Did You Catch the Hilarious Hidden Joke in the ‘Alien Covenant’ Prologue?
Fox has done a nice job of hyping Alien: Covenant with online videos setting up the movie’s story. “The Crossing” explains what happened to the survivors from Prometheus in between the two films, while “The Last Supper,” embedded above, features the crew of the spaceship Covenant at the beginning of their mission to colonize a distant planet. These aren’t traditional trailers; they’re full “prologue” scenes released on YouTube. In Alien terms, this kind of marketing is like hugging someone’s face to prime them for a hideous creature bursting out of their chest.
Neither of these prologues appear in Alien: Covenant. I assume this footage was shot for the movie and didn’t make the final cut, at which point Fox decided to turn these deleted scenes into high-end promotional materials. (The alternative, Fox paid James Franco and Noomi Rapace enormous amounts of money to show up for random YouTube videos, seems unlikely.) Before you see the movie, “Last Supper” seems like a couple of minutes of innocuous banter, setting up the characters and their relationships. After you’ve seen Alien: Covenant, this whole scene becomes freighted with additional meaning, thanks to several clever jokes that foreshadow the fate of James Franco’s Captain Jacob Branson. (From here on out, we’ll be talking about SPOILERS, so proceed with caution.)
Franco barely appears onscreen in Alien: Covenant. He’s shown inside a hibernation pod in an early scene, and then an accident on the ship results in his death. As the crew is awoken from cryosleep, Branson’s pod breaks down. Trapped inside as it catches fire, he is burned alive and dies. Over the objections of Branson’s replacement, First Mate Oram (Billy Crudup), the Covenant crew holds a brief memorial service for their fallen colleague, before jettisoning his remains out into space.
The circumstances of Branson’s death totally recontextualize “Last Supper.” Everything Franco says cheekily alludes to his impending doom. He says...
“I just wanted to say hey before I jet out.”
...before his dead body is shot into space like a human bullet. Then he adds...
“I’m feeling kind of queasy.”
...and then, minutes into the movie, Scott portrays his death in disturbing and unflinching detail. The shots of his charred corpse being hauled away are particularly gnarly — sure to make weak-stomached audience members feel a little nauseous.
Then, the pièce de résistance. Just before Branson leaves, in response to his pilot’s question “You’re not feeling good?” Franco replies...
“No, I’m just burning up.”
Oh Ridley Scott, you sick, sick man. Even for a guy who makes movies about spiny aliens ripping people apart, that is seriously twisted.
There’s a few other ironic bits (the crew gets really excited for Branson to leave in “Last Supper” so they can throw a party; when he leaves for good in Alien: Covenant they’re terrified and unsure what to do), but nothing tops Franco saying he’s burning up. That’s just too much.