Two hundred years after Lt. Ripley died, a group of scientists clone her, hoping to breed the ultimate weapon. But the new Ripley is full of surprises … as are the new aliens. Ripley must team with a band of smugglers to keep the creatures from reaching Earth.
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(”Alien Resurrection” is briefly mentioned in this.)
With its stunning H. R. Giger designs and first-rate cast, Ridley Scott’s classic Alien (1979) is imaginative, visually striking, immensely atmospheric, and sometimes just plain terrifying. Together with its worthy but very different sequel, James Cameron’s Aliens (1986), it spawned a vast pop-culture “franchise” (which is Hollywood-speak for a mythos) including two unworthy sequels, Alien 3 and Alien: Resurrection, plus two Z-grade Alien vs. Predator movies, plus scores of often excellent Aliens comics and novels (yes, I read a slew of them in the ’90s), and now Ridley Scott’s prequel Prometheus.
Prometheus is a visually dazzling movie (particularly in 3-D), but it is very disappointing on every other level.
On the most superficial level, it was so gross that I was reduced to dry heaves at one point – which I why I don’t feel any compunction about “spoiling” the plot, such as it is. So consider yourself warned.
The deepest disappointment is that Prometheus severs the tap root that has nourished the vast and ramifying Alien cosmos: mystery. In Alien, the beacon, the crashed ship, the “space jockey,” and the aliens themselves are all deeply mysterious. But it is not an unpleasant mystery, crying out for answers. Indeed, the mystery is part of the fun. It contributes to the atmosphere. This is why Alien is essentially a supernatural, haunted-house thriller, despite the sci-fi trappings.
Unfortunately, these trappings have invited the “there’s got to be a rational explanation for this” people to chime in and try to explain the mystery away. And, to make matters worse, these vulgarians are so cynical that their rational explanation is completely incoherent. But they are apparently counting on special effects to sufficiently stupefy their audience — if they are not already stupid enough — so that nobody will ask questions.
We learn in Prometheus that the space-jockeys are just giant humanoids under their mysterious exoskeleton-like suits and helmets.
We learn that they came to Earth, apparently billions of years ago, and seeded it with life when one of them drank a dark liquid which caused him to dismember and dissolve into a lake. Yet somehow, his scattered DNA became our DNA, apparently skipping a few million generations of what we know as evolution.
Yes, a dismembered giant is part of the Norse creation myth. But don’t get too excited: there are a lot of myths alluded to in this movie, but they are there merely to gild its vacuous plot, like the iridescent sheen of a soap bubble wrapped around a void.
Oddly enough, although the space jockeys’ only connection to us is DNA, ancient peoples somehow had memories of them, which they expressed in their art, giving us a map to the planet from whence they came. (But wait, it turns out to be not the planet from which they came billions of years ago, but a planet where they established a bio-weapons facility operating only a couple thousand years ago.)
I know, it is just a farrago of ancient astronaut lore, but it is put forward as post-religious, pseudo-scientific substitute for creation myths to explain how we got here. (But who created the space gods?)
In 2089, two archaeologists, Elizabeth Shaw (played by Noomi Rapace, the original Swedish Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, looking here like a young Jennifer Saunders) and Charlie Holloway (Logan Marshall-Green), find a 35,000-year-old star map in Scotland. They convince aged and ailing trillionaire Peter Weyland to fund a space mission to the planet that appears on the star map, where they claim we will find the “Engineers” of life on Earth. Weyland funds the mission, hoping that our makers will restore his health (!).
Why did Scott cast the young and handsome Guy Pearce as Weyland, under loads of fake-looking makeup and prosthetics, rather than just hire a genuine old man? It is not like the role, which is hardly more than a bit part, required special acting abilities, or that Pearce even has such abilities. Hell, the CGI department could have whipped up a more plausible performance.
Five years later, the spaceship Prometheus arrives at a small moon orbiting a larger planet. They set down near some domed cyclopean structures that resemble the weathered stumps of immense rugose cones. The scientists enter the structures and find a decapitated space jockey. Elizabeth Shaw and one of the extras take his well-preserved head back to the ship to examine it. For no apparent reason, the head oozes and explodes just like the original space jockey who seeded Earth. DNA analysis proves that he is human.
Meanwhile, David, a rather fey, blonde, and treacherous android played by Michael Fassbender (just like the treacherous android in Alien played by Ian Holm), has spirited away one of the many cylinders found near the dead space jockey, cylinders that for no apparent reason begin to ooze a black liquid. For no apparent reason, David puts a bit of the black ooze in a drink and offers it to Charlie Holloway, who for no apparent reason is drunk and despondent after making the greatest discovery in human history. Charlie then has sex with Elizabeth, who is sterile, so there is no need of a space condom. Post coitus, Charlie starts feeling ill.
The next day, the team returns to the domed structure to find one of the members they left behind dead and the other missing. David goes off on his own and finds the bridge of a buried spaceship. He activates the navigation program. Then he finds a living space jockey in stasis. It it is the most visually stunning sequence in the film.
Charlie is now quite ill and mutating. Ice queen Meredith Vickers (Charlize Theron) refuses to let him back on the ship and then sets him on fire at Charlie’s urging. (In Prometheus, all the really evil characters are blonde.)
Elizabeth apparently passes out. When she wakes up, David explains that she is quite pregnant with a rather unusual fetus. She wants an abortion, but David sedates her and tells her they will put her back in suspended animation. Elizabeth escapes and climbs into a surgery machine, cuts her stomach open, and extracts a kind of writhing cephalopod. A few abdominal staples later, she is on her feet and back in action, albeit in her underwear and covered with gore. (Eat light before viewing, and you can enjoy dry heaves like I did.)
We learn that Mr. Weyland is on board. He is awakened from suspended animation in order to meet the Engineer. In case you are wondering what these stupid and venal white people (and their white android) have gotten themselves into, the crusty but big-hearted black ship’s captain explains it all: this is not the home world of the space jockeys. This is a facility where they developed biological weapons of mass destruction. Their weapons, however, got out of hand and destroyed them (ho hum).
Later we learn from David that the weapons were meant to destroy Earth. It seems that, for no apparent reason, our creators had a change of heart and decided to destroy the planet.
Elizabeth urges the captain not to allow these weapons to get off the planet, no matter what. The captain agrees.
Still feeling the staples, Elizabeth suits up and accompanies David, Weyland, and some others to the ship to awaken the space jockey. David assures them that he has deconstructed the ancient languages of the world to a root tongue that is presumably the language of the space jockeys. How this is possible, given that their only apparent contribution to Earth is DNA, is not explained.
They awaken the space jockey. David says “kalifee” or some such. But apparently that is not an acceptable greeting, so, for no apparent reason, the space jockey rips David’s head off, then kills Weyland and some of the others. Elizabeth, despite some cramps and oozing about the staples, manages to escape.
As she runs back to the Prometheus, the space jockey activates his ship and begins to take off. Elizabeth tells the black captain to stop him, and he nobly immolates himself and his crew to save humanity by crashing the Prometheus into the departing alien craft. The ice queen Meredith Vickers has ejected her quarters (complete with surgical bay) from the Prometheus, but she is crushed by the falling alien craft. (This is probably her karmic retribution for having sex with the black captain.) David, who just keeps talking even after his head has been ripped off his shoulders, and the space jockey both survive the crash. Elizabeth takes refuge in Meredith’s quarters.
David, for no apparent reason, informs her that the space jockey, for no apparent reason, is on his way to get her. How a severed head could ascertain his destination and intent is not explained. Perhaps he read it in the script. When the space jockey attacks, Elizabeth opens the door to the surgical bay, and her unwanted fetus with the tentacles, now grown horribly large, overwhelms the space jockey and sends a tube down his throat, implanting an alien embryo.
It is a rather complex reproductive cycle.
Elizabeth rescues the now nice David (both parts of him). He tells her there are other alien craft, and he can pilot them. Elizabeth sets up a warning beacon to keep people away and then leaves in search of the space jockey home world. She wants to find out why they chose to destroy humanity, and she apparently thinks they will tell her (before they destroy her).
At this point, we expect that the space jockey with the alien inside him will trudge back to his ship, put his uniform back on, climb back into his chair, and then the alien will burst from his chest, which is how he is found in the original Alien movie. But that would make too much sense, so it doesn’t happen.
As the credits rolled, I took off my 3-D glasses and rubbed by eyes in disbelief, trying to fathom the vulgarity of spirit behind this godawful movie. It is the same vulgarity of spirit that took the mysteries of Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) and gave us Peter Hyam’s sequel 2010 (1984), where the monoliths work to prevent nuclear war. It is the same vulgarity of spirit that took “the Force” of the original Star Wars trilogy and explained it in terms of little measurable material widgets called “midichlorians” in The Phantom Menace (1999). It is the same vulgarity of spirit that took the mysteries of Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds (1963) and gave us Rick Rosenthal’s made-for-TV sequel The Birds II: Land’s End (1994), in which we are informed that the bird attacks are due to pollution.
Heidegger tells us that this vulgarization is the essence of modernity, which seeks to abolish all mystery and transcendence, replacing them with the transparent and available, which in cultural terms boils down to the vulgar and the trite.
But some of us are more modern than others, and it all fell into place when I spied the name of screenwriter Damon Lindelof, one of the principal culprits behind Lost, the longest, most cynical Jewish jerk-job in television history. Lost was masterful in sucking people in by layering mystery upon mystery, including elements of religion, myth, and science fiction. But it was ultimately arbitrary and incoherent, revealing a bottomless contempt for its audience. All of these elements were chosen merely for effect, without concern for coherence and meaning, without the slightest suggestion that they could be taken seriously, that they mean anything important, that they are anything more than boob bait. Prometheus is the same kind of portentous swindle: just Jews making millions peddling myths for morons.
Don’t lose your money, or your lunch, at Prometheus.
(”Alien Resurrection” is briefly mentioned in this.)
It is often said of Ridley Scott's films that they are visually appealing but intellectually dull, and I agree with this claim. If Scott meant anything deeper than a pretty standard Monster in Space haunted horror flick then it is the repetition of themes regarding sex, birth, penetration and pregnancy. The head of the Alien is phallic, the ship AI is called ''Mother'' the Alien impregnates a man, the crew are ''born'' at the start etc etc. Nevertheless, seen from a strictly racist perspective Alien has far more to offer. There is only one non white in the crew but for the sake of this piece it doesn't really matter, the Alien itself is the non white immigrant and its invasive nature within a confined living space.
The reason the crew venture onto the Alien planet is because, being open hearted, they feel compelled to respond to a distress signal emanating from the planet's surface. Soon after landing they discover a large structure containing eggs, one of the eggs hatches and a parasitic spider type creature attaches itself to one of the crew named ''Kane''. This is where parallels, which I have no doubt would mortify Ridley Scott, begin to appear.
Firstly, and leaving aside the feminist trope of having a female lead, Ripley (Sigourney Weaver) quite correctly refuses to allow an obviously Alien menace aboard the ship, however, against her express wishes the rather cold and aloof ''Ash'' opens up the hatch and the parasite, attached to Kane's face, enters the living space and sanctuary of the crew. As it happens the unfortunate Kane has been used as the human embodiment of an NHS maternity ward. The Alien parasite swiftly bursts through his chest cavity and escapes into the main ship, at first this illegal immigrant is small, about the size of a rat. It is interesting to note that the Alien is entirely parasitic in nature, even its life cycle is dependent upon other life forms, the Alien, like a Somalian or Afghani in Europe, does absolutely nothing but destroy and kill.
To begin with Ripley is the only crew member who seems to view this bizarre state of affairs with much alarm, for the main the crew come across as idiots and liberals, but the Alien is growing at an exponential rate and even the annoyingly dopey staff begin to sound the alarm when their mates start turning up dead. The cold and distant Ash who let the creature in expresses his admiration for the monster, it is ''pure'' and unsullied with morality and pretensions. Ash, it is revealed, is actually a robot, and furthermore, he has been programmed by a mysterious and seemingly all powerful Multinational called ''Yutani''. In an all to familiar example of elite betrayal,Yutani wanted the Alien on the ship, even the distress signal was a scam, accessing the ship's computer system reveals that this horror show wasn't incompetence or a malfunction, it was intentional, the crew were ''expendable'' the Alien immigrant was the real prize. Ash was the robot Liberal they programmed to make sure their lucrative prize was given sanctuary on the ship. Ridley Scott may not have intended his film to be viewed through such a racialist prism, however, there are only so many possible variations on a theme of introducing a hostile Alien entity into the confined living space of another group, this holds true whether we are talking about Pakistanis being introduced into England or the rat and stoat into New Zealand. It can result in: 1. The destruction or flight of the native group. 2. The rejection and or destruction of the invader. 3. The hybridization of the two groups. What Scott certainly did intend was to layer his film with sexual undertones and here again parallels can be seen. The rather shy and mouse like crew member ''Lambert'' is cornered by the Alien and instead of using the protruding jaw through skull technique which the Alien deploys against the men, this time its harpoon like tail edges between Lambert's legs, the implication being that the Alien is going to rape Lambert.
Eventually, and as the sole survivor, Ripley makes the same decision that millions of other whites have made in response to the ''enrichment'' by fleeing, White Flighting into the emergency shuttle, Ripley plans to launch herself into space and self destruct the ship with the Alien on board. The ship does explode and Ripley does escape to the leafy shires of the shuttle but, of course, the Alien menace has stowed itself away and now the living space is drastically reduced. In a clever display of audience manipulation, and returning to his themes of sex, Scott has Ripley wearing extraordinarily scanty underwear which is obviously several sizes to small, thereby ratcheting up still further the vulnerable to rape by an outsider motif. But in the end this is Hollywood, and the evil Multinational and the Alien WMD they covet are defeated. The tagline to Alien was ''In Space nobody can hear you scream'' that holds equally true if you're a 14 year old white girl in Alien infested parts of Europe.
'Alien: Covenant' Temporarily Breathes New Life Into Choking Alien Franchise
(”Alien Resurrection” is briefly mentioned in this.)
There’s life in the old xenomorph yet: “Alien: Covenant” is the sixth (or eighth, depending on how you’re counting) entry in the franchise that exported systematic elimination, haunted houses, and body horror into deep space.
The series has a long if mixed pedigree. The wordless trailer of the original “Alien” (1979) remains a lesson for today’s studios about the value of not oversharing. It doesn’t even show the big creature, while the movie itself cannily shows it at angles and in shadow, never all at once, to better preserve the terror. These days the original may seem a little slow starting, but when it clamps down, it’s nerve-wracking to the end and a thrill-ride for both horror and science fiction fans.
Director James Cameron is easy to dislike, but the rambunctious fighting sequel “Aliens” (1986) was pretty close to perfect, and the alien queen was excellent nightmare fuel. Those first two movies featuring Sigourney Weaver as the female action hero were tough acts to follow. Both have near-perfect ratings on the review aggregation site Rotten Tomatoes.
Let’s Put This Film in Context
Among the dozens of people who liked “Alien 3” (1992), the longer unofficial cut is well-regarded, actually making the religious references in the official release seem less half-baked. But “Alien Resurrection” (1997) was a failed experiment from a French director, featuring a mic-cast Winona Ryder and too much Scooby-Dooing down hallways. The less said about the pair of “Alien vs. Predator” movies of the early 2000s, the better.
Scott’s 2012 return to the Alien universe via the big-themed “Prometheus” (2012) was confident—perhaps overconfident, with confounding mumbo-jumbo interspersed with some striking scenes and cinematography. It even found a nasty if ultimately dead-end groove for a (literally) riveting 15 minutes’ worth of shock value. But the movie couldn’t bring the built-in audience along, which demanded fewer bull sessions and more chest-bursting, or back-bursting, as the case may be. Instead we got an occult, Erich Von Daniken tale of visitations to Earth by a race known as The Engineers, who left invitations to follow them into the stars via pictographs.
“Prometheus’s” failure is hard to pin down, but real: The windy philosophizing, the lack of “proper” xenomorphs, Guy Pearce in awful old-man makeup, and most notorious, the shot of that familiar horseshoe-shaped spaceship slowly toppling and eventually splatting a major character who doesn’t bother to get out of the narrow path of danger. Perhaps by that time the movie had already sapped the audience’s suspension of disbelief.
Worse, it felt like a dismissal of the “Alien” gestalt, from “Who’s there?” to “Where did we come from?” And I won’t pretend to understand the genetic consequences of the “black goo”—the stuff humans unwittingly ingest that can lead to fatal backaches. The lifecycles of the differing xenomorphs (given nicknames like the Deacon and the Trilobite by fans) also wash over me. So, let’s stick to basics.
That All Brings Us to ‘Covenant’
“Covenant” is set in the year 2104, 10 years after “Prometheus.” Covenant is a colony ship carrying more than a dozen crew and a couple thousand citizens and embryos in hypersleep, bound for a promising-looking planet for terraforming, Origae-6.
After a philosophical beginning with David playing the piano for his human creator, the familiar franchise drumbeats begin to sound. A colony ship intercepts an ambivalent signal and goes down to investigate a strange, quite habitable planet. Only crewmate Daniels (Katherine Waterston) thinks it’s too good to be true, and tries to convince newly installed captain Oram (Billy Crudup). Needless to say, she fails and is proven correct.
The crew is paired off into married couples, which provides some poignancy to the inevitable line of fatalities to follow. Still, it’s a challenge to retain emotional involvement in a constant cast of characters who wander away from the group and promptly get themselves killed.
Scott acceded to the critics of “Prometheus,” and all the old favorites are back. There’s the tall one with the elongated noggin and extra set of teeth, the famous chest-burster, and the one who started the life-cycle, the face-hugger. Pro tip: if someone asks you to peer down into a blooming alien egg, it’s a trap!
About 15 minutes in, you’ll pretty much know who will be the ones still running in the final reel, and even when Scott delivers a twist or two, you will see them coming. Still, Scott’s craftmanship and experience will engage you. “Covenant” ties up some loose ends from “Prometheus” in grimly satisfying fashion, while putting off the big questions, presumably for the sequels to these prequels.
“Covenant” wisely indulges in the original biomechanical visions of creature designer H.R. Giger, the late Swiss artist, and Scott gets plenty out of the typical underlit palette, heightening the psychological terror. When your only tool is a flamethrower, everything looks like an alien head.
Oddly, the subject of the alien itself rarely comes up in the dialogue, with few references to or curiosity about the creature’s origin. This version of the classic monster, while suitably scary, also comes off a touch mindless and ruthless, not the crafty killing machine stalking the poor crew of the Nostromo ship of the original movie.
Trapped In a Dead End
Danny McBride is a corny pleasure as a country-fried space jockey, but Michael Fassbender is “Covenant’s” star acting attraction in a duel role, as the enigmatic droid David, who barely survived “Prometheus,” and Walter, an updated version of the droid. Fassbender somehow makes riveting a rather long scene of David teaching Walter to play the recorder.
Unraveling the origins of the fascinating title creature, to make it comprehensible, risks making the xenomorph less primal and scary.
But it’s unclear where the franchise can go from here. Judging by the so-so box office and ho-hum reviews of “Covenant” (and “Prometheus” before it) there are diminishing returns of humans being chased through dark interstellar halls. Set it on Earth and lay out the alien mythology via Giger-esque iconography? Those two unloved “Aliens vs. Predator” movies kind of did that already.
Director Scott is unflagging at 79 and planning two more prequels. Let’s hope he’s around to make them both. Scott insisted of his 1979 film: “It has absolutely no message. It works on a very visceral level and its only point is terror, and more terror.” Perhaps age and experience has made the director more philosophical, but this wonderfully scary monster franchise is a strange container to fill with ruminations on human existence.
Unraveling the origins of the fascinating title creature, to make it comprehensible, risks making the xenomorph less primal and scary—less, shall we say, Alien—much like the Hulk movies drained the drama by explaining in scientific detail just why The Hulk got green and angry. It risks reducing the elemental, horrific strangeness of the xenomorphs to a series of science projects gone awry. Horror fans enjoy the thrill of scary things they don’t understand. It’s always a little disappointing when you learn how the trick is done.
Ridley Scott's 'Alien: Covenant' Is His Worst Film Yet
(”Alien Resurrection” is briefly mentioned in this.)
Major spoilers below.
“Alien: Covenant” is an offensively stupid piece of filmmaking from a director who should know better. Maybe it’s senility; maybe Ridley Scott has just lost his fastball. More likely, it’s the screenwriters’ fault (all six of them). By trying to tie together “Prometheus” and “Alien,” while also attempting to ask “big questions” and create a successful horror-thriller, they created a train wreck.
Any Ridley Scott movie must be compared to his classic “Alien.” “Covenant” falls short in every category. “Alien” succeeded due to a small, strongly defined cast of characters, a well-established location, and an antagonist whose perspective was never seen, thus making its appearances a shock to both characters and audience.
The problems with “Covenant” began with its marketing campaign, a flaw “Prometheus” shared. Both movies released whole scenes to act as trailers in the lead-up. “Prometheus” had a TED talk scene with Guy Pearce’s Weyland that helped set the stage for the film’s events. It wasn’t crucial, but helped fill in gaps. Covenant’s “Last Supper” scene, however, is crucial. If included in the actual film, it would have been one of three scenes to include the entire cast, and it’s the only scene to clearly establish all the characters’ couplings. The scene’s removal robbed the film of one of its most important moments.
To truly dig into the failures of “Covenant,” a spoiler warning is necessary. I’ll try to put all the major spoilers towards the end of the piece, but if you intend to see the movie, do yourself a favor and read this after. You can tell me whether you agree with me or no in the comments.
‘Covenant’ Tries—And Fails—To Be Profound
The movie opens with Weyland (Guy Pearce), last seen dying in “Prometheus,” hidden by old-age makeup and addressing his creation, the android David, played by Michael Fassbender.
Here the movie quickly recaps the entire theme of “Prometheus”: “Where do we come from? Who created us, and why?” Weyland gives David his mandate of discovering that answer.
Biblical allusions are thrown around frequently in this movie, but these deep thoughts tend to be laid on too thick. When Weyland asks David to choose a name for himself, he stares at a statue of David and chooses it as his namesake. If David the Android is David, then Humanity is both his Goliath and (you’ll see…) his stone.
The movie then jumps to Walter (also played by Michael Fassbender) playing a newer model of David, roaming a colonization ship.
It’s a credit to Fassbender that both David and Walter are played uniquely. With the David-Walter relationship, it’s clear that Scott and his screenwriters are interested in the question of “What is human and what does it mean to create?” But those are themes Ridley would have been better off exploring in the “Blade Runner” sequel (you get the feeling he regrets giving that away).
Unlike ‘Alien,’ We Feel No Connection To The Characters
The movie quickly dispenses of (blink and you’ll miss him) James Franco. It’s here that the removal of the ‘Last Supper’ scene really hurts. Without knowing anything about these characters upfront, they’re all entirely disposable. The killing begins before a line of dialogue is even exchanged.
In “Alien,” you spend time with all the characters before they start dropping dead. It helps that they’re all played by solid character actors: Yaphet Kotto and Harry Dean Stanton as the epitome of blue collar truckers are classic. When they die, it sucks because you actually like them.
Here, Danny McBride’s Tennessee is the only character who’s given any life, which is more McBride’s doing than the script’s. The rest of the non-Fassbender cast are utterly unmemorable.
With “Alien,” there’s a buildup before people start dying. But in “Covenant,” unnamed Character #5 is quickly infected upon landing on the planet. The rest follows a pretty obvious path. You see alien spores enter the ear of Character #5, and enter his brain. When he gets sick and a white CGI alien bursts out of his back, it’s expected, and thus underwhelming.
Upon David’s re-introduction, all those deep thoughts are brought to the fore. He talks of Ozymandias, how Walter can’t create, and generally waxes poetic. He teaches Walter to play a flute in a Fassbender-seducing-Fassbender scene, which is meant to be taken very seriously, but comes across as unintentionally hysterical. By the time Fassbender sinisterly kisses himself, there’s absolutely nothing left to take seriously.
This Film Doesn’t Build Mystery, It Destroys It
A white alien comes back to wreak terror, but since the audience sees it entering the building, there’s zero surprise when it kills its next victim. It sucks all the tension out of the scene. This is a point of contrast with “Alien,” a movie that never showed you the Alien’s point of view. It was always an unknown.
What follows is the first “big reveal”: David infected the planet and created the aliens. The white alien obeys David, and they have a downright funny father-child moment before Crudup guns it down. We’ve seen this dynamic before with Ripley and the weird humanoid alien in “Alien: Resurrection.” It was ridiculous then, and it begs the question: did none of those involved see that movie and recognize its errors?
The movie pushes on to a question no one wanted answered. Where did the Xenomorph, the original alien from “Alien,” come from? Well, David, of course.
The stone David launches at his Goliath, mankind, is the xenomorph egg. Once again, a scene meant to evoke tension and horror is undermined by the setup. The audience knows what’s in the egg, and Crudup’s character has already seen that David created the alien that he just killed.
There’s Nothing Amazing, Or Even That Scary
When David tells him, “Just take a peek inside, it’s safe,” everyone knows where it’s going. And as with every scene meant to invoke terror in this movie, it results in laughs. The chestburster pops out, looks to David and mimics him. The movie has more in common with “Spaceballs” than anything else.
The film finishes with generic action scenes—including a Fassbender vs. Fassbender hand-to-hand fight, a scene where Daniels fights the Xenomorph while attached to a cable on top of a flying ship, and then a five-minute Cliff Notes version of the Ripley vs. Alien sequence from the original.
On a whole, the film is generally well shot. The ship designs and sets are cool. Fassbender puts on a master class, even though he’s saddled with some of the more ridiculous scenes.
If this were a generic action movie, and its director didn’t have the resume he does, it would be utterly fine and unmemorable. But “Covenant” tells you time and again to take it seriously—even though it fails over and over at giving you a reason to.
Will Ridley Scott Jeopardize His Legacy With This Film?
Many like to say that George Lucas retroactively hurt the original “Star Wars” movies with his prequels. This doesn’t really hold up (especially when one looks at the Payne argument for Episode III), since by the end everything squares up. Even if Anakin’s a whiny kid, he still becomes a guy who’s willing to murder a room full of whiny kids.
With “Alien: Covenant,” however, Ridley Scott reframes “Alien” as Man vs. Android. He changes the antagonist. It doesn’t ruin “Alien”—you can still watch that movie and forget everything else. But in today’s cinematic landscape, where every universe is shared and all must have an origin, it leaves a yearning for a time when films left mystery intact. Because otherwise, we end up with something that looks more like a parody than the thing that used to give you nightmares.
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