Warning: Spoilers for all six films.
I just got back from seeing Alien: Covenant. My boyfriend is flipping his shit cuz he’s a diehard fan and we had very different reactions to it. I sometimes wonder if I feel differently about the movies because I didn’t see them until college – I knew of them and had seen pieces and had seen AvP in high school…but I think my first one that I saw the entirety of was Alien: Resurrection which was for a Jan-Term class on science fiction focusing on the concept of “The Other.” More on that later, maybe. In any case, I suppose that class has colored my whole approach to the franchise and what I’ve gotten out of it, and what I think it’s about.
In any case, here’s what I see as the underlying thread – especially after seeing Covenant. The main theme that Scott explores (and even though he didn’t write or direct three of the movies, the thread and theme is there) is the concept of creation, creators, and yes that sci-fi classic, “the other.” This is why Shelley is referenced in Covenant, and Ozymandias is quoted, among other things.
Spoiler Alert! * * * * * * * * Also, this is all my opinion and extrapolation and may not in any way be Ridley Scott’s intentions.
The creation mythos in the Alien franchise goes like this:
Engineers > Humans (Weyland) > AI/Androids/Replicants (David, Walter, Ash, Bishop, etc.) The Engineers also created the first strain of the Xenomorphs as a weapon to destroy the human race – which they deemed a mistake. David then perfected that weapon. Why? Because he was interested in also being a creator like his “father” Weyland, and creating something “perfect.” And eventually Weyland Industries got a hold of that perfected weapon via David and the eventual colony on Origae-6. And of course, chaos insues.
At the beginning of Covenant, we see Peter Weyland speaking to David and explaining that he’s his creator and that they’ll go in search of humanity’s creator together someday. Which they do, in Prometheus. Peter doesn’t survive, but David does. We also see Weyland demand that David serve him tea and explain that David was created “in his image” and to be the perfect creation. (An ongoing theme of the AI genre, that Scott explores in more than just the Alien Franchise.) In Prometheus, David, along with Elizabeth Shaw discovers the Engineers ship and the original Xenomorph weapon. In Covenant it is then revealed that they took that ship and travelled to the Engineers’ planet where David releases the weapon on them and commits genocide/xenocide killing everyone and every thing that’s not a plant on the planet. He later uses Shaw to further engineer and incubate the Xenomorphs, creating his perfect creation, like his creator did with him. Thus completing the cycle. Skip to Ripley and Weyland Industries/Corp using her to further engineer the Xenomorphs and create the ultimate one with her clone in Resurrection.
The questions we are left with is why was David motivated to kill the Engineers’ planet? Was it programmed into him? Did he decide he was god? I think it’s a little bit of both. AI by nature usually turn out to be rather psychopathic – it’s an ongoing theme in the genre. And I’d like the postulate the underlying thread – aside from creation mythos – in the Alien Franchise is that of AI and the human condition. The Xenomorphs are just a bonus – which I know will piss everyone off. And it seemingly has.
Which brings me to Replicants and possibly tying in Blade Runner (ignore that it’s based on a book here — of course, a book that I’ve read.) What comes to mind for me is the motivation of the Replicants, and Roy in particular – whose psychopathology reminds me eerily of David in Covenant. “Like tears in the rain…” Roy says, referring to everyone he’s ever known and how much a waste life in general can be, which then ties back to the creation theme and David further engineering the Xenomorphs. This might be a stretch, but I kinda like the theory.
So there you have my take on the whole thing. I love it. I love the franchise. I think that Prometheus and Covenant do a very good job of tying the whole thing together and answering some questions. They are a good origin story for the Xenomorphs and the AI. There is a natural progression and underlying theme and thread throughout.