While there is some speculation ahead there’s equally spoilers, be warned.
One of the more interesting aspects of Ridley Scott’s Prometheus films has been their obvious inherent infusion of mythology and religion, an element rarely explored in the franchise as a whole.
I’ve added some insight to how mythology and religious mythology has influenced both Prometheus and Alien: Covenant, which is likely leading to more material to be explored in the two sequels Ridley Scott has stated he’d like to make afterward, which would finally link-up to the original Alien.
Prometheus‘ main influencing factor being the story of the titular Greek mythological Titan, who both creates mankind and gives him the first piece of technology, fire.
Peter Weyland likened himself to the Titan calling himself a god in the viral Ted Talk video, naming his science and research vessel after him as well.
The Titan’s large size was obviously attempted to be mirrored in the imposing scale of the engineers compared to humans, not to mention the discovery they possibly created humans.
It remains to be seen if the outbreak that happened at the engineer installation was an accident or some kind of punishment (Prometheus was punished for giving man fire from Olympus) for something they did, were about to do to Earth, to other aliens, or to their own people.
The pale skin and biomechanical suit of the engineer were of course directly taken from H.R. Giger‘s existing artwork.
Another piece of literature that was used for Prometheus is the book Chariots of The Gods by German author Erich von Däniken. It’s hypothesis that the technologies and religions of many ancient civilizations were given to them by ancient astronauts who were welcomed as gods.
Plenty from the book was used for Prometheus including ancient artifacts leading to a map to LV223, along with the theory their advanced technology (black goo) helped seed Earth. Chariots also helped Jack Kirby with his comic book series The Eternals which also explored space gods and the first issue had a giant head on the cover with characters exploring a tomb (wink wink), imagery again likely taken for the film.
Prometheus was also heavily influenced visually by Roger Corman’s alien knockoff Galaxy of Terror (James Cameron worked on the film before making Terminator and Aliens).
Chariots reference the Ark of The Covenant as a spacecraft, it’s more commonly known as an object from the bible that contains the Ten Commandment tablets. That imagery was clearly used for the colony ship patches in Alien: Covenant as it bears the same name.
Ezekiel’s vision of the angels and the wheels, which Von Däniken interprets as a description of a spacecraft, the Ark of the Covenant, which is explained as a communication device with an alien race, and the destruction of Sodom by fire and brimstone, which is interpreted as a nuclear explosion.
Also, the literal meaning of the term when it comes to religion.
A covenant is a formal alliance or agreement made by God with a religious community or with humanity in general.
The Ark of the Covenant (Hebrew: אָרוֹן הַבְּרִית ʾĀrôn Habbərît, modern pron. Aron haBrit), also known as the Ark of the Testimony, is a gold-covered wooden chest described in the Book of Exodus as containing the two stone tablets of the Ten Commandments. According to various texts within the Hebrew Bible, it also contained Aaron’s rod and a pot of manna.
Ridley, of course, tackled Moses in his film Exodus: Gods and Kings.
This wasn’t the first time the Alien franchise has dabbled in religious influence.
Alien 3 was the first film in the franchise to really begin the religious angle, Ripley becoming a martyr at the end of the film and sacrificing herself to save humanity by diving into the hot lead in a Christ pose.
Vincent Ward, the original writer, and director of the project had planned on setting the film on a wooden planetoid/spacecraft inspired by the medieval design that was home to a sect of monks. This was, of course, reworked into a group of convicts on Fury 161, the prisoners instead of monks had devoted their lives to a new religion after being sentenced to life in the prison colony.
The Jesus references would rear it’s head again with its sequel title Alien Resurrection, having Ripley brought back from the dead via cloning 200 years after the events of Alien 3.
Now if Ripley was Jesus, is there going to be a Satan in the franchise?
There just might be, as the big clue might be in Alien: Covenant‘s original title, which was Alien: Paradise Lost a direct cue to John Milton’s 17th-century epic poem Paradise Lost.
The poem concerns the Biblical story of the Fall of Man: the temptation of Adam and Eve by the fallen angel Satan and their expulsion from the Garden of Eden. Milton’s purpose stated in Book I, is to “justify the ways of God to men”
Satan’s rebellion follows the epic convention of large-scale warfare. The battles between the faithful angels and Satan’s forces take place over three days. At the final battle, the Son of God single-handedly defeats the entire legion of angelic rebels and banishes them from Heaven. Following this purge, God creates the World, culminating in his creation of Adam and Eve. While God gave Adam and Eve total freedom and power to rule over all creation, he gave them one explicit command: not to eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil on penalty of death.
Material from the poem is likely playing a large role in Covenant, as Ridley almost named the film after it and we’ve seen him use bits for Prometheus previously.
Ridley has already used imagery from Paradise Lost artist Gustave Dore, as the original opening sequence of Prometheus featured cloaked engineers that had a striking resemblance to art from the poem.
Michael Fassbender‘s David is a clear winner to be a fallen angel, as he’s considered quite innocent at the beginning of Prometheus until it’s revealed that his programming allows him to treat everyone other than Peter Weyland as expendable.
Satan’s desire to rebel against his creator stems from his unwillingness to be subjugated by God and his Son, claiming that angels are “self-begot, self-raised,” and thereby denying God’s authority over them as their creator.
David taunts Shaw for her religious beliefs echoing his own disillusions towards his human creators. Being an android he had been unwillingly subjugated by Weyland and the crew, so seeing him turn his back on humanity wouldn’t be hard to imagine.
One fan theory has been that synthetics are trying to get a hold of the xenomorph for their own means, not just for the company’s weapon program. It’s been established that the Weyland-Yutani androids and Tyrell replicants share the same universe, so it’s possible that they’ve been wired to expire after a certain amount of years.
Could David be trying to create the perfect bio-mech body making himself superior to humans on every level attempting to become a god himself? Not unlike Peter Weyland.
There’s also signs that he’s now on his own personal journey to create life too.
Without Weyland around, I’m extremely curious to see if those hostile thoughts towards humans and seeing them as test subjects will return in Covenant. We know from leaked set photos that David’s ten years on the engineer planet Paradise he’s been researching the biology of neomorphs (inspired by Jon Spaihts’ pale ultra morph and Joss Whedon’s original new born idea).
I’ll be interested to see if he’s figured out how to tame them as it’s been shown that the engineers were a somewhat dominant alien race, that could have had the neomorphs/xenomorphs act as some sort of slave race used to wipe out inhabited planets for terraforming or tools of war.
If David is Satan, could this mean that Fassbender’s second android character Walter is a version of Archangel Michael? If plot details are to be believed, Walter is not entirely on board with David and is suspicious of his intentions right off the bat.
Speaking of Satan, it’s hard to ignore that the Weyland Ted Talk looked like this scene from Paradise Lost when Satan addresses the Infernal Council.
I could actually see Covenant taking cues from The Fall of Man aspect from Paradise Lost expanding upon it for the fate of the engineers on Paradise, then the next two sequels becoming adaptations of Satan’s rebellion in heaven becoming a war of sorts (think Lawrence of Arabia in space). Along with a science fiction take on Dante Alighieri‘s own 14th-century epic poem Divine Comedy (refers to Heaven as Paradise).
On the surface, the poem describes Dante’s travels through Hell, Purgatory, and Paradise or Heaven; but at a deeper level, it represents, allegorically, the soul’s journey towards God.
Set photos give the impression that some world-ending event (invoking Sodom and Gomorrah?) took place and there are plenty of intact bodies scattered on what looks to be the engineer planet Paradise, mirroring Pompeii. Ridley has seemingly used the bodies of Pompeii as a visual inspiration.
It feels like Scott’s potential route for more Alien films might be using religious mythology in a science fiction setting to expand the world building and give unique takes on the material, without having to rely on the same things we’ve seen over and over.
How the crew of the Covenant factors into all this remains to be seen and if they’ll survive the events to be a part of the sequels.
Alien: Covenant is set for release on May 19th, 2017.