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Book vs. Flick: Alien: Covenant

Contributed by
Sep 4, 2018

The first time I watched Alien: Covenant, I was disappointed. I wanted more for the character Daniels and instead felt like I got a mini synthetic civil war. After several subsequent rewatches, because I don’t love myself, my feelings toward the film changed a little. While I still wouldn’t place it anywhere near the first two Alien movies, I will say that I have come to appreciate it for what it is. It's a prequel that adds to the Alien lore with an intriguing villain.

This conclusion and an overall dive into the world of all things xenomorph convinced me to check out the novelization of the film, in hopes that it would fill the voids left by the film. To my surprise, the novelization of Alien: Covenant makes the film far more tolerable.

The Alien: Covenant film opens with a prologue that features Peter Weyland, a business magnate, having a conversation with his newly activated synthetic, David, the same synthetic from Prometheus. The scene ends with David commenting on Peter’s limited lifespan compared to his own unlimited one and questioning why he was created to serve. It's an important moment in the film because it lays the foundation for David’s motivations and actions later on. The novelization, however, provides more dialogue between David and Peter, which makes the foreshadowing of David’s later actions stronger.

In the novelization, David talks while he plays the piano, giving his personal interpretation of the famous sequence from Das Rheingold. He mentions that the gods had rejected mankind, returning to their perfect home in the heavens, but the journey was filled with tragedy because the gods were doomed — just as doomed as the humans they’d rejected — because their power was an illusion. David calls them false gods. What gives this scene importance is the fact that it drives home the idea of David’s awakening awareness and provides a direct foreshadowing to David’s activities once he and Dr. Shaw reach the home planet of the Engineers. This exchange shows how deeply personal David’s motivations are and how very different he is compared to Walter.

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The novelization also includes a queer married couple among the other couples who make up most of the crew. I found it odd that interstellar space travel was possible but all of the married couples were heterosexual. If the movie does hint at the characters of Lope and Hallett being together, it does a very poor job, which is unfortunate, because there was no reason their relationship couldn’t be included. Thankfully, the novelization makes it abundantly clear that two are together, as they are referenced as life partners. There is an intimacy shared between the two in the dropship while they and the rest of the Covenant crew make their descent. Lope tries to comfort Hallett because he’s having a tough time. I wish this was something that had been included in the film, because it would have provided the queer representation lacking onscreen.

The character Daniels also fares better in the novelization. She has more agency throughout, and not just in those final minutes of the film in which she squares off with both xenomorphs. The novelization provides background in which Daniels is much more than a grieving wife. After the crew is dismissed, Oram asks Daniels to stay and tells her to take a few days off instead of checking on the equipment she’s in charge of. Daniels objects and is insubordinate, choosing to work despite Oram telling her not to.

There are plenty of instances like this that make it clear Daniels is more capable of being captain of the Covenant than Oram, and should have been promoted after her husband’s death. These scenes in the novelization only made her battles with both xenomorphs more epic, because her fighting spirit and dedication to keeping the rest of the Covenant’s colonists safe was ever-present. Daniels is far more fleshed out in the novelization and therefore isn’t overshadowed by David as she is in the film, making her character more memorable.

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This is the first time I’ve been so thankful for the novelization of a movie; in the case of Alien: Covenant, it takes a film I really wanted to like and makes it less disappointing. The bones were there for a better story, and the novelization provides the meat. Now when I see the name Alien: Covenant, I don’t roll my eyes as hard as I did before.

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