The Alien series has always been about life. Rebirth and death are themes knitted right into the very fabric of the universe. So it was no great surprise that both Prometheus and Alien: Covenant tried to take us back to the beginning, both to explore the origins of humanity and the xenomorphs we all know and love. The latter movie has strong Biblical undertones, even more so than Prometheus. Obviously there is the title itself, that being the Biblical covenant from Noah’s Ark, an agreement that God would never again cause such destruction. However, the ‘gods’ in Covenant have no such qualms.
To begin with there is genesis. It is insinuated (but not entirely made clear) that the Engineers of Prometheus made humans and planned to eradicate them. The other theory is that both species are created by ‘Gods’ and the Engineers were wiping out humanity before they could do the same to them. A sort of Cain and Abel story. Either way there was a beginning with intelligently devised life. And then David showed up.
The movie has a metaphorical message that is entirely Nietzschean. God is dead, and we have replaced him. Covenant begins with a scene between Weyland and David, who names himself after the statue. From that moment he begins to question his existence by pointing out his creator’s fallibility – death – with his own longevity. And so a chain is established. Man forgets God and creates artificial life that is superior to himself. Said superior life creates another artificial life form that is superior to it. We discover that the infamous phallic-headed alien is the creation of David.
The planet on which David escaped the disaster of Prometheus to, the homeworld of the Engineers, is used as his laboratory and his canvas. On his return he turns their weapons against them, annihilating them with the ‘black goo’ after pretending to be a returning spaceship. This creates a grotesque work of art as the bodies are permanently frozen in death like the bodies of Pompei. In terms of his other form of creation, one of the key plot points centres around organic spores that create proto-aliens in their hosts. But this is just a mere sideshow to his masterwork, the xenomorph we all know and hate. He has created a little cave of horrors where he mutilates bodies and designs his creation. The full extent of his god-complex is on display, his descent into madness allowed to carry on for infinity.
But where is the meaning? David’s pursuit of creation is pure narcissism, nothing like the Christian God. Nonetheless, the allusion to his godhood is made clearly on multiple occasions beyond the obvious: the silence of the dead planet attests to this (the silence of God compared to the babble of men), and his inclusion of two facehuggers on the spaceship, Covenant, at the end of the film. But while David can play at God he cannot create meaning. David has forgotten his creator, much like we have, and in doing so only creates misery. What he wants is perfection, and he gets it, of a sort. At the end of the film, in an otherwise pointlessly tacked on hunt-the-monster scene, we get a glimpse of David attempting to coax his beast, only for it to lash out at him. Like we did to God and David did to us, the Alien will forget its creator. And this animal cares not for a higher purpose beyond the survival of itself in an orgy of blood.
This is a deeply symbolic movie, perhaps more than any other in the series. It is also seriously nihilistic. If you pay attention there are levels of meaning in everything. David plays Wagner’s Entrance of the Gods into Valhalla as he wanders among the sleeping colonists of the Covenant, ready for the next stage of evolution, but Wagner is also known for his influence on Hitler. And Alien: Covenant is prominently about eugenics and dysgenics and the continuation of the Ubermensch. More than just a gory sci fi film, this is a movie about the horrors that await us if we forget to honour God.