Blade Runner 2049 & Alien Share a Universe – But I’m Totally Cool With That

Here’s a little something that blew my mind recently; Prometheus wasn’t Ridley Scott’s first Alien prequel. In fact, he’s been at it since 1984.

As it turns out, Scott’s Blade Runner has a number of sneaky connections to the world of acid-spitting xenomorphs. Although these clues are subtle (and many are buried in DVD extras or offhand comments from the director), they suggest that the two franchises share their universe.

Blade Runner 2049
Who wouldn’t want to escape a hell-hole like this? If only they knew what was waiting for them out there – concept art by George Hull

That involuntary shudder you felt going down your spine? I get it. It’s understandable. Here’s a Public-Service announcement everyone already knows; shared universes are now ‘cool’, and that means each studio with half a pulse is jumping on the bandwagon. Yet I’m very much aboard the hype train this time.

Please don’t hate me.

To begin with, the connection makes a whole ton of sense. Both are grimy and washed out worlds with an air of hopelessness. Big industry is Bad, they tell us, and it’s only the human connection we share – be it compassion or common decency – that makes life worth living. Scott himself said that he always imagined the two being linked; he saw Blade Runner’s Los Angeles as the kind of place the crew of Nostromo, the ill-fated ship in Alien, were trying to escape. As mentioned in a director’s commentary for Blade Runner, ‘this world could easily be the city that supports the crew that go out in Alien. So, in other words, when the crew of Alien come back in, they might go into this place and go into a bar off the street near where Deckard lives. That’s how I thought about it’.

Secondly, there’s a lot of shared technology between the two; the replicants we see throughout Blade Runner 2049 are just a step behind the likes of David in Prometheus, and that follows because the latter is set around fifty years later.

However, the most convincing evidence comes in the form of bonus material for the theatrical release of both Alien and Prometheus. The former includes data on the Nostromo’s captain, and it turns out that he served under Blade Runner’s Tyrell Corporation before working for Weyland-Yutani, the mega-corp. from Alien. As for Prometheus, extras contained in the steel-book contain a message from Weyland-Yutani founder (Guy Pierce’s character) wherein he implies that Tyrell was his mentor. Inspired/chilled by Tyrell’s failure – he’s murdered by his own creations, the poor sap – Weyland sets out to create something better.

Due to all this, I feel that the connection fleshes out both universes in a logical way. It fires up the imagination as well, because now we know why everyone’s so desperate to go colonise other worlds. Earth’s a real dump.

I don’t think the connection matters a huge deal, either. They’re unlikely to cross over due to the time-difference (Blade Runner takes place decades before Alien), and it’s more of a cool Easter-egg than anything else. Considering the unsubtle way many shared universes are created these days, there’s something elegant about that.

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Something Alien: Covenant & Prometheus Got Very, Very Right

Prometheus attracts criticism like a magnet. A great deal of that is justified. Exposition-dumps and maddening characters make for a divisive film. Still, most can agree that Michael Fassbender’s David was a redeeming feature. Morally dubious but polite in the most frightfully British way, he puts us on edge because we’re never sure which side he’s on. As a result, it’s good to see the android creeping everyone out again in Alien: Covenant – especially considering the downward spiral he followed between those two movies.

Warning – SPOILERS for ALIEN: COVENANT follow.

Covenant
‘I, uh, love what you’ve done with the place’ – concept art by Ev Shipard

David’s house of horror on the Engineer home-world is a great example. Littered with token mad-sketches, dissected corpses, and a spot of monster taxidermy, this nightmare puts his terrifying but fiercely intelligent personality on full display. It also plays up to the idea that one rotten apple spoils the batch to brilliant effect. A villain of the Frankenstein variety, David’s goals have been warped into lunacy by flawed logic. Yet he’s unable to recognise that. Therein lies the key to his appeal, at least in my opinion; his plan makes sense in a twisted sort of way, but – as his doppelgänger points out – a duff note has ruined the entire piece. That’s exemplified by his inappropriately chipper nature, not to mention the laissez-faire way he’s left the opened carcass of Dr. Shaw on his operating table. He’s terrifying because he’s so incredibly human… except something’s just a little ‘off’. His lie about Shaw’s death and her meaning to him sums this up nicely.

It’s yet to be seen how his story will end in the next couple of films, and there’s always the possibility of outstaying his welcome. However, the ride should be intriguing if nothing else. David’s too much of a vile son-of-a-b**** for it not to be.

Alien: Covenant is a Reminder that Space Might Be Pretty Damn HORRIBLE

Space is a damn scary place to be, at least according to movies like Alien: Covenant. If you’re not impregnated by facehuggers that vomit eggs down your throat, you’ll be eviscerated by xenomorphs who rip people apart for fun. It implies something dark, primal and aggressive lying in wait amongst the stars, and the idea of going to space is suddenly made 100% less appealing. It’s a horror film, naturally, but it does raise the possibility that our universe won’t be easily conquered.

Alien
If we find life out there among the stars, we might get more than we bargained for – concept art by Valentin Petrov

New planets hide unknown threats, and some might be microscopic; it stands to reason that an alien world would carry alien bacteria if there really is life out there, and this is a threat our bodies aren’t ready for. While that isn’t nearly so horrific as a monster crawling its way out of your chest, the result wouldn’t be all that different – you’ll still die in a lot of pain and indignity.

Our immune systems are unprepared for such viruses, and they’d be unlike anything we’ve ever seen before. Consider the death-toll when conquistadors marched into South America: local Aztecs were unfamiliar with the likes of European smallpox, and their immune systems crumbled beneath the strain. It’s easy to see how extra-terrestrial germs or pathogens could have a similar effect on us (if they existed, anyway).

Accordingly, spores like those unleashed in Covenant aren’t unrealistic… even if what follows isn’t. The image of someone falling desperately ill for reasons unknown hits close to home. Cheerful, right?

We may not have to fend off inhuman creatures when we start colonising the stars, but our problems aren’t over nonetheless. We’d probably be better off with the xenomorphs: at least you can see them coming.