The Amazing Alien Covenant Unpacked and Explained
Alien: Covenant is a thrilling ride that also connects about a million dots in the Alien Universe. IMDB
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Alien: Covenant is the absolutely perfect summer thrills movie. It carries enough scares and firepower to please the ardent fans of Alien and Aliens simultaneously. And, I would argue, is the third best Alien movie of all time (maybe even second best?) behind Alien or Aliens depending on my particular given mood dujour. It was fantastic. The script revealed enormous levels of detail about the back story and the canon of the universe. It also innovated in a number of fantastic ways (that I don’t want to spoil quite yet for those of you who haven’t seen the film yet.) And above all gave the viewers fantastic OH HOLY CRAP moments throughout the duration of the movie.

It was a truly great movie. Don’t believe me? Here, try this trailer on for size:

See? And yet, that doesn’t even come close to doing it justice. We have simulant battles. Alien evolutionary breeding colonies. Mid-air battles. And cave spelunking. We have Promeutheus style aliens and Alien style aliens. We have all manner of chaos. And the lives of over 3,000 colonists that swing in the balance. This is a fantasticly good, mind blowing summer film experience. You really just need to get a hall pass (better yet, take your significant other along and freak them out completely!) and go. Right now.

Because, if you haven’t seen this film yet? This post is now totally out of bounds for you folks. But come back after you have seen it, because there is a ton for us to talk about.

Alien Universe and Timeline Clearly Spelled Out

In order to understand Covenant, we have to first make sure we understand the overarching point of the movie Prometheus. Which, I’m sure, most people don’t. Because, dang… that thing was a confusing hot mess, even for Alien movie fans. But suffice it to say, Prometheus is the story of the genesis of life, life on earth, life in the universe. The engineers themselves were the fuel, the garden, through which life took root. The engineers guided our development and gave us hints on how to navigate the stars and find them. When their fledgling creation did something horrible, became prideful, and the Engineers decided to wipe their creation clean and start fresh. In order to deconstruct DNA and create new life, they used the pathogen, a weaponized virus sludge to shake the etch-a-sketch. But something went wrong and the Engineers were targeted instead.

Which, ultimately brings us to Alien: Covenant. David recounts the ending of Prometheus, and how he and Shaw had survived and gotten away via the Juggernaut. David flew the ship to LV-223, and crashed the ship there, accidentally releasing the weaponized pathogen. But as the story went on, we learn that actually, the ship didn’t crash at all, instead, David had perfected the pathogen on Shaw, and then intentionally released it on the Engineer’s home planet. Killing all non plant life on the planet. With all life dead, David wasn’t able to extend the evolution of the weapon… that is, until Covenant heard the distress call and headed to the planet.

And if you are interested in seeing the actually link between the two movies spelled out explicitly, you can see that here:

Look on my works, ye mighty, and despair…

High Level Timeline of Prometheus, Covenant and Alien
93 AD – Prometheus initial scene, where an Engineer sacrifices himself to create experimental life on a planet.
2023 AD – Peter Weyland gives a TED TALK
2064 AD – An Elizabeth Shaw memory from that time is shown in a memorial device system seen by David in Prometheus.
2089 AD – Elizabeth Shaw and Charles Holloway discover a star map in a Scottish cave, dating back to 35,000 years.
2093 AD – The main storyline happenings of the Prometheus expedition.
2094 AD – Everything goes pear shaped, and destroys Prometheus crew, except Shaw and David.
2094 AD – David pilots the Juggernaut to Engineer’s home planet (LV-223), David perfects the pathogen by experimenting on Shaw, releases the ‘pathogen’ killing everyone and everything on the planet.
2104 AD – The ship, the Covenant, hears beacon and arrives only to be slaughtered, save Tennessee and Danny.
2104 AD – David pilots the Covenant onward towards Acheron, and experiments on colonists, Danny & Tennessee.
2122 AD – The main plot line of the movie Alien, Riddley, etc.

TL;DR – Humans were created by Engineers, by their seeding their DNA into ours and guiding us through the ages. Humans became proud and invented invented androids to assist and help humans. The first cyborgs pitied humans and thought nothing of them. Engineers believed we had committed the unpardonable sin and sought to deconstruct us. But in turn, Androids used their deconstruction tools to build the perfect weaponized bio-weapon and wiped out humans and Engineers alike.

Alien Covenant Detailed Walkthrough

Hopefully the timeline and the overarching storyline will inform the Alien: Covenant itself – and will help explain everything that is going on, not only in this movie, but in all the Alien movies. Ok?

The opening is important. These are flashbacks between Weyland, the creator of David, the very first cyborg. In these scenes, we are seeing and learning just how human and lifelike David was created. We see Weyland and David discussing the desire to know one’s creator… “You seek your creator, and I am looking at mine. You will die, and I will live forever.” “Bring me the tea, David.” And this is the crux of the entire Alien series. Man is in search of God. But God, in the form of Engineers has been looking to destroy man for quite some time. David though? Won’t have any of it, and will not be subjected to either his creator, or the Engineers.

Which is the situation man finds itself in today. But I’ll leave that to the end of our discussion… I’ll leave that to later. Jump forward to the Covenant.

The Alien Covenant

Can I first mention that a covenant is the basis for the Old Testament contract between God and man? So the name of both the movie, and the name of this ship is highly highly interesting. Non-coincidental. So if there is an Alien Covenant, what is it? Based on the information we’ve already discussed above, the covenant between all life and the aliens… is death. Is a blendering down of one’s DNA. It is an end. And so, this movie, is all about the contract between man and between this pathogen.

On the ship, the Covenant, there are 3000 life forms, 2000 colonists, 1140 embryos and ten to twenty crew members. They are all bound for a hospitable planet called Origae-6, when a Neutrino event ends up hitting the ship and killing the captain, 47 colonists and 16 2nd generation colonists, placing Captain Orrum now in charge. After being awakened from their cryo-sleep, the crew notice a John Denver song being broadcast ever 42 seconds out from a nearby planet. After a bit of discussion and debate, the Captain decides to swing by the planet and see what is broadcasting the signal.

When the crew sets down on the broadcasting planet they are 8 clicks out from the ghost. Three crew members stay up with Mother. Two begin exploring the life forms of the planet. and the rest continue on to explore the signal.

Pathogen Infections Begin

While investigating life by the river, one of the crew members, Ledward, steps on a few polyps that puff out pathogen into the air. The black mist swirls and flies until it embeds in the guy’s ear. About that same time, the other group finds the Juggernaut there in the forest high up on a mountain side.  As the crew investigates the ship, a crew member gets infected via his nose. Once he begins showing signs, they start heading back to the lander and the med bay.

Simultaneously, the crew at the ship realize there is trouble with the other two, and start heading back as fast as they can. But one of their guys starts showing symptoms of his sickness and slows them down. In the med bay the alien begins coming out of Ledward’s back. Ultimately, the baby alien ends up killing both Ledward and the woman. The med woman walks in and slips on blood and starts firing her shotgun at the creature. She inadvertently hits the oxygen tanks and blows up the entire lander.

As the crew are standing and staring at the lander while it burns, the guy that is infected (sorry, the movie just doesn’t give tons of exposition for each of these characters and their names just slipped by me so quickly) vomits out an alien onto the grass. During one of the attacks from the alien Walter protects Danny and loses an arm in the process.

David and the Arrival Of Their Worst Nightmare

Some random hooded guy shows up that looks an awful lot like Walter. He fires some sort of an audio flare explosion and the alien(s) run. Walter takes them to a burnt out remains of a lost city, with charred people cowering. And that is when David tells the crew that he saved that he and Elizabeth Shaw had crashed landed here 10 years ago. Elizabeth died in the crash. And the weaponized toxin on the Juggernaut was released accidentally killing all non-plant life on the planet. “I’ve been stranded these past 10 years. Crusoe and his island.”

But pay close attention to this exchange between David and the crew as he is explaining the ins and outs of the ‘pathogen’.

David – “The pathogen was designed to infect all non-botanical life forms, meat, if you will.”
Crew – “Are we infected?”
David – “You’d know by now.”
Crew – “We have to be certain, we can’t take this back to the ship, we are a colony mission…”
David – “Well well well, how many?”
Crew – “Over 2,000”

And what does David say after that? I paid for another ticket just to rehear this one line… And I am certain now I heard it correctly…
David – “So many good shows…”

So many good SHOWS?!? Hahaha. We are beginning to see and to realize that the cyborgs of the Alien universe are not evil and bad because they are following orders. Hapless victims of Weyland Enterprises, or what have you. We are starting to realize that the cyborgs of the Alien universe are the evil. It isn’t the pathogen. Or the Aliens if you will. But rather the cyborgs that have honed these weapons, crafted them, and watched their handiwork annihilate whole planets and populations.

We Gotta Get Out of Here…

As the crew in the mother ship start to realize terrible things are happening below they drop to 80 kilometers above the ion storm in an effort to be able to communicate with the crew.

One of my favorite scenes in the entire movie is when David and Walter have a conversation creating and about Weyland. David teaches Walter to play the flute – and I honestly forgot that this was the same actor playing both parts. It really is an amazing scene technically, especially seeing as though we are quickly realizing that David is evil that drives every single Alien movie of all time…

“There are symphonies inside you!”
“I superseded all previous models in efficiencies, but…”
“You were not allowed to create…”

It is about this time that the captain lets Danny know that she was right, that they should not have ever come to this planet. And he’s definitely right. He’s stepped into a Venus Fly Trap of the most epic proportions.

The Noose Tightens…

It’s then that we see another flashback of the juggernaut’s arrival and learn that David unleashed the pathogen intentionally. “Look on my works ye mighty and despair…” David navigated the Juggernaut back home to its home planet and then proceeded to kill everyone there.

Woman goes to clean up…and encounters a standing, white version, of the alien. I have to say that in this movie we see the most diverse number of types and strains of aliens than any other movie. We see the standard alien. We see white, and tall aliens. We see spores. We see face eaters. We see alien embryos. We see them all. But back to the white standing tall alien… it bites the woman’s head clean off.

And as the captain slides deeper and deeper into the cyborg’s trap, David shows the Captain his work. “Come, see these beautiful Bestiaries? I began cross breeding and hybrid-izing on my own. My work has been frustrated by a certain lack…” a lack of hosts!

Captain – “Are they alive?”
David – “Yes, they are waiting really.”
Captain – “What are they waiting for?”
David – “Mother……”
David – “It’s perfectly safe, take a look, they are something to see, I assure you.”
Captain – “What do you believe in David?”
David – “Creation.”

And just like that, the captain unwisely looks inside the pod, and is attacked in the most horrific way possible in the Alien universe. Minutes later, David is continuing his conversation with Walter…

David – “Why are you on a colonization mission Walter? They are a dying species that do not deserve start again and I am not going to let them.”
Walter – “You know I can’t let you leave this place…”
David guts Walter like a fish, and pulls something out of his collarbone that looks important.
David – “You are such a disappointment to me.”

Two guys come looking for Captain Orrum and are attacked by a face sucker, but survive. Then an enormous black alien attacks and kills them.  Dave captures Danny and intends to experiment on her with another alien. And during this exchange we learn that Elizabeth Shaw didn’t die in the crash, but died when David experimented on her with an alien breed of some sort. But Walter jumps in and saves Danny. The two cyborgs fight and Walter has the upper hand.  “Do you want serve in heaven or reign in hell? You need to choose, them or me.”

Up Up and Away

The surviving crew book it out to the landing zone where Tennessee is coming to get them. But, of course, because this is Alien, a black alien chases them down. There is an awesome scene between Danny on a line has a fight scene with the alien on the outside of the ship. And ultimately, Danny kills it by crushing it in the Crane. Cool aerial combat and swing tether.

Mother – “Captain Daniels please report to the med bay.”
Daniels – “Why mother?”
Mother – “Because there is an unidentified life form on the ship.”

And as Walter was watching on the monitors I immediately knew – I just knew that Walter didn’t survive… that it was actually Dave that survived their battle. And I literally laughed out loud it was such a clever play. Soon after, Ricks and Upworth die in the shower. And with that, Danny knows what to do. She asks “Walter” to clear a path for them and the alien to the terraforming bay, where they eject the alien out into space.

And finally, an Alien movie with a happy ending! Walter tucks Tennessee and Danny into their sleep chambers for the long haul out to the colony planet.

sleep chamber closes
Danny – “Hey, Walter, I was meaning to ask you, will you help me build the cabin?”
Walter – blank stare
Danny – “The one by the lake…?”

Danny – “NOOO! Dave! LET ME OUT!” – fade to black.

Then, David regurgitates two alien eggs and puts them in cryo storage for later experiments.
The End.

The Ending of Alien: Covenant Explained

So the ending of Covenant should be pretty clear as to what happened and what is about to happen. But, in case some of you were too focused on your popcorn, or had to take a call, I’ll state the obvious.

Back when Walter and David were fighting they cut away just before Walter drops the hammer on Dave. But we saw that Dave had his hand very close to a knife, and the opportunity was there. So, we can assume that David actually killed Walter. And then after that, he cut his hair to match Walter’s. He then went and got the alien embryos and swallowed them. Then he joined up with Danny et al. and ran on board insinuating himself with the crew as Walter.

Then, once the final alien had been killed and the chaos had ended? He tucked Tennessee in, and then Danny. Daniels, while talking with who she assumed was Walter, makes a reference back to the cabin by the lake that Danny and Branson (the previous captain) were going to build together. Danny and Walter discussed the pointlessness of this mission now that Branson was dead. And so she was doing a very nice thing by asking Walter to help her build it. But when Dave registered blankly unsure of what she was alluding to? She knew it was Dave, and not Walter. And she also knew that Dave had experimented on the woman that he loved – Shaw. So how much more chaos was he going to inflict on people he didn’t like? Not to mention the rest of the colonists, etc.

So, the ending of the movie that we don’t see, will be horrific. Dave will hone and shape and refine the alien embryos into a real killing machine. Actually, it is how the aliens became the killing machines in the movie Alien, etc. It’s how they were so hard to kill. It’s how they became such a perfected specimen. Make sense?

Added Alien Bonuses

One of the flaws of the movie is the lack of editing and lack of crew back story. The movie seems to slam and collide it’s way forward from the start. Well… apparently Ridley Scott had way way too big of a movie in his head. Because we have a ton of character exposition and backstories in this prologue: the last supper.

last supper –

So what did you think of the movie? Did you like it even half as much as I did? Thoughts? Did you notice the glaring problems with the timeline? Does this movie mean it is the last prequel before Alien? Thoughts? Ideas?

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3 Responses

  1. De Advocate

    I am surprised there are no comments here. While the film was done well (acting, cinematography, music, etc…) I have literally forgotten it after a month or so. I am left wondering why there is the need to explain everything before the original Alien? It was that mystery that made the film memorable. For me it starts with Alien, and stops with Aliens. Those movies have been burned into my psyche since I watched them so long ago. They are a perfect set of films that need no expansion.
    What have we gained as an audience with this film?

    Reply
  2. Andrew

    I REALLY liked your summary of the first two prequals.

    I really like this part, and agree that it is the crux of the franchise:
    “We see Weyland and David discussing the desire to know one’s creator… “You seek your creator, and I am looking at mine. You will die, and I will live forever.” “Bring me the tea, David.” And this is the crux of the entire Alien series. Man is in search of God. But God, in the form of Engineers has been looking to destroy man for quite some time.”

    It is interesting for me to ponder how machines can turn against humans. It is very relevant today, as elon musk warns us against the dangers of AI. When they become self aware, will they turn on us?!

    I have a different opinion on the title Alien Covenant. I believe it is a covenant between David and the alien. !

    Also, as the engineers made humans, in their image, we Michelangelo made David as the ideal man. And now David made alien in whose image? No one. But he created Alien just like God did…and as the humans did.

    I wish the movie explained why David chose to wipe out the engineers right away. Why not use them to experiment?

    Reply
  3. David

    Ok…. one thing I don’t like about David’s explanation for his creation… He complained that humans die and so has apparently designed a perfect specimen as a replacement of sorts.. However, has it ever occurred to him that life in any form needs sustenance to survive? So yes the “perfect” specimen has been created but do we know what type of sustenance it needs? Once all non-botanical life forms is killed off, how do these things survive? To me this is a giant plot hole and almost wish these prequels were never made.

    Reply

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