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'Alien: Covenant': Do I need to watch 'Prometheus' first?

This spoiler-free guide will help you decide whether to watch the 2012 sci-fi mystery before heading into "Covenant".

The crew of the "Covenant" face toothy terror, but what do you need to know before seeing the film?

Fox

Sci-fi chiller "Alien: Covenant" is the latest movie set in the Alien universe, and directly follows on from the end of 2012's "Prometheus". So do you need to watch -- or re-watch -- "Prometheus" before seeing "Covenant"?

Warning: If you're considering watching "Prometheus" and want to remain unspoiled, don't read the final "What do I need to know?" section. Everything else is spoiler-free.

"Covenant" takes place 10 years after "Prometheus", and the two films are certainly much more closely connected than previous instalments in the Alien series. But "Prometheus" was a film that divided viewers and fans, so it's not necessarily an essential watch. Having seen and reviewed "Covenant", here are my thoughts on whether you really need to revisit the earlier film before your trip to the movies:

No, you don't have to see "Prometheus" to enjoy "Covenant".

But also a bit yes, you do.

The thing is, "Covenant" consists of two main strands. The first involves a crew of brand new characters exploring a sinister planet and dealing with assorted alarmingly toothy extra-terrestrial menaces. This is straightforward horror thriller stuff -- you don't need to have seen "Prometheus" to enjoy this strand. You don't even need to have seen any previous Alien movies, in fact, although knowledge of the iconic series will help you spot riffs on classic moments from Ridley Scott's original 1979 film.

But before you merrily skip off to the movies, the second strand of "Covenant" is slightly less accessible. At the heart of the film is a major character who first appeared in "Prometheus": the icy android David, played by Michael Fassbender.

Michael Fassbender as icy android David.

Fox

Fortunately, "Covenant" gives you some explanation about David. There's an online prologue that gives you a handy catch-up to bridge the gap between the two films, though you may want to skip it if you're avoiding "Prometheus" spoilers. The very opening scene of the film shows us his origin. And it slightly retcons the previous film to explain David's presence here.

Fassbender also plays a second android in "Covenant", called Walter. However, the actor does a pretty good job of differentiating between his two robot characters with two nuanced performances (and a slightly less nuanced wig).

As for the themes of "Prometheus", some are carried over to "Covenant" but it dials back on the more bonkers creation myth stuff. David does have plenty of philosophical musings to share, but to be honest they're pretty oblique even if you have seen "Prometheus".

Overall then, I'd say you don't need to watch "Prometheus" before seeing "Alien: Covenant" -- but you might want a quick refresher on some of the bits that carry over.

What do I need to know?

If you want to be fully clued up on the backstory but can't be bothered to put in the legwork, here are the spoilers from "Prometheus" you need to know to understand "Alien: Covenant":

  • The Engineers are a white-skinned, slap-headed humanoid race who fly around in curved spaceships and are linked to the origins of both the human race and the scary alien.
  • Elisabeth Shaw was the main character in "Prometheus", played by Noomi Rapace. At the end of the film, she took off in an Engineer spaceship and headed for the Engineer homeworld.
  • David is an android played by Michael Fassbender, who introduced a virus to his human crewmates that created mutant monsters. At the end of the film, he went with Elisabeth Shaw to find the Engineer homeworld.
  • David was created by Henry Weyland, played by Guy Pearce.
  • The classic dome-headed black alien, known as a xenomorph, hasn't appeared yet -- but we have seen a forerunner to the creature.

"Alien: Covenant" is in cinemas in the UK from 12 May and in theatres in the US from 19 May.

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