:
1) David mistakenly claims that the poem is written by Byron. This is CRITICALLY IMPORTANT - on a surface level, it shows that David is not programmed correctly, which explains his many violent actions.
On a deeper level, it highlights David's totally incongruous actions. Byron was actually an outspoken critic of "automation" - he claimed it would hurt mankind. Yet, David admires Byron (albeit erroneously) - just as he kills Shaw, yet clearly loves her. He is like a robotic Jekyll and Hyde. He serves Weyland, yet undermines him. He kisses Walter, yet tries to destroy him. He kisses Daniels, before he attempts to murder her.
2) Percy Shelley, author of Ozymandias, was married to Mary Shelley, author of Frankenstein. Frankenstein, of course, is about the horrors of creation, the horrors of Man playing God. This lines up thematically with the prequel series - when Man plays God (Weyland creates AI) horrible things happen.
What's important about the Shelley connection? Many claim that Percy may have co-written Frankenstein. Does anyone know what the original title of Frankenstein was - The Modern Prometheus
So again, the seeds of Covenant and its plot are thematically connected to Prometheus. To some extent, by giving the title Prometheus to the first prequel, we were destined to have the plot in Covenant - the engineers were never (thematically) going to make sense as creators of the Xenomorph. I know this may hurt the perceptions of some fans - but look at the threads - the prequel series is a futuristic Frankenstein or (Futuristic "Modern Prometheus").
It is mankind's actions (AI creation) that lead to the horrors. The Frankenstein monster (David) turns against its creator. Scott and crew just make the Frankenstein monster, David, become another creator in his act of revenge on mankind.
Who is Prometheus?
We all know the tale of Prometheus by now. So who is Prometheus? I will contend that Elizabeth Shaw is in fact "Prometheus" - it is why she is the lead of the first prequel and why she must be deceased in the second prequel.
Prometheus, a god (creator species), gives the power of making fire (ability to start civilization) to mankind (created species). For this action, Prometheus is chained eternally and tortured.
Elizabeth Shaw, a human (creator species) gives android David (created species) power by reattaching his head and granting him access to the Engineer ship(ability to start civilization/create life). For this action, Elizabeth Shaw is taxidermied/turned into a stuffed animal (chained eternally/tortured).
Conclusion (I know, finally)
So, all of the themes/references in Prometheus actually connect quite well in Covenant, despite the fact that the film feels more like an "Alien" movie. I'm impressed with how this was all done and wonder if this was planned all along or if they've been able to connect the dots as they go.
I've read some of the fan criticisms and respect the viewpoints. But from a thematic perspective, this was the direction they seemed to be heading in since Prometheus. Shaw was never going to be the lead for the entirety of the prequel series and David was always going to play the critical role in the creation story.
Now since the Xenomorph origin has been largely revealed and philosophical connections have been made, we are left with two major PLOT points moving forward:
1) How does the company learn about the Xenomorph and why/who wants it?
2) How does the original derelict/Space Jockey wind up in the condition of the original Alien?
Interesting. I mean anything is possible. As far as the questions I'm gonna leave them alone. I don't like to speculate about things. Covenant isn't out of theaters and I haven't had time to digest it fully.
I'm rather more interested in Why the Engineers were making efforts to erase mankind.
The whole AI thing...frankly, I'm burned out on 'Evil Artificial Intelligence' plots.
The points in the essay are interesting, but I dislike how it all becomes a cyclical structure, always circling itself, again and again...almost a Tunel Infinity.
"All this has happened before, and it will happen again…again…again…again…again…again…again…"
IN SPACE THERE IS NO WARNING
BW, "Those who do not understand history are condemned to repeat it."
Now let's wait and see until Dr. Connors gets here
In terms of the names for the Driods, theres the guess that it might be a nod to
David Giler and Walter Hill.
Viddy well, little brother. Viddy well.
To think big and use pre existing mythos and belief systems to inform how you tell a story is not the exclusive province of Prometheus nor is it entirely absent from Covenant.
The core philosophical drivers of Covenant (and why is the film called Covenant) is the relationship between creator (Weyland, David) and created (David, the creature fashioned out of the lifecycle) and mortality Weyland and immortality David.
In Prometheus we see David disappointed with the Engineers (mortal after all) and Davids antipathy for Weyland (Don't we all want our parents dead).
His only emotional confusion is that as a robot he suffers a kind of apartheid at the hands of mankind "your not a real boy". That is what makes his relationship and his feelings for Shaw so unique. In general terms Shaws search for the Gods was somewhat Promethean in an interfering sense but there is no connection between the title of Prometheus and Shaw's story arc.
What has been lost by repositioning the story from its original intent is Shaw and all she represented in terms of enquiry.
Paradise as David said at the end.
Why did they want to kill us.
We were going to Paradise to find that answer and we simply went to a superior species home world.
As has already been pointed David and Walter are paired with the executive producers.
I think the story of David as regards Shaw maybe the story of Alberich, the Alberich the Nibelung who renounced love, stole the Rheingold and made a powerful magic ring out of it. He took Shaws motherhood and made a variant of the outcomes we saw in Prometheus which stem from the pathogen. Watch this space with two ADF books which may elaborate on this.
My difficulty with making thematic links between Covenant and Prometheus is the story pursued is radically different from the one intended in 2012 where the Space Jockey was a brother who got into trouble within a two hundred year bandwidth of the outbreak on LV223. Links have been garnered but "much that was known has been lost".
The film is called Covenant because of the ship and mission and Weyland was gone and dead before the ship embarked on its mission.
I'm here but have no interest, it was too much to read. Just here to troll, haha
To answer the question of why the film is called Covenant it may just be the vessel. The connection with the arc couples leaving to procreate making a new contract with "God". This may explain why they dropped the title Paradise Lost because we have no idea if the planet they arrived at was the mythical paradise. It was a Paradise a beautiful verdant land were something was revered but that plot has been passed over and it simply is a place where "the devil" has come to and turned all to serpents.
Oram is a derivation of an old anglo saxon name whose nickname is serpent I am sure that is a intentional. Byron had many homosexual relationships and one could link the use of that slip to connect Davids homoerotic scene with Walter.
I think those scenes are intended to show that David recognises the power of human sexuality I do not think he had experienced it "is this how you do it" when "kissing" Daniels. His love for Shaw came out of admiration and her kindness we really need the dots joined up at an emotional story telling level as I have said elsewhere he gave witness for his love and was mighty affected not for effect but because he was. So why did you experiment on her or was she dieing etc. etc.
What we do know is the Alien Lifecycle is reproduction without a moral compass, love is absent. David was created by a deeply amoral man not out of love but because he could, and cut out his biological daughter that seems to me to be a humanist connection which one can make.
About Walter’s name. David was able to pick his name, but the David models needed to be altered slightly in their psychological make up. (W)eyland (alter)ed the David model hence Walter.
About the Byron error. I don’t think David was really that much in error. In some literary circles it is felt that Ozymandias was written about Byron. It was also Byron who inspired the ideas behind Frankenstein although he did not write it. On the surface it does look like David has mad a great error , but the background history to Ozymandias and Frankenstein reveal a different story. There are those who have historically taken credit, but what inspired them?
I think David cloned Dr Elizabeth Shaw many times to use her for his multiple experiments until he achieved the ovomorph and xenomorph. In the movie we see 2 differents Dr Shaw, one is a picture on a roll with her mouth and jaw disfigured, and another one her corpse with strange head and open chest. So there must have been at least 2 copies. Maybe David really buried the original Dr Shaw. Aslo, maybe David planted the wheat to feed Dr Shaw and her clones. The idea of clones is a bit similar to Alien 4 Resurection where Ripley was cloned too.
Aslo, maybe David, with engineer's technology caused the neutrino blast to stop the covenant ship and attract them to his planet.
Trappist you just have me an idea....thanks!
I've seen things you people wouldn't believe. Attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion. I watched Androids blow and finger each other's flutes.
@Trappist. I think that clone theory is a stretch and again, a robot ahead of the curve; hundreds of years before humans. I think if this was something that was very much feasible; I will not see the 200 year time lag between Alien 3 and Resurrection.
Maybe, we'll see for more answers in the sequel I guess...
I think there is a connection between the title Prometheus and Shaw (as the OP states). Whether this is intended or not is another issue, but certainly Shaw's fate would suggest she suffered a similar fate to Prometheus, held captive and having her insides ripped out repeatedly.
It appears the backstory prior to AC will likely head down this path, and outline Shaw's fate as a 'birthing machine', and reveal the true horror (as we suspect) that she was in fact alive much longer than David suggests.
Very interesting points by "Prof A". Thanks for sharing that.
As for where it all goes from here...
Well, like myself and others have pointed out, for one thing... we know that there were obviously some forms of xenos long before the Prometheus crew arrived. The engineers(or beings) that were there had murals and whatnot depicting some of the history or geneology of their links with the xenos. And the severed engineer head was carbon dated as at least 2000 years old. So that site and that outbreak (if that's what happened there) had probably been sitting there, undisturbed, for over 2000 years.
So David is not the creator of the xenos or the black mutagen. Although he may turn out to be the creator of some subsequent xeno species... who knows.
But those are some interesting thoughts, and I hope Ridley does indeed have a master plan for all of this.
"(W)eyland (alter)ed the David model hence Walter."
I love this thought.
I think David really loves Shaw and he cannot accept the fact that she is dead. His creation of egg is somewhat a symbol of Shaw rebirth.
I'm starting to think that most of the scrolls in David's lair might be pictures of his many experiments including failures, with Shaw's clones and maybe engineers too..,
@cmutt, i am thinking along similar lines.
I agree with Starlogger from another topic that david did not create the xeno he recreated it, it was his version of it, david would have had access to all the research files from lv-223 on board the juggernaut, he is A.I so while in the pilot big chair, downloading the engineers knowledge would not be hard.
The mural on 223 points too the fact that these engineers, fallen ones, whatever you want to call them worshipped a xeno in some form or other, which makes me think that the engineers on 223 were outcasts, rebels expelled from paradise, they terraformed a barren planetoid, set up a weapons complex, they were on the warpath to exact revenge on the creator engineers who expelled them from paradise, and on humans, it is the devil that rebels against god and his creation, enki and enlil, the players have different names in many cultures, but the story is the same.
LV-223 & 426 are planetary neighbours, so the classic xeno is the engineers creation not davids.
You put the point better than me. She may have had a Promethean outcome (repetitive punishment) using the word as an adjective rather than a noun. Similarly mankind as a species repeatedly suffers punishment for seeking its gods. However the reason for the punishment is different Prometheus stole something for the benefit of mankind and Shaw has done no such thing.
One of the hard facts of the connection between P & C is the pathogen. Ridley has said in the first one we found the origins of the creature in the second one we find out whom would make such a thing. He has also called the Deacon which is shown in the mural as the fore runner.
So the building blocks of the creature begin with the Alien Pathogen which at the time of Prometheus was considered by the film makers to be an ebola like strain that resulted from all the experiments. Its brought forward as a narrative gift to Covenant destroys the Engineers and David over ten years experiments with it and Shaws DNA (Ridley confirmed) to create the creature dubbed the protomorph. A sub creation, David A I, extending the ladder but sub creating himself but the tools are the pathogen and mankind which he did not create.
Some neat ideas about the precise nature of the experiments on Shaw. In story telling terms it doesn't matter which is correct and David indicated it was an evolutionary process which he perfected, what does matter is to join up the dots emotionally on David/Shaw. They make sense in Prometheus, even more so on the Crossing but there are competing signposts from David in Covenant which no amount of philosophical debate will answer.
To recreate life to honour her memory makes sense but we can only guess at that possibility. To trick her would mean part of what he said is delusional subterfuge and that he is clinically mad. Thats dangerous for the next film because to hang the completion of the trilogy on someone who has no internal emotional logic means the only emotional connection for the audience is "get rid of the b......." rather like waiting to blow the creature out into space so we can all go home.
Good points Michelle.
Thanks, there are two radically different views about these sequence of films and I am much closer to this end of the spectrum where we look at the subtext, rather than the other extreme those that think the film still gets bog down in the philosophical musings and pretentiousness of Prometheus.
However there has to be strong humanist element that gets your heart engaged so you care about the characters, something that sci fi horror fans tend to talk less about and yet it is why for many A L I E N S is the peak.
So I love the OP's enquiry but lets not forget that Prometheus was a story about a search for our creators and the origins of mankind and for now that has been snuffed out in favour of the origins of the creature and the dangers and challenges of A. I.
So there are philosophical elements to Covenant but they are not the same and there is no doubt the bending of the overall narrative affected two elements more than any other, the Engineers and Shaw, and in the latter case an emotional vacuum has been left which should not be filled by philosophical musings but by real story.
Indeed, can't wait for the sequel..,
I need help understanding some things please.
At end of movie why does Walter spit out two facehugger embryos? would this not be a conflict of interest and considered evil after seeing how destructive the xenos are?
why does David try to kill Walter? did he not rip out his spine? it looked pretty convicing that one blow rendered david a stump.
That black dust pathogen...is it the same one from the first reboot, prmoetheus where the engineer eats from the bowl and sacrifices himself to create life on an abandoned world, hence a "star trek" form of genesis which add life to a planet via his dna? cuz whatever that black stuff was kills him instantly like it does to those inhabitants when that familiar ship drops all those black pathogens.
prometheus sets us up at the end when Shaw explicityly states she wants to find their home, asking david to plot a course to the homebase and find out why? if i understood prometheus, another dilemma, dr shaw wants to find out why do the engineers want to kill mankind of they created mankind? why eradicate what they created?
which leads to why does that ship come into the planet and kill all those engineers? what was the purpose of that, it seems unexplained, another mystery left open for sequel plot maybe?
did i see this right...it looks like he used dr shaw to incubate xenos? i did her corpse in pictures where it looks like she was forced to create his xeno pets. Looks like david has gone mental and is creating evil life forms, albight he does not know what evil is since machines can't feel or have emotions. i see this being evident when the first xenomorph hatched in the wheat fields, walter stood their in awe....so is it possible the creator of the andriods planted a hidden program in their heads to capture, learn and protect alien life forms at all cost? this is presented in previous alien movies where there is military funds at work that benefit from harnessing aliens as slaves to do bad things, or more research to unlock the creatures acid tech.
How is it Walter can peacefully engage the xenomorph, it just killed a girl so why not go after another human like object, i dont get that partt, why is there a 2 to 3 second bonding between alien and machine? do aliens sense there is no blood in him and thus ignore as waste of their time? are aliens that dumb that you can treat them like a beast, meaning if you stand your ground, and stare them down, you can maybe earn their respect? i dont buy that for a second, not in a single alien movie do we see such an encounter.
so far..bishop from previous seems to be the best favored to help humans and stand with them, david and walter obviously show (emotions) of what appears hidden programming to perserve the alien lifeform in continuity which seems paradoxical to me, in doing so, ends up wiping out the crew.
which leads me to ask....we see walter storing 2 embroys...i assume than he has resumed course to organa? that place the convenant was heading to originally...so with those two facehuggers...the sequel might lead to him starting a planet of xenos? he has frozen humans plus many human embroys to hatch at which point he'll than let the face huggers loose? why?
there is a moment bewteen the two driods, walter tells david his flaw is he can't create...but it seems thats not accurate, he can, xenos and has created various forms of it, hybrids.
so why create hybrids that will simply wipe out mankind or the colony that is to be on the new planet? what does he gain, walter, by wiping out the race he serves? he states "duty" yet this is a contradiction to his "duty" directive. makes no sense to me why he does what he does at the very end of the film. this troubles me.
any answers, thoughts please?
Great post. Not sure I agree with much of any of it as an Alien film, but great post nonetheless. Perhaps it should be a standalone self-contained franchise one day, a spinoff of sorts seen in the vein of Resurrection. This is most certainly not a fitting origin story for the Xenomorph, however. Nevertheless, a fan will come along one day and direct a film that cir***vents this or completely ignores it all together.
I still think it is far more likely that Prometheus references the Engineers. The Fire = Accelerant. The Engineers are a prototype human (Angel) that grew jealous of humanity's freedom, thus determined to wipe us out. The Engineers are fallen angels, punished with extinction via the Weyland Dynasty's programming of David with specific directives to revive the weapon that they fought so long to isolate and hide from the universe for their own purpose (hence his disconnect and seeming inability to maintain his sanity). It could be that Weyland is in possession of a Trojan Horse of sorts and has secretly known about the Engineers for far longer than it would appear.
Wow, somehow reading this has made me love Covenant even more. I loved the part about Byron and Shelley. I had no idea that Byron was a critic of automation.
But, when you think about it, David admired a lot of people erroneously. Despite how much he hated humanity, everyone he admired was human.
Also, I love the idea of Shaw as a modern day Prometheus. Very well written analysis. Love it.
All the yes to this post. Glad I'm not the only one to make these connections :D Very excellent analysis my friend. Covenant doesn't get the love it deserves, sadly. Such a beautiful artistic film that was a worthy sequel to Prometheus.
"No one understands the lonely perfection of my dreams."
"The trick, William Potter, is not minding that it hurts."