The release of a second prologue to this summer's Alien: Covenant was intended as a way to mark this year's "Alien Day," but it might indirectly highlight just where the franchise has gone wrong in the decades since Ridley Scott's original movie.
"The Crossing" is, essentially, two-and-a-half minutes of exposition about what happened to Noomi Rapace and Michael Fassbender's characters after the end of 2012's Prometheus, paired with some impressive visual spectacle when they arrive at what is seemingly the home planet of the Engineers, the creatures who were responsible for the black goo that eventually created the Xenomorphs that appeared in the 1979 original Alien.
For fans of the larger Alien mythology, it's a short that answers some questions about the end of Prometheus, and teases potential revelations that might come during Covenant. It features none of the same characters from the earlier prologue, but both shorts share two important things in common: a suffocating sense of foreboding and, more worryingly, a complete lack of any of the familiar xenomorphic aliens that give the franchise its name (though, there's plenty of that in the most recent trailer).
For the first three movies in the series, Alien had a central narrative: It was the story of Ellen Ripley's (Sigourney Weaver) relationship with the titular threat, which shifted from movie to movie depending on the particular obsessions of the director du jour. Alien: Resurrection (1997) attempts to reboot the franchise by literally rebooting Ripley as a clone, but the continuity is lost - and things got more confused with the Alien vs. Predator movies, even before Ridley Scott returned to the franchise for his prequel projects.
By this point, it's hard to identify what the Alien movies are actually about, beyond perpetuating their own mythology. Indeed, as the latest prologue to Alien: Covenant demonstrates, the franchise is now focused in large part on topics and concepts that weren't even part of the series for the first three decades of its existence. The Engineers? The origin of the species and just why it is the way it is? Are those questions that really need to be answered?
In many ways, the trailers for Covenant - and certainly the first prologue - have made the movie feel like a retread of the very first Alien, or at least a revisiting of that movie's aesthetic and tone. As unlikely as it might seem, this backwards-looking attitude might just be what the franchise needs right now: a reminder about what made people fall in love with Alien in the first place, and a way to get things back on track.
Well, as long as Fassbender's creepy androids don't steal the show again, of course.