‘Alien: Covenant’ seeks to be fifth film in franchise to garner Oscar nominations

With positive notices from critics and heaps of hype around director Ridley Scott returning to the franchise for a third time, “Alien: Covenant” is poised to achieve immense success when it hits theaters on May 19. The picture focuses on the crew of the colony ship Covenant, en route to a remote planet when they come across what appears to be an undiscovered paradise. As it turns out, there is plenty of danger lurking in this mysterious world, including those pesky extraterrestrial creatures, ready to make mincemeat out of the planet’s new inhabitants.

While science fiction horror, doused in buckets of blood, is not generally the most celebrated of genres at the Oscars, the “Alien” franchise has proven a potent force with the Academy since 1979, the year of the first entry’s release. Indeed, with the exception of “Alien: Resurrection” (1997), all films in the franchise have received at least one Oscar nomination.

The first “Alien,” directed by Scott, was the recipient of two Oscar nominations – in Best Art Direction and Best Visual Effects, taking home the latter prize. The film lost the Art Direction trophy to “All That Jazz.” A warmer reception was had with the BAFTA Awards, where “Alien” garnered seven nominations – in Best Supporting Actor (John Hurt), Best Costume Design, Best Film Editing, Best Original Score, Best Production Design, Best Soundtrack and Most Promising Newcomer to a Leading Film Role (Sigourney Weaver). The picture won two prizes – in Best Production Design and Best Soundtrack.

Perhaps in part due to the lack of involvement of Scott, a U.K. native, awards reception for James Cameron‘s “Aliens” (1986) proved the reverse of that for “Alien,” with more love at the Oscars than with BAFTA.

On Oscar nominations morning, “Aliens” woke up to recognition in seven categories – Best Actress (Weaver), Best Art Direction, Best Film Editing, Best Original Score, Best Sound, Best Sound Effects Editing and Best Visual Effects – and scored two victories, in Sound Effects Editing and Visual Effects, on the big night. “Platoon” grabbed the honors in Film Editing and Sound; “A Room with a View” was triumphant in Art Direction; and “‘Round Midnight” was the big winner in Original Score. Weaver, on her first Oscar nomination, fell short to Marlee Matlin (“Children of a Lesser God”). At BAFTA, “Aliens” was the recipient of four nominations – in Best Makeup, Best Production Design, Best Sound and Best Visual Effects, the last of which it won. Weaver was not recognized for her performance.

Six years after the success of Cameron’s “Aliens,” David Fincher‘s “Alien 3” (1992) hit theaters to a lackluster response from critics and audiences alike. Nonetheless, the picture was able to land Oscar and BAFTA nominations, in Best Visual Effects. The film lost to outlandish horror comedy “Death Becomes Her” at both ceremonies.

The series’ fourth entry, “Alien: Resurrection,” while universally deemed a flop, did not fare significantly worse than the third picture. Nonetheless, it was not present at the Oscars or BAFTA. Ultimately, it would take the return of the franchise’s first filmmaker to bring the series back into the awards conversation.

Scott’s “Prometheus” (2012) was far more warmly received, by critics and at the box office, than the franchise’s third and fourth entries. Nonetheless, it would only match “Alien 3” in awards season performance, netting the same Best Visual Effects nominations at the Oscars and BAFTA. The film fell short to awards favorite “Life of Pi” at both.

Given both the franchise’s Oscar history and Scott’s proven ability to land nominations for his pictures, “Alien: Covenant” will no doubt be on, at the very least, Best Visual Effects shortlists come film awards season.

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