THE MOST COMMON criticism of Ridley Scott’s 2012 Alien prequel Prometheus was that it wasn’t terrifying enough. Hardened fans expected more creeping dread with their space exploration and less philosophy. After all, while other directors had added action beats or conspiracy theories to the series, Scott’s original was a straight-up horror, a haunted house in space that chilled generations. The good news is that his Prometheus follow-up,
Alien: Covenant, should keep everyone happy. “It’s going to be really scary, this film,” says Michael Fassbender, the only returning cast member. “It’s going to be scarier than Prometheus, definitely. More along that line of Alien.”
The tonal blend of Scott’s two previous instalments reflects the film’s timeline, since this is both sequel to Prometheus and prequel to Alien. Fassbender returns as android David, restored to function (no longer a severed head) and escaped from the Engineers’ planet with Elizabeth Shaw.
David is now marooned on a new world, alone. A colony ship called Covenant hears the distress call and comes to investigate — bringing aboard David’s doppelgänger Walter (Fassbender again), a more advanced but less emotional synthetic lifeform. The two have very different views on life and humanity, setting up fresh
Prometheus-style musings. “After Prometheus a lot of people said, ‘Well there’s a lot of philosophising,’” acknowledges Fassbender. “But Ridley has merged those questions and the thriller element together here really, really well.”
The course shift causes Covenant’s crew to awaken early from hyper-sleep — among them
Katherine Waterston’s Daniels, set to be the Ripley figure. Waterston, however, tries to ignore that legacy. “These are the things you actively don’t think about until you get interviewed to remind you that you should be pissing yourself,” she laughs. At least she can channel that terror. “Unlike Sigourney in Alien, [Daniels] is in a survival mode of sorts from the beginning. She’s not the captain, but she’s a natural leader so in times of crisis she falls into that position quite easily.”
And times of crisis will find Daniels, as the paradise the crew discovers has a sting in the tail and acid in the blood. “It’s cool to weave in some of the elements from the original Alien and have those beats in there,” says Fassbender. If all goes to plan, Scott’s new Alien movie could match its ancestor for chills as well as smarts. HELEN O’HARA
The calm before the alien hits the fan. Below: Ridley Scott directs his new Ripley — Katherine Waterston’s Daniels. Bottom: Michael Fassbender (as Walter) with crewmate Carmen Ejogo.