On November 27, 2015, director Ridley Scott announced that this film would be the second (following Prometheus (2012)) in a new Alien trilogy that will take place closer to, and lead up to, the original film. He has since suggested that there may even be a fourth prequel film.
This movie contains a scene where a toy bird drinking water (named, aptly, a "drinky-bird") is visible. In the opening scene of Alien (1979), there is such a toy bird shown on board the Nostromo's bridge.
At one point Daniels (Katherine Waterston) says, "I got you, you son of a bitch." Ellen Ripley uses these words at the end of Alien (1979).
This was the first "Alien" film to be released after the death of H.R. Giger. Giger created a range of bizarre, human/alien hybrid art that was published in his "Necronomicon" book, which drew the attention of Ridley Scott who hired him as Art Director for the film (and franchise). Giger essentially gave birth to the entire "Alien" look.
The original treatment for this movie, as revealed by Ridley Scott in 2012 when the film was still in development, was to be a more faithful sequel to Prometheus (2012). Titled "Paradise Lost," it would have drifted even further from the "Alien" mythology, and focused almost exclusively on the backstory of the engineers, the origins of humanity and how the engineers created humans and xenomorphs. The prequels would then conclude with a film that ties itself in to the original "Alien" movies. Scott pursued this idea because he felt that the "Alien" franchise lost its touch and was overdone and overexposed, and as such he wanted to try a different approach. However, due to the divided fan reactions to "Prometheus", he abandoned this direction and took a different approach instead, specifically to reintroduce the "Alien" mythos much sooner.
When David is discussing the alien with the captain, he says it is "the perfect organism," just like Ash's head said in Alien (1979).
For the first time since Alien 3 (1992), an alien's point of view is shown. However, in this film we see the alien's visual spectrum.
Unlike David, Walter speaks with an American accent. While this was no doubt done in the film to help distinguish the two characters for the audience, in-universe it could possibly be explained by the two synthetics different origins-David was a unique model created personally by Peter Weyland (who was British) for his personal use/as a son and successor, whereas Walter is a mass-produced commercial model.
According to Ridley Scott, principal photography for this movie took place in just 74 days for $111 million. It was finished on budget and on time.
The terrace surrounded by cypress trees, where David looks upon the Engineer's city, was inspired by the series of paintings depicting the "Isle of the Dead" by 19th-century artist Arnold Böcklin. This was also a nod to "Alien" creator H.R. Giger, who had crafted his interpretation of the same paintings in his trademark bio-mechanical style, as a tribute to fellow Swiss Böcklin.
The name "Alien: Paradise Lost" was used to avoid confusion that resulted from disassociation with Prometheus (2012) from the "Alien" movies. The film was later re-titled "Alien: Covenant".
The music from Jerry Goldsmith's score for Alien (1979) was used extensively in the first act of this movie.
A couple of flashback sequences were filmed that gave Branson (James Franco) more screen time by fleshing out the relationship between him and Daniels (Katherine Waterston), but were ultimately cut from the final film.
Some of the scenes were filmed in Sydney, Australia, at Fox Studios. Ridley Scott gave Michael Fassbender time off in order to attend the X-Men: Apocalypse (2016) premiere, held in the same area.
A scene establishing the crew of the Covenant was released as a prologue webisode titled "The Last Supper." Though it was not included in the theatrical cut, footage from the scene is prominently featured in the theatrical trailer.
Alien Covenant takes place on December 5th, 2104, 18 years prior to Alien, which takes place in 2122.
Upon emergence, the Neomorph greatly resembles a Runner chestburster, having limbs and moving quadrupedally. It becomes more humanoid and bipedal upon maturity.
The Xenomorphs design was based on that of an ecorche (sculpture of a human figure with the skin removed to display the musculature),while its movements were based on those of a praying mantis and a baboon.
Several music cues and sound effects throughout the movie are identical to the music and sound from Alien (1979)
The design of the neomorph egg sack resembles a smaller version of H.R. Giger's egg silo, a design originally intended to be used in the film Alien (1979).
The Neomorph's physiology and body structure was inspired by the real-world bodily autonomy of the Goblin Shark. Its teeth are able to come forward when attacking prey to do more damage by pointing directly out allowing for a better grip. The creature's mouth when closed appears similar to that of an anal sphincter.
The exact origins and nature of the Planet 4 variant Xenomorph have been widely debated amongst fans with a lot of speculation. Some believe David is responsible for the Xenomorph XX121 species while others believe he merely recreated something that the Engineers created. The debate arises from evidence of a Xenomorph-like species depicted in a mural inside the Engineer ship explored by the Prometheus crew in Prometheus (2012). It is unclear whether David saw the mural at the time, creating a debate between some fans on whether this had any influence on David's experiments. In the novelization and early drafts of the script, the Xenomorph XX121 was created by the Engineers and David's Xenomorph variant was created in an attempt to replicate them. The final film lacks this revelation, and comments by Ridley Scott indicate that the decision was made late in development to have David be the sole creator.
Each "Alien" film features a different type of group interacting with the Xenomorphs-- commercial transport operators in Alien (1979), the military in Aliens (1986), prisoners in Alien 3 (1992), smugglers in Alien: Resurrection (1997), archaeologists in AVP: Alien vs. Predator (2004), a combination of normal suburban humans, police force and military in Aliens vs. Predator: Requiem (2007) and research scientists in Prometheus (2012). While the main characters in this film are scientists, they are also colonists.
The hairstyle that Daniels (Katherine Waterston) sports in this film was based on the wig worn by Ezra Miller, her co-star in Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them (2016). It was Miller, during a break filming "Beasts", who helped film Waterston's audition video. While filming inside his trailer, she noticed the wig that he wore for his character, Credence, and asked him if she could try it on, as she thought it was cool. What caught her interest in doing this film was the two assurances by Ridley Scott in his offer letter: to film the required material from the actors quickly, and on time; and engagement with the principal actors about their characters over dinner after each day of filming.
When Tennessee gains control of the lander, he says over the comms "A walk in the park," just like Parker said after setting down the Nostromo lander during the storm in Alien (1979).
Guy Pearce's reprisal of his role as Peter Weyland in the opening prologue marked Pearce's first appearance in the franchise, playing Weyland without old-age make-up. Pearce had been cast in Prometheus (2012) at 45 years old, because an actor needed to play Peter Weyland both as an elderly man and middle-aged, but ultimately the scenes featuring Weyland as a younger man were cut, and Pearce appeared in the film only under heavy old-age make-up.
This movie marked 20 years since Alien: Resurrection (1997) that the original Xenomorph was seen exclusively in an "Alien" film. It had also been ten years since the Xenomorph was seen again in a theatrical release, after Aliens vs. Predator: Requiem (2007).
In the novelization of the film, the Planet 4 variant Xenomorph is described as possessing a biomechanical exoskeleton, but in the film itself the Xenomorph lacks such biomechanical features, stated by Ridley Scott to have been a deliberate design decision.
The deleted scenes and bonus features of the film provide information that had ultimately been omitted from the final product. The scenes provide a further explanation of how David murdered the Dr. Shaw and created the aliens seen in the film and imply that David's original plan had been to lure the colonists to Planet 6 in order to use as specimens in experiments rather than a means of escape. They also foreshadow possible plans from David to work with the Weyland-Yutani Corporation and to use Daniels to create an Alien Queen, and indicate that David wishes to use his creations to dominate the galaxy. Other scenes explain the backstory of Captain Branson and Daniels living in a futuristic New York, as well as Daniels grieving after Branson's death in the neutrino blast.
The Planet 4 variant Xenomorph appears to have an accelerated lifecycle similar to those in Alien vs. Predator (2004). It also appears that the facehugger stage is capable of implanting a host within seconds of attachment. Both have caused criticism amongst fans.
Rebecca Ferguson was considered for the role of Daniels, but ultimately turned down the role to do the movie Life, which was another alien horror movie released in the same year.
Despite the overt sexual themes and metaphors present in this franchise, this is only the second Alien film to contain any actual nudity; the first was in Alien: Resurrection (1997). If one counts the poster of a nude woman briefly seen inside a Marine's locker in Aliens (1986), and the magazine cut-outs of nude women in a crew member's bunk in Alien (1979), this would be the fourth film.
Walter breaks the pattern of the androids' names proceeding in alphabetical order (Ash, Bishop, Call, David). There is another pattern to their names, however. "D" is the fourth letter of the alphabet, and "W" is the fourth-to-last. The characters are named for David Giler and Walter Hill.
One of the patches that the crew wears has two angels crouched down on a slab that mimic depictions of the angels that sit on the lid of the lost Ark of the Covenant.
This is a sequel to Prometheus (2012), as well as the second installment in the "Alien" prequel series, the sixth installment overall in the "Alien" film franchise, and the third installment to be directed by Ridley Scott.
Some fans have nicknamed the new Xenomorph variant that appears in the film as a "Protomorph", believing that it is the precursor or progenitor to the original classic Xenomorph that would later chronologically appear in Alien (1979).
The Planet 4 Xenomorph was motion-captured by Spanish actor Javier Botet who has Marfan syndrome (an inherited disorder that affects connective tissue) who is mostly known for his roles in REC (2007) Mama (2013) and The Conjuring 2 (2016).
The subject of the poem "Ozymandias" is the ruins of Rameses II. Director Ridley Scott depicted the Biblical account of Rameses and the plagues of Egypt in Exodus: Gods and Kings (2014).
The Planet 4 Xenomorph has a human skull underneath its smooth dome something the original Xenomorph from Alien (1979) also featured.
The extended material from the Blu-ray release, contain scenes from David's lab known as "Advent" that shows David mixing various parts from Neomorphs and possibly Shaws mutated eggs, using black goo as a catalyst, in order to create his Xenomorph eggs.
With the introduction of Lope and Hallett as a gay married couple amongst the others, this is the first film in the franchise to feature LGBT characters. While this is not too obvious in the finished film, the deleted scenes including "The Last Supper" show them being physically intimate by hugging and kissing.
This is the second film that Michael Fassbender and Katherine Waterston have appeared in together, the first being Steve Jobs (2015).
This was the second time Katherine Waterston and Carmen Ejogo had appeared in a movie together. The first time was in Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them (2016).
The date of the mission, listed at the beginning of the film, is December 5th, which is also the birthday of Walt Disney (aka Walter Elias Disney). The synthetic in this film is named Walter (after director Walter Hill).
Michael Fassbender is listening to his echo in the cave is using the same lilt used by Peter O'Toole in Lawrence of Arabia (1962) when Lawrence is riding his camel in Wadi Rum.
This film breaks the tradition within the Alien series, of each successive android's name following the alphabet. With Ash in Alien (1979); Bishop in Aliens (1986) and Alien 3 (1992); Call in Alien: Resurrection (1997) and David in Prometheus (2012). Here the android's name should begin with an "E" but instead it is called Walter.
The construction vehicles in the Terraforming Bay of the Covenant have the branding of JCB (Joseph Cyril Bamford Excavators Limited) a real-world British heavy equipment manufacturer.
The song being hummed by Shaw during the rogue transmission was "Take Me Home Country Roads" from John Denver's 1971 album Poems, Prayers, & Promises.
The Covenant's discovery of the rogue transmission and the events that followed is similar to the Nostromo's discovery of a beacon that led them to LV-426 in Alien (1979).
While Planet 4 is not the official name given to the Uncharted World by any of the crew on the Covenant, 'Planet-4/Main Theme' is the name of track 6 from Alien Covenant official soundtrack which plays twice in relation to the planet. The first is while Mother pinpoints this planet as the origin of the Rogue Transmission, the second is while the USCSS Covenant is on its way to the planet.
Katherine Waterston also appeared in Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them (2016), the beginning of a prequel series to the Harry Potter films. The Harry Potter film franchise also featured John Hurt, who appeared in Alien (1979), and Timothy Spall, whose son Rafe Spall appeared in Prometheus (2012). Fantastic Beasts also featured Samantha Morton, whose father-in-law is Alien (1979) cast member Ian Holm.
At about 1:47 David is looking into the screen at the Xenomorph when it attempts to attack him with its inner jaw. This is very much like the scene in Resurrection when a creature tries to attack Dr. Gediman through the glass.
The Covenant's mission to terraform and colonize Origae-6 would be the fulfillment of mankind's survival as a Type-2 civilization and theoretically decrease the chances of the species facing extinction resembles the biblical story of Noah from The Book of Genesis. The Narrative speaks of God's promise to mankind to never send another apocalypse, which is where the subtitle Covenant may have come from.
This is the second film that James Franco (Branson) and Katherine Waterston (Daniels) appear in together. They also appeared in The Letter (2012).