Ridley Scott’s modern films in the Alien mythos both suffered from the pitting of audience expectations against a creator’s interests. When the director returned from an Alien universe hiatus to make Prometheus in 2012, fans we eagerly champing at the bit for some kind of return to the world of Scott’s original 1979 Alien, but that really wasn’t what Scott had in mind. Instead, Prometheus was revealed to be a philosophical, moody sci-fi drama of sorts, with only tangential connections to the iconic black xenomorphs featured so heavily in Alien and Aliens. It was a swerve that intrigued a fair number of critics, but it wasn’t what the multiplex audience was expecting. Still, the film grossed more than $400 million worldwide, more than justifying a sequel.
Then came Alien: Covenant in 2017, a project that can be fairly assessed as an overreaction to the audience disappointment in Prometheus. If the first film was seen by many as too navel-gazing, the sequel seemed more intent on shoehorning xenomorphs into an interesting universe that didn’t necessarily need them, exclusively for the sake of marketing. Neither audiences nor critics bought it, and the U.S. gross of Covenant was ultimately under $100 million, and $240 million worldwide. Those numbers put the future of the entire franchise in immediate doubt.
And yet, Ridley Scott still hasn’t given up. The director is still sitting on several unused scripts for one or potentially two more chapters in the modern Alien mythos. Recently, he revealed that the next film in the series would have featured the return of the hulking and highly advanced “Engineer” beings seen in Prometheus, who would have come into conflict with the renegade android David, last seen trying to spread the Xenomorphs as a superior life form in Covenant. Says Scott, in an interview with HNE:
The script would have seen the return of Prometheus’ Engineers, with that species’ survivors coming after the genocidal David. Setting-wise, Scott said it was obvious ‘We’re gonna actually go to the planet’. by which we assume he means LV-426.”
LV-426 is of course the planet where the crew of the Nostromo lands in the original Alien, and where the Xenomorph is first brought aboard the ship. On the planet, Ellen Ripley and co. find a crashed alien spacecraft and the remains of a dead Engineer, which would pretty much bring the entire series full circuit.
Scott has previously commented on the characters of the Engineers, saying there was always still more to be done with their story. As he told Collider back in 2017:
“Because [the Engineers] are such aggressive fuckers … and who wouldn’t describe them that way, considering their brilliance in making dreadful devices and weapons that would make our chemical warfare look ridiculous? So I always had it in there that the God-like creature that you will see actually is not so nice, and is certainly not God. As she says, ‘This is not what I thought it was going to be, and I think we should get the Hell out of here or there won’t be any place to go back to.’
That’s not necessarily planted in the ground at the tail end of the third act, but I knew that’s kind of where we should go, because if we’ve opened up this door — which I hope we have because I certainly would like to do another one – I’d love to explore where the hell [Dr. Shaw] goes next and what does she do when she gets there, because if it is paradise, paradise can not be what you think it is. Paradise has a connotation of being extremely sinister and ominous.”
Of course, plans changed, and Noomi Rapace’s Dr. Shaw ended up getting written out of Covenant.
The real question is, does 20th Century Fox still trust Ridley Scott with another Alien movie and a big budget? Or will we never see quite how Scott intended to wrap things up?