After many years of waiting, we now know that Alien: Covenant will be coming out next year. The follow up to Ridley Scott's Prometheus is expected to be the direct filmic link between that prequel and the Alien series proper. With production just starting to rip through the chests of the cast and crew, we've pulled together all the important Alien Covenant rumours from across the interwebz so that you know what to expect from the return of the xenomorph.
Though it's mostly just whispers at this stage, here's your standard warning that potential spoilers follow!
So... is Alien Covenant Prometheus 2?
In terms of story? Well, it seems that way. We think. According to the latest Alien: Covenant rumours, the movie is supposedly named after the film's featured ship, this is definitely still the same film that director Ridley Scott was working on post-Prometheus called Alien: Paradise Lost, just rechristened. If you remember earlier rumours surrounding the Prometheus sequel, it was going to be called Paradise, and this link will not have been by chance. With at least one Prometheus star returning (Michael Fassbender), think of Alien: Covenant as a bridge between both franchises.
What's the plot of Alien: Covenant?
Here's the official synopsis. It's rather mysterious, and doesn't give us much to go on thus far:
Ridley Scott returns to the universe he created in ALIEN with ALIEN: COVENANT, the second chapter in a prequel trilogy that began with PROMETHEUS — and connects directly to Scott’s 1979 seminal work of science fiction. Bound for a remote planet on the far side of the galaxy, the crew of the colony ship Covenant discovers what they think is an uncharted paradise, but is actually a dark, dangerous world — whose sole inhabitant is the “synthetic” David (Michael Fassbender), survivor of the doomed Prometheus expedition.
It's not hard to figure out where the original Paradise Lost title came from, then.
According to Scott, it will also see the return of the xenomorph aliens in full force - saying "We’ll have them all: egg, face-hugger, chest-burster, then the big boy. I think maybe we can go another round or two."
Which is the big boy? The Aliens queen, or whatever the hell that thing was at the end of Prometheus? Or maybe he's just talking about a standard xenomorph all grown up. Bless its slobbering mandibles.
Who is in the Alien Covenant cast? Anyone else from the last film?
Well *spoiler alert* the end of Prometheus only left two characters alive. Archaeologist Elizabeth Shaw, played by Noomi Rapace, and the disembodied head of the David, the android played by Michael Fassbender. As far as we know, only Fassbender is returning. Whether or not he will remain a head in the new film has yet to be seen. Fassbender has said that David will be back "in a whole new way", but wasn't forthcoming with any specifics.
On June 16th, a behind the scenes shot of Alien Covenant's production was released to the Alien official Facebook page:
In it, you can see Ridley Scott giving a pep-talk to the crew and, yep, that's Michael Fassbender leaning in in the background there. What's worth noting is that Fassbender isn't seen sporting David's trademark blonde hair. In Prometheus, that was an affectation of the Android given his love of the classic film Lawrence of Arabia. It's unclear yet whether Fassbender's new darker hair (as it's clearly not his own light brown locks) suggest he's a new character altogether, or whether David's had a makeover.
New cast members include Katherine Waterston, Danny McBride, Demián Bichir, Jussie Smollett, Amy Seimetz, Carmen Ejogo, Callie Hernandez, Billy Crudup, Alexander England, and Benjamin Rigby. All we know about them is that Waterston is playing a character called Daniels. If I were to guess, I'd say she's the captain of the Covenant.
Can I watch the Alien Covenant trailer?
Nope. Filming has only just started, but there are some on-set photos that show what looks like the aftermath of a horrific disaster, landscapes of an alien planet, and a glimpse at ruins of some sort of civilisation.
There's also a logo, and it's a familiar site to anyone who's ever seen the cover of an Alien box set.
We also have an image of the ship, apparently on fire, with a small glimpse of Katherine Waterstone's character Daniels.
What is the Alien: Covenant release date?
You'll have to wait a while, since it won't hit cinema screens until 4th August 2017.
Are there any other familiar characters in it?
Aside from Michael Fassbender, it's unlikely. Reports suggest the film is set 10 years after the events of Prometheus, which was set in 2093. The first Alien film was set in 2122, a full 19 years after Covenant. Aliens was set 57 years after that in 2179. While we all love Ripley and many other characters from the original film, they're all too old to make an appearance as their original characters. But! We've heard whispers that Katherine Waterstone's lead character Daniels could in fact end up being Ripley's mum. That would tie things up a little too neatly for our liking, but don't rule the possibility out.
So then this ISN'T the fifth Alien film we've been hearing so much about, right?
You mean the one by Neill Blomkamp? No. The super-cool sounding Alien 5, for which we've seen Blomkamp's concept art, has been put on the back-burner until Alien: Covenant (which will be directed by original Alien director Ridley Scott) is wrapped up. But this could well be a good thing – though Blomkamp's project has gone worryingly quiet, apparently the two directors are now working closely so that both visions align and complement each other.
Related: Six Reasons Neill Blomkamp's Alien 5 Could be Chest-Burstingly Excellent
Blomkamp's idea certainly sounded promising – ignoring the events of Alien 3 and Alien Resurrection, it'd feature an ageing Ripley, Hicks coming back from the dead, and a grown-up, resurrected Newt taking on the might of the Weyland Yutani corporation - the dicks behind most of the trouble with the xenomorphs in the Alien franchise. Indeed, Sigourney Weaver sounds fired up by the prospect of pulling on those Reebok hi-tops once again.
What does this mean for the future of the Alien franchise?
It's not clear. After changing his mind and not making Prometheus a direct prequel to Alien, Ridley Scott seemed focussed on a prequel trilogy of Alien movies. According to Australian officials, Scott wants to make another two Alien movies in the country.
He has gone on record to say that he has plans for another three Prometheus/Alien films (one of which is Covenant). One of those two could also be Blomkamp's film, though.
Whatever happens, it's clear that it's far from game over (man), for the Alien franchise.
June 17th 2016: Updated to include the new image of Ridley Scott on set with Michael Fassbender, posted as a behind the scenes shot on the official Alien Facebook page.