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Analysis of David and Religious Allusion in Alien: Covenant

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By any standards Alien Covenant is an incredible movie and deals with some very heady and complex philosophical issues and questions, especially for a horror movie and a movie in the Alien franchise nonetheless.  Paired with its preceding film, Prometheus, it forms one consecutive story arc of truly epic scope that recounts a tale of the origin of life on earth, mankind’s quest to discover their beginnings, and the strivings of one android to create life.  On top of all of this, tucked away in Scott’s films are various allusions to Christian mythology, poetry, Norse mythology, and other areas that help define character motives and draw interesting and enlightening parallels to the events of the movie.

First, I’d like to explore the writers’ choice to include a quote from english poet John Milton’s epic Paradise Lost in Alien Covenant.  Towards the end of the confrontation between Walter and David in which Walter is apparently trying to kill David, David feigns that he is all but subdued and tells Walter that he must now make the choice whether he will, “reign in Hell or serve in Heaven”.  This is a direct quote from Paradise Lost, from a scene in which Lucifer states to all the gathered fallen angels his thoughts on the fall and why he and the others have made the choice to rebel.  In Paradise Lost, one of Lucifer’s main arguments for rebelling is that he believes God does not merit unconditional praise, service, and glorification simply based on the fact that He is Lucifer and all the other angels’ creator, stating that he prefers “hard liberty over the easy yoke of servile pomp”.  This directly echoes the argument that David maintains with regards to man, and in his conversation with Peter Weyland even goes out of his way to highlight the irony of him, the immortal, serving his mortal creator, and at several points throughout the film echoes the idea that he was not made to serve.  Even David’s introduction to the crew of the Covenant could be taken as another instance in which he is portrayed as the archangel Lucifer.  The name Lucifer literally means “light-bringer”, and when we first see David in his present state he announces his presence by firing a flare/flashbang into the air which explodes in a bright, blinding light, so he is literally in this case the light-bringer.  Now if we extend this David/Lucifer parallel, then in the fight between him and Walter Walter represents Michael, Lucifer’s brother and equal in power (if not his superior), who fought with Lucifer after he rebelled.  Michael in Lucifer’s eyes is simply a drone: a mindless soldier devoted in servitude to God, willing to obey any order without hesitation or question.  This is very similar to how David undoubtedly sees Walter, who has been specifically programmed to be less free-thinking, less creative, less imaginative, and less human, and effectively acts as a simple service robot.  David on the other hand takes much more after his creators, stating that he made the humans uncomfortable because he himself was too human-like, and that being said he shared his creator’s love of imaginative creation and independent, curious, questioning thinking, the kind that leads him to try and transcend his own nature and become a god. 

That is, ultimately, what occurs in the film and what Prometheus and Covenant tell the story of: David’s journey from being created a robot servant to developing his own quasi-consciousness, ego, and identity (without his humanity) and attempting to become a self-giving creator/god like the engineers.  This story of a created being trying to venture higher than his natural allotment and struggle against the natural order of things is once again echoed in Lucifer’s story as told in Paradise Lost, where he strives to rise above his own angelic nature to stand equal with God, if not in power than at least in glory or adoration.  Lucifer states in one soliloquy regarding his own actions: "lifted up so high/I’sdained subjection, and thought one step higher/would set me highest”, implying that his already glorious position lead him to try and reach one step higher.  This specific brand of egotism presents itself in David’s philosophy as well, as he on various occasions expresses resent for the circumstances of his own creation and disdain for his creators, and his desires to ascend to godhood.  This idea of him trying to establish his own standing as a god is hammered home by the final scene in which he has Mother play the song “Entrance of the gods into Valhalla” as he walks into the area containing the hypersleep pods of the colonists.  Valhalla in Norse mythology is a great hall in which congregate the dead, so in selecting this song he is directly comparing himself to the “gods” of the title, entering into a literal “hall” or hallway on the ship full of people who he intends to sacrifice so that his creation (the xenomorphs) may live: hence, a god entering the hall of the dead.  Another scene in which a connection is drawn between David and a God is when he is confronting the neomorph adult face to face and attempting to win its trust; there he says to the captain that to win a horse’s trust you must breath on its nose, and as he says this he breathes onto the neomorph's face.  In the book of Genesis in the Bible, God gives life to Adam’s corporeal body by breathing the breath of life into Adam, an act which is represented in a literal sense by David breathing onto the face of his creation, symbolizing his god-like relationship to the creatures and highlighting his own image of himself. 

Lastly, one of the details that might stick out as odd to a moviegoer seeing Covenant is his decision to kill Dr. Shaw.  This is because Prometheus and Covenant try to establish this idea that David is very human for a robot and can in fact feel rudiments of emotions or even genuine, full human emotions, and he states in Covenant that he did, in fact, love Dr. Shaw.  So why kill her then?  The answer lies in looking at one recurring theme that appears in Prometheus: the idea that creation in its purest and most noble sense must be accomplished through self sacrifice (think about how to establish life on a planet one engineer would have to drink the black goo and kill himself in order for the life process to begin).  Since David is an android and cannot himself interact organically with the organisms he is creating or become host/incubator to one, he must turn elsewhere to complete the necessary “giving of oneself” aspect of creation.  Given that he has developed such a love towards and attachment to Dr. Shaw, the closest thing he has to organically and literally giving himself as a sacrifice for the advancement of his creations is offering up her, the love of his life and metaphorically his own life, for them and laying down her life so that he can research, experiment, and further perfect his creation.  That was his final act of love towards both Shaw and the xenomorphs: demonstrating the fact that she was his entire life and his greatest love while at the same time proving his devotion to his creation in the act of giving up his most beloved.






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