[With the release of Alien: Covenant on video, Flourish San Diego would like to share this film review by our own Markus Watson. This article originally appeared HERE. Visual Parables is a faith-based film review journal with reviews for thousands of films and documentaries.]
Warning: This review contains spoilers.
God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground.”
And He remembered His covenant for their sake, and relented according to the greatness of His lovingkindness.
The world was first introduced to Ridley Scott’s xenomorph in 1979’s Alien. This movie was followed by three sequels (Aliens, Alien 3, and Alien: Resurrection) until the series faded away in the late 1990’s (we’ll try to forget the two Alien vs. Predator movies). But in 2012, the series was reborn with a prequel titled Prometheus.
Alien: Covenant (directed by Ridley Scott) takes place ten years after the events of Prometheus, but the film opens with a scene that takes place prior to Prometheus. The android David (Michael Fassbender) is questioned by his creator, Peter Weyland (Guy Pearce). “What do you believe in?” Weyland asks. David’s answer: “Creation.”
With this, the covenant relationship between creator and creation is introduced.
The film then jumps forward in time. The crew of an enormous ship (christened the Covenant) traveling through the galaxy—a crew made up of married couples and the android Walter (an upgrade from David, also played by Michael Fassbender)—is taking a ship filled with two thousand sleeping humans to colonize a new planet. When the ship runs into problems the crew decides to explore a nearby planet that might support human life.
When they arrive, they soon discover something is terribly wrong. Two of the crew are quickly killed when they get infected by an alien virus. Then they discover an ancient city in which the human-like inhabitants seem to have been turned to stone. The only “functioning” inhabitant of the city turns out to be the android David who was marooned on this planet after the events of Prometheus.
David seems at first to be a savior. But by the end of the movie the crew makes a terrible discovery. Not only is David guilty of genocide, having killed the planet’s inhabitants with the alien virus, but for the past ten years David has been genetically modifying the xenomorph DNA. It seems that he has created the perfect alien weapon, namely, the alien we know from the original 1979 film.
The title of this movie certainly seems to scream “theological connections!” The concept of “covenant” is central to healthy relationships in the scriptures, especially God’s relationship with humanity (Creator and creation) and the relationship between a husband and a wife. A covenant is a promise made in relationship: God promises to love and care for his creation, and husband and wife promise to love and be faithful to one another.
Both of these relationships are emphasized in Alien: Covenant. The marriage covenant is underscored throughout the film. Time after time, characters practically go out of their way to remind each other that they are married to one of the other crew members. Throughout the film, husbands and wives love each other, care for each other, try to save each others lives, and seem to be truly faithful to one another.
The creator/creation covenant relationship—evident in the relationship between David and the xenomorphs he has been genetically modifying—is a bit more problematic. While there is a certain kind of connection and faithfulness evident between creator and creation, it seems rather twisted. There is a kind of perversity to what David has done. The alien xenomorphs are his “children” and their only purpose is to destroy and kill.
There is a huge gap between the kind of covenant relationship we see in the movie and what we see in the scriptures. Whereas David’s creation exists only to bring devastation, human beings—God’s creation made in God’s image—have been charged to be stewards of all of God’s good creation.
In Genesis 1, God blesses the humans and calls them to “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground.” This verse is often understood negatively, as though we are to dominate over the rest of creation. But the kind of “subduing” and “ruling” that God invites us into does not involve domination. Just as God rules us with love and kindness and protection, so we are to rule the creation with love and kindness and protection. We, like God, are to bring the best out of creation.
Not so, the xenomorph of Alien: Covenant. The covenant between David and the xenomorph is a covenant of destruction (I should note that David and his xenomorphs destroy every marriage covenant in the movie), whereas God’s covenant with humanity is a covenant of love and care.