Alien Covenant poster

“The path to paradise begins in hell,” the Alien: Covenant trailer ominously declares as the crew members on the colony ship Covenent prepare to get slaughtered. The new poster for Ridley Scott‘s second Alien prequel certainly hits that theme on the nose, with a dark, disturbing poster reminiscent of Renaissance paintings of angels and demons. Let’s check out that poster. And while we’re at it, let’s also explore its obvious influences.

20th Century Fox dropped the poster for Alien: Covenant today and it’s immediately striking. The dark poster shows a slew of Xenomorphs crawling over and smothering the bodies of men as they reach for a tiny ray of sunlight that illuminates a dim and narrow hellhole.

AlienCovenant

The poster is a stark reminder that the franchise is going back to its horror roots — the trailer had more than a few obvious parallels to the first Alien starring Sigourney Weaver — something producer Mark Huffam emphasized during our visit to the set.

“It’s got the scale of Prometheus, but also it brings in the suspense and the corridors get smaller, darker, and you’re just wondering what’s down there, and they’re still not turning the lights on before they go in, “Huffam said.

Alien: Covenant is the sixth entry into the Alien series, but only the second in the timeline started by 2012’s Prometheus. The prequel series is set roughly 30 years before the events of 1979’s Alien, and features humans venturing out into the dark recesses of space and discovering remnants of advanced civilizations…and other, more immediate dangers.

While this poster was created for a 2017 release set in the distant future, it recalls art from a much earlier age.

The Influences on the Poster Go Farther Back Than You Think

The poster is sinister and creepy, but above all, it’s artful.

It reminds me a lot of Renaissance paintings of hell, and battles between angels and demons. The one that specifically came to mind was Frans Floris’ The Fall of The Rebellious Angels, which depicts armored angels fighting off fallen angels, whose human bodies are transformed into horrifying beasts.

The Alien: Covenant poster also has shades of the Gian Lorenzo Bernini sculpture The Rape of Persephone, in which a terrified Persephone tries to escape the clutches of the god of the underworld, Hades. That statue was notable for its realistic portrayal of how Hades’ hands gripped into Persephone’s flesh, something that can be seen in the poster, in which these anonymous men — clearly made to look like Classic Roman and Renaissance statues — are devoured and strangled by the Aliens.

renaissance alien art

Both art pieces have interesting thematic ties to Alien: Covenant. With The Fall, there’s a connection to Aliens as demonic creatures who our human characters first stumble upon in hellish underground caverns (or at least shadowy, crashed spaceships) before getting killed in the narrow, dark corridors of the aptly named Covenant. It’s like Scott made it his mission to make all the Biblical references.

As for The Rape of Persephone, much has been written about the ongoing use of sexual assault imagery in the Alien franchise: the Alien baby (or “facehugger”) that looks a lot like female genitalia, the childbirth imagery of the chestbursting scene, and the many instances of the Aliens “violating” their victims in gruesome ways. Heck, just look at the Alien: Covenant trailer and its (probably gratuitous) shower scene death.

The poster, its imagery and its influences are all clever choices to make on the marketing department’s part, and I applaud them for it. If they put this much thought into a one-sheet poster, it bodes well for the film itself, which will hopefully redeem the polarizing Prometheus.

The poster does not depict the cast, which sees Michael Fassbender returning as another android version of his character in Prometheus, as well as newcomers Katherine Waterston, Billy Crudup, Danny McBride, Demián Bichir, Carmen Ejogo, Amy Seimetz, Jussie Smollett, Callie Hernandez, Nathaniel Dean, Alexander England and Benjamin Rigby.

Alien: Covenant hits theaters May 19, 2017.

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