Have you ever been to see a tribute band?
Maybe they only play covers of Beatles songs, or they’ve got one guy who looks a little like Freddie Mercury—if you squint—hiding his vocal inadequacies behind a bushy mustache.
Ultimately, you get a relatively fun experience, albeit one that’s not quite as good as seeing the real deal live in concert.
The Beatles all ended up hating each other. Freddie abandoned this planet for greener pastures. Now, the closest thing you can get is seeing a group of admittedly fairly talented performers pretending to be something great.
Alien: Covenant is a lot like a tribute band. The movie will feature a lot of the same visuals as the original Alien, and will have several characters that fit nicely into the same categories as the earlier film.
Homicidal android? Check. Discount Sigourney Weaver? Check. I Can’t Believe It’s Not John Hurt with some phallic alien horror ripping its way out of his body? Big old check.
Katherine Waterson, who you’ll remember as the woman from Fantastic Beasts who doesn’t want to lick Dan Fogler’s neck, has even said that her character, Daniels, is basically Ripley Lite.
“They are both able to somehow think clearly in really shocking, unimaginable scenarios,” she said in a recent interview with USA Today, “It’s fun to play someone who can thrive in that chaos.”
There have been rumors circulating that Daniels may even be Ellen Ripley’s mother, as if xenomorphs have an inexplicable hatred for Ripley’s bloodline that transcends the laws of time and space (ed. Jaws did this with the Brody family to almost absurd extents by the time we got to the one with Michael Caine). Considering that the Alien: Isolation video game has Ripley’s daughter facing off against a xenomorph as well, it does seem awfully like the Ripley clan are the unluckiest family in the galaxy.
But here’s the problem: while Covenant is hardly shy about showing its stylistic inspiration, there’s not really a need for an imitation movie in the same way that tribute bands fill a niche for those who want to see Elvis live on stage.
The original Alien still exists. If you want to see Ellen Ripley facing off against a xenomorph in the terrifyingly dark, wet corners of a doomed spaceship, you can just rewatch the old classic. Where a tribute band provides the next best thing to seeing an actual music icon in the flesh, Alien: Covenant, and all the other prequels, sequels and reboots of recent years, simply serves up an inferior movie experience.
The reason Aliens works so well is because James Cameron didn’t just to Alien again—he reinvented the original movie, giving a unique story that built the world’ mythology while showing us xenomorphs in a new setting.
Alien Covenant looks increasingly like it’ll simply be an Alien tribute band. One which inexplicably has James Franco on drums.
Or worse, what if Alien: Covenant isn’t a tribute band at all? What if it’s a reunion tour? After all, Ridley Scott is back at the helm of the project.
This upcoming movie is like when Meat Loaf struggles up on stage, wheezily sings a couple of songs, then needs to help himself to an oxygen tank.
Perhaps a tribute movie would have been better than a washed up director trying to live up to his former glory by revisiting his old hits, inadvertently ruining not only his own reputation, but also the work of art that people used to love.
We’re calling it now: why are xenomorphs so attracted to Ripley and her family members?
They can smell the midichlorians in her blood. It’s the only explanation that makes sense once you take into account just how far from grace Ridley Scott has fallen.