Is 'Alien: Covenant' An 'Alien' Prequel Or A 'Prometheus' Sequel?

Let's be honest with ourselves here: the earliest details about Ridley Scott's Alien: Covenant made this film sound like a soft reboot, a way of continuing the series while dismissing as much of the divisive Prometheus as possible. However, after a day on the film's set last year, it became very clear that this is very much a sequel to the first Alien prequel, even as it's doubling down on being the prequel many Alien fans wanted in the first place. Let's take a closer look.

Yes, Alien: Covenant is a Direct Follow-Up to Prometheus

Does the crew of the Covenant colony ship know anything about the mission witnessed in Prometheus? Cast member Demián Bichir says no, but he also says that the new cast will discover what is left of that doomed crew:

No, we're not supposed to know. That happened at a different time, so we're not supposed to know. We will find out about many things that didn't go right. There will be a couple of surprises.

And producer Mark Huffam noted that Alien: Covenant will follow in the footsteps of Prometheus and deliberately leave questions they could be explored in another sequel:

That's always Ridley's thing: leave a question open, so you get them back next time. At the end of Prometheus, there were questions people wanted answered there and they are going to get some of those answers in this movie and we'll leave a few different questions for the next one.

The upbeat positioning of this movie as a Prometheus sequel continues with cast member Katherine Waterston, who says that everyone focused on what worked about past movies instead of focusing on what didn't work:

We don't look at it and be like 'What should we fucking avoid?' We think 'What did we love about this...? How do we bring that to [Alien: Covenant] and not just copy it? I think all of the actors talked about that and, you know, we're nerds.

Alien Covenant - Jussie Smollett and Ridley Scott (BTS)

The Rules of the Franchise

When asked about why Ridley Scott would make yet another Alien movie, special visual effects supervisor Neil Corbould was pretty upfront about it.

"I think," he said, "he saw some other movies that probably didn't meet up to his expectations of what they should've done." He was also blunt about the reaction to Prometheus, noting that Scott "did listen to the criticism" leveled at at the film and reacted accordingly: "He listened to the audience. That they [wanted] more aliens – they're going to get a lot more aliens."

Is that the key to a great Alien movie? More aliens? Or at least more Alien action? Huffam says that they set out to examine the Alien mythology and isolate what makes this movies tick in the first place. The result was an 8-10 page document which laid out the rules of the Alien universe:

We actually put a film researcher on [the job], and said 'We want you to immerse yourself entirely in every Alien movie, and then tell us where we might or might not break a rule and we made some very, very subtle changes. It was interesting, but I suppose most of the rules came from [the original] Alien.

Yes, the Alien: Covenant crew decided to disregard the Alien vs. Predator movies.

But let's return to the question proposed above: why did Ridley Scott choose to make another Alien movie? He told us himself – if someone is going to tell the story of where the Xenomorph came from, he wants to be the one to do it:

I think Alien, way back when, ran its course. Then I thought, with that special kind of creature, it shouldn't really run its course. It shouldn't have really ended. So we've come back with a very simple idea, which is 'Who made [the alien] and why?' No one ever asked that question. [Our original movie] was just about 'There it is, it exists, and this is what it is.' Seven guys and gals in a steel hull. Frankly, the very old idea of 'The Old Dark House.' Who's gonna die next? The fundamental basis of Alien was a pretty old B-movie, but because of the cast and talent involved it came out an A+ movie. So we've reinvented the idea of Alien, I think, which is that Covenant gets us a step closer to who and why was this thing designed. Who did it?

alien covenant characters 6

Shaw and David, Daniels and Walter

The strongest link connecting Prometheus and Alien: Covenant is the presence of Michael Fassbender, who returns as the android David while also playing a second android named Walter. But when Prometheus ended, David was a severed head being carried by Noomi Rapace's Elizabeth Shaw, who had decided to seek out the Engineers and get to the bottom of everything she had just endured.

What happened to Shaw? Is she even in Alien: Covenant? The internet learned that yes, Rapace was in the film and Huffam was none-too-pleased that we already knew this:

That's the surprise of the film. You're not meant to know she's in it. Okay? So that got out there, as everything does... so I'm not going to talk to you much about it. You're going to have to watch the movie to get that surprise.

During our day on set, we were able to watch one scene actually being filmed. Whether by accident or design, it touched on this exact subject. Although we were not able to hear the scene, we could see the footage: Waterston's Daniels and Fassbender's Walter wander through the tunnels of an abandoned Engineer ship and come across a partially flooded room. Someone used to live here. They finds a helmet. They find an abandoned pair of military-esque dog tags.

It's clear: Shaw used to live here, on the ship she absconded with at the end of Prometheus. The question now isn't "Will Shaw be in the movie?", but rather "What happened to Shaw and what's left of her?"