Everything You Need to Know About the 'Alien' Franchise to Understand 'Alien: Covenant'

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20th Century Fox
Like a mysterious parasite that infects your body and results in a demon-faced alien spawn bursting from your chest and rapidly growing into a murderous eight-foot creature, the Alien franchise has made its presence known over the past 30-something years, itself spawning a number of sequels (Aliens, Alien 3, Alien: Resurrection), crossovers and 2012's it's-not-a-prequel-but-really-it's-a-prequel, Prometheus.
If you've never seen Prometheus -- or if you saw Prometheus, hated Prometheus and had a sort of PTSD reaction to Prometheus that now renders you incapable of remembering anything that happened in that movie -- you may think the latest installment, Alien: Covenant, is not for you. But it can be! There's even a section in the middle of the movie where it stops to just kind of...explain the plot of Prometheus. But while Covenant proves an easy enough entry point for those new to the Alien franchise, you may still have a few questions. Hopefully, ahead of its release this weekend, this Q&A can equip you with some answers.
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That black alien with the teeth, that's the "Alien," right? Also, is there only one alien? Or how many aliens are there? OK, so good question, and I recognize that we need to start with a foundation of the basics and build from there. There are a number of alien species in the Alien-verse (facehuggers, chestbursters), but what you're referring to is called a xenomorph. Different xenomorphs have wreaked havoc in each Alien movie, as well as sort of pro-xenomorphs, like the alien nicknamed Deacon that appears in the final scene of Prometheus.
So, how Alien-y was Prometheus? Deacon is the closest we got to an actual Alien alien (or, as you now know them, xenomorph) in Prometheus. Which may be why, back in 2012 when the movie was released, director and Alien franchise maestro Ridley Scott said it took place in the same universe, but claimed that Prometheus was not a direct prequel to Alien. Which was kind of true then and kind of not true now. Prometheus is essentially Alien: Prometheus, now that Covenant links the two. And it is irrefutably a prequel to Alien. There are just a few films in between.
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OK, then what happened in Prometheus? Oyeboy. Well, if you know who Prometheus is in Greek mythology, then you already have a head start. Prometheus is the Greek god who created mankind and Prometheus, the movie, is about the search for mankind's creators. A crew -- aboard a ship named, naturally, "Prometheus" -- sets out into space and eventually discovers an Engineer--
Ho'dup. What is an "Engineer?" Engineers are the pasty, giant humanoid people you saw in all the Prometheus posters. They created human life on Earth and, as the crew ultimately learns, the Engineers had sent a ship carrying a deadly virus to Earth to kill all of humanity. David, the resident android aboard Prometheus (played by Michael Fassbender), uses that virus to infect a fellow crewmember, who then unwittingly proceeds to impregnate Noomi Rapace's character with a tentacled alien that then "impregnates" the Engineer, and thus is born the beginnings of what will become the xenomorph.
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Ummmmmmmmmmm, OK. Is that the same character Fassbender plays in this one? Yes, but he also plays another synthetic named Walter. There's a introductory scene at the beginning of Covenant that explains David's creation by the Weyland Corp -- i.e. there are various portions of Alien: Covenant that take place before and after Prometheus -- then he reappears later on, having recovered from his decapitation at the end of Prometheus. (He was decapitated at the end of Prometheus.)
Is there anyone else I need to remember? Everyone else died. (Rest in pieces, Captain Charlize Theron.) Everybody, that is, except archaeologist Elizabeth Shaw (Rapace), who you will see again. Kind of. Prometheus ended with Elizabeth Shaw and David continuing their search for the Engineers' home planet (people in movies are dumb), which is where the first Alien: Covenant prologue, "The Crossing," picks up.
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What about Alien? Aliens? Alien vs. Predator? Anything? Nope. This is a prequel, so all of those movies follow Covenant, chronologically. (Except Alien vs. Predator, but that crossover is confusing so, like everyone did when Alien vs. Predator: Requiem came out, just ignore it.) You should watch the second prologue, "Last Supper," which provides slightly more context to the characters you meet in Covenant. Like the fact that they're all married to each other. And that James Franco is one of them.
I take it Sigourney Weaver doesn't make a cameo, then? Sigourney Weaver does not make a cameo. And since Scott himself recently reported that Alien 5 has been scuttled, it looks like Sigourney Weaver will not need to get away from that bitch anytime soon.