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Alien: Covenant

More like ALIEN: LOVIN’INT, am I right?

I don’t know.

Hello everyone. I don’t think it would be appropriate to discuss the sequel that Ridley Scott decided to make to PROMETHEUS until we first bow our heads in a moment of silence for the completely insane one we imagined when PROMETHEUS ended with Shaw in a stolen Engineer ship carrying a severed robot head on an impossible mission to stick her foot up the ass of the Space Jockeys on their home turf.

PROMETHEUS 2
b.
June 8, 2012 – d. May 19, 2017

R.I.P. the way better movie in our minds. Gone too soon. Sleep well my sweet baby prince.

Instead of that legendary greatness we have something pretty good: ALIEN: COVENANT, a hybrid between what-people-expect-in-an-ALIEN-sequel and weirdo-philosophizing-PROMETHEUS-shit. Scott, with returning cinematographer Darius Wolski (CRIMSON TIDE, DARK CITY), gives us another gorgeous-looking sci-fi horror, this time with a script by John Logan (THE LAST SAMURAI) and Dante Harper that’s not as outwardly dunderheaded as PROMETHEUS at its worst, though not as imaginative as it at its best. It starts out with circa 1979 pacing (very effective) but eventually throws a modern amount of frantic action at the screen (pretty enjoyable too).

(WARNING: spoiler-heavy analysis ahead)

In many of the plot points it’s a rehash of ALIEN. Another spaceship crew wakes up out of cryosleep and another intercepted signal draws them into another uncharted planet to find another location with another archaeological mystery that gets them infected by another alien they need to blow out another airlock. I like the irony that it’s the same type of derelict spacecraft as in ALIEN but a human sent the message from it.

The major characters of the crew are acting captain Oram (Billy Crudup, JESUS’ SON), second-in-command terraforming expert Daniels (Katherine Waterston, INHERENT VICE) and cowboy-hat-wearing pilot Tennessee (Danny McBride, THE FOOT FIST WAY). Also you got Carmen Ejogo (ALEX CROSS), Jussie Smollett (Empire), Demian Bichir (SAVAGES) and some other people playing characters we don’t really get to know very well. Most of the focus is on the synthetic (robot) David (Michael Fassbender, THE COUNSELOR), who they find living a Dr. Moreau lifestyle on this planet, and the ship’s identical looking robot Walter (Michael Fassbender, STEVE JOBS). As is traditional in movies where an actor plays a dual role, I will point out that this should star Jean-Claude Van Damme, but Fassbender does well too.

Eventually there are monsters and sloppy, slimy, cringe-inducing grossness. PROMETHEUS avoided the classic ALIEN creature now called the xenomorph, though it birthed a similar creature at the very end. So this is Scott’s first time revisiting the eggs, the facehuggers and the Giger design. Keep in mind he’s doing this in a pop culture that blurs the lines between his xenomorph – a very tall man in a costume, standing upright – and the more elaborately animalistic versions in every subsequent sequel, comic book and toy. He’s going back to his creation but he must feel pressure to use what the other dudes did that he had nothing to do with.

So his aliens sometimes stand up straight, but then they leap and run around on all fours and shit. He chose not to go back to the haunted house, hiding in the shadows type scares, or noticeable rubber suits. He has very sophisticated animated or motion capture beasties running all over the place. If we don’t get a good look at them it’s because they’re moving so fast, not because they’re hiding. The original design is so iconic now I don’t think we can ever get back to the fear of the unknown that they once represented, but these vividly detailed effects are at least a new way to be threatened by them.

Scott also knows to give us fresh variations like the “neomorphs” that populate the planet – white SILENT HILLy versions that kinda act like monkeys (a nod to their place in the evolution, I think). And the greatest monster movie moments of COVENANT are the different types of babies bursting out of different parts of bodies. One spills out onto the floor and when it stands up it’s like a pile of wet meat got the idea it was Bambi. Another is the classic chestburster alien except we can see through his skin to his veins and muscles and skeleton and he moves so realistically and then he sees David and he mimics his posture. I don’t know if that’s like man being created in God’s image or like a son learning from his father or just some random weird shit for a monster to do. And I like not knowing. Ambiguity and mystery were important to ALIEN. We need new space jockeys.

PROMETHEUS was definitely trying to say something about religion. It makes a big deal out of Shaw’s faith – she treasures her crucifix necklace, and seems to defiantly believe in God even after she met him and he went on an angry rampage. Overall it seems to me like it’s showing faith as a foolish thing, mankind’s folly, except that I like Shaw, I’m rooting for her to survive, so it seems like normally I should be expected to agree with her point-of-view? It’s odd.

COVENANT brings spirituality up again and I feel like I understand it even less this time. Oram keeps explicitly talking about being a man of faith. But I guess he’s deliberately not acting on his beliefs – he says that religious people in this job get labeled extremists, and then he forbids the crew from having a funeral (and gets pissed when they do). He rubs everyone the wrong way with his coldly disciplined dedication to protocol and taking all the necessary steps… until the crew’s excitement convinces him to take a short cut and set up shop on this nearby planet instead of the one they planned on that’s 7 years away.

I don’t know if it’s intentional or not, this uncomfortable mental whiplash of a character who it seems like you’re not supposed to like but he would’ve saved everybody’s lives if he kept doing the things that made him unlikable. He makes the decision primarily out of sympathy for the crew not wanting to get back in the stasis pods which have recently malfunctioned. He’s stopped being an asshole all the sudden and that’s what’s doomed them. So the moral feels heavy-handed and unclear at the same time.

Scott elaborates on his theme of creation. If I have it right, the Engineers created man, man created robots, one particular robot (who in my opinion can stick it) created the xenomorph as we know it. (I honestly didn’t see that one coming.) Walter, as a newer model than David, cannot create, because David taught the company the lesson that it’s dangerous to let robots think for themselves. Walter can play famous pieces of music, David can too but also composes an original tune on his recorder. (Or he says it’s original, but it’s actually the theme to PROMETHEUS!)

If he weren’t a plagiarist then maybe robots would be pulling ahead of humans in the arts. I don’t think our guys are creating anything new. The crew remembers a John Denver song, and they listen to something (by Norwegian singer AURORA?) that sounds suspiciously like normal, boring 2017 music. These two citizens of 2104 are getting it on in the shower and turn on what must be their equivalent of Scott Joplin or Al Jolson.

I don’t know if that’s why, but David is pretty much done with the humans. And he gets really into quoting the Percy Shelley poem “Ozymandias,” particularly “Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!” Of course I looked up the poem, which contrasts the Egyptian Pharaoh’s boast with the ruins of his empire buried in sand. Shelley’s “shattered visage… whose frown, And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command, Tell that its sculptor well those passions read” could be describing the temple of the Engineers or other ruins discovered in other ALIEN movies. But as David mocks the hubris of those who came before him, is he really oblivious to his own? He’s fucking calling himself Ozymandias, fer chrissakes. He must notice.

I admire the audacity of the brief between-movies flashback where David ALIEN3s the entire race of Engineers. There are so many different ways to look at it. For one thing it’s a “fuck you, dad.” You think you’re hot shit for creating me, Weyland, well I’ll kill you and your creator. In another sense it’s a cautionary tale. The Engineers engineered man, man made synthetics, a synthetic killed the Engineers with their own weapons. So it could be David getting back at his creator by killing his creator’s creator, or it could be David’s creator getting back at David’s creator’s creator through David. Man bite God.

But I think this time Scott’s primary theme is coupling. It was explicitly stated in the trailer (but cut out of the movie) that the crew are all couples. The ship and movie are perhaps named after the covenant of marriage. These people are heading out to terraform and colonize Origae-6 with two thousand frozen neighbors and one thousand embryos (one free baby per couple). So they’re basically all moving out to the suburbs – getting married, buying a house and having kids. Daniels’ dream is to live in a log cabin – I wish Scott had made her wish for a white picket fence, but we can’t have everything.

Contrasted against this frozen dinner of the American dream is David, who claims to have loved the late Dr. Elizabeth Shaw (Noomi Rapace [DEAD MAN DOWN] in a dead body cameo), but had a funny way of showing it. I think it’s fair to say that David intentionally infecting people with his stolen pathogens and engineered Alien eggs is his way of fucking everything that moves. Two times he kisses somebody before trying to kill them. And he refers to the people impregnated by his facehuggers as mothers. Baby mamas, basically. He wants to fuck around and make monsters. He’s not ready to settle down.

I think, like his squooshed sister Meredith Vickers, David is still a little messed up from how his rich prick daddy treated him. The younger Weyland (Guy Pearce, LOCKOUT aka SPACE TAKEN) appears in a prologue in which he tests David’s knowledge of the arts and piano-playing talents, talks of their future together and allows him to name himself, but then gets threatened by his independence and puts him in his place by demanding he walk across the room to pour him tea.

So what to make of Walter? He’s like David’s square brother with his comically dorky American accent and intentionally conformist programming. He may be an indictment of the colonists’ way of life. They would’ve been in a planned community, not thinking for themselves, not creating art. Except they don’t really strike me as that type. They’re brave and capable soldiers exploring the frontier. It’s actually their spontaneity that does them in. Maybe they should be more like Walter.

The two robots call each other brothers, and Walter’s expression when he first sees David is like a kid in awe of his big brother. David insists that Walter is in love with Daniels. Walter denies that he’s capable of such a thing, and maybe David is projecting, because his lady was also the short-haired female lead of an ALIEN prequel.

Just like Oram (or BLADE RUNNER‘s Roy Batty, for that matter), David is the asshole in this situation, but also the correct one. They should be able to think for themselves, they should be able to love, it would be cool to be able to create music instead of just follow instructions. And yet we definitely root for Walter to kick David’s ass (there was actual applause in an audience that I was convinced was bored during most of the movie).

By the way, it’s kind of weird to suddenly learn that the synthetics can do a little bit of martial arts. Here’s a picture of fight coordinator Chan Griffin. He also choreographed a sequence for this Bollywood movie people have been telling me I have to see, BAHUBALI 2.


Having just seen this once, but PROMETHEUS three times, with a few years to ruminate about it, I have mixed feelings about which is better. On one hand, the crew in COVENANT is not as dumb as the one in PROMETHEUS, and the screenplay doesn’t ask you to forgive as much. On the other hand, PROMETHEUS felt more new and fresh with its Engineers and the introduction of the character of David and its more varied monster types. COVENANT challenges the audience with some weird stretches but hews a little closer to the traditional ALIEN-based template. Its monsters are kind of cooler, but they’re all remixes of the Giger design, and the cool Engineers are only briefly seen as some dudes in robes. Taking us from Giger’s enigmatic elephant-faced skeleton giants to just some slightly alien druid dudes in a stone temple is a criminal downgrade.

So the tie breaker is the fact that, though there are many strong sequences in COVENANT, not a one can hold a candle to Shaw’s self-surgery scene. PROMETHEUS wins.

Waterston is very good, and Daniels is a strong and capable character who stands her ground as a leader and kicks ass in the film’s best action set piece. But she doesn’t have much to distinguish her from just being the Ripley substitute, and (like most characters in most movies) lacks the depth of Ripley. That’s not a fair comparison, but I do think it’s legitimate to say that I missed Shaw, who gets ALIEN3d despite being a more interesting character in her oddness and what she’d been through. I also found Daniels less interesting than Charlize Theron’s Vickers, who was cold but often correct, tragic in that her father neglected her in favor of a fucking robot, and unpredictably flawed in that when the others decide to give their lives to save humanity she, without hesitation, makes a run for it!

I wish COVENANT had more layered characters like that, but at least it has McBride in a rare non-comedy, non-asshole role. I especially like the way he and Daniels, both widowed, look after each other, but I’m a sucker for platonic male-female friendships in movies, since you don’t see many of them.

The ending seemed like I was supposed to be surprised by a thing I’d thought we were all very aware was going on, but it’s still a kicker because it’s the meanest, least redemptive ending of any ALIEN film. And once again it leaves us thinking about the crazy logical followup. I won’t hold my breath.

Part of me thinks it’s a shame that Scott broke the previous new-director-for-each-installment pattern of the series, and he doesn’t come any closer than the other sequelists to matching his perfect original or Cameron’s perfect part 2. But if somebody’s gonna keep making these I’m glad it’s the guy who created it so they have to let him make a movie where two Fassbenders kiss each other and do weird suggestive things with musical instruments that make the opening night audience laugh uncomfortably. You can’t just keep scaring them every time, you gotta try new stuff.

VERN has been reviewing movies since 1999 and is the author of the books SEAGALOGY: A STUDY OF THE ASS-KICKING FILMS OF STEVEN SEAGAL, YIPPEE KI-YAY MOVIEGOER!: WRITINGS ON BRUCE WILLIS, BADASS CINEMA AND OTHER IMPORTANT TOPICS and NIKETOWN: A NOVEL. His horror-action novel WORM ON A HOOK will arrive later this year.

This entry was posted on Monday, May 22nd, 2017 at 11:31 am and is filed under Horror, Reviews, Science Fiction and Space Shit. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

107 Responses to “Alien: Covenant”

  1. Vern, your generosity of spirit knows no bounds. This movie is awful. Just a mess of variations on stuff we’ve already seen a million times and half-baked philosophical concerns that go exactly nowhere. None of it adds up to a story worth telling in any way, and the visuals are so secondhand and fussed over that it’s not even effective spectacle.

    Let’s talk about our title character here for a second. Obviously, the entire point of this film, the reason someone felt like spending a couple hundred million on making and marketing it, is to tell the tale of how the classic xenomorph came to be. But that story is so convoluted and anti-climactic that it makes you wonder why the xenomorph is such a big deal in the first place. I mean, look at what we’re shown here. We start with an airborne pollen that instantly creates a murderous alien creature. This seems to be very, very effective. But then David decides to “improve” on this by creating eggs (What lays ’em? Not Ridley Scott’s problem, that’s for sure!) that hatch one creature, which implants another creature, which then grows into the xenomorph, which, as far as we can tell from what we’ve seen in this film, is no more or less effective at murdering motherfuckers than the earlier albino alien. The pollen/albino system wiped out an entire planet in like five minutes, while the egg/facehugger/xenomorph system failed to kill two (2) grieving crew members twice. So what’s the point? If you hadn’t seen the other films and heard all of the speeches about how perfect the xenomorph is and then seen firsthand that perfection in action, you might find yourself asking questions like “Why is the black one any better than the white one? Why go through all that just to change its color and the shape of its head? And wasn’t there already a black one in the last movie?” The xenomorph’s grand entrance only works on a meta level: Fans might be happy to see the character they know and love return, but the movie itself has given you no reason at all to see its importance. The part with the incredibly unimpressive baby xenomorph standing there and triumphantly raising its arms like fucking Rocky on the museum steps is the most unintentionally hilarious thing I’ve seen in a minute. It’s like “Behold! I have arrived!” and the audience is like “Yeah? And?” Because the once unique xenomorph has now been turned into just one of many. Scott keeps trotting out new monsters that are functionally the same as the original, but they come out of new orifices or have a slightly different head shape. There’s no new ideas, just embellishments on a theme, and none of them can match the primal, simple iconography of the original. It was foolish to even try but this is just sad. Scott’s running out of holes so I bet next time we’ll see one crawl out of a butt. Maybe it’ll have a triangle head just to shake things up.

    And speaking of amazing new ideas that no one’s ever thought of before, what if we blew everyone’s mind by staging a murder scene IN A SHOWER? We’d really be tearing up the rulebook then, wouldn’t we! That’s the kind of way-out concept that only a visual genius like Ridley Scott could come up with. I haven’t seen such reckless ingenuity since the NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET remake used the boundless potential of the dreamworld to stage a scene in which the Final Girl hides from Freddy behind a louvered closet door.

    Speaking of Final Girls, this one was pretty weak sauce, but since she was basically playing a haircut I’m not gonna be too hard on her.

    There’s some good stuff in here, I guess. People getting torn up and whatnot. I liked Fassbender’s Lance Henricksen impression as Walter. His David is now just your standard megalomaniacal villain in a cloak, which is the last thing this franchise needs, so I’m not too impressed. But really, I cannot get over how utterly pointless all of this is, as a self-contained movie, as a sequel to PROMETHEUS, and as a part of the ALIEN mythology. And it’s boring as hell, too.

    All I can say is none of this would have happened if Franco was still in charge.

  2. Hahaha playing a haircut!

  3. I have a question.

    Why do they feel the need to explain how the xenomorphs were created?

  4. Very good question, Sterny. Also, the more I hear of this movie the less I want to see it. I know I have been judging ALIEN fans of being snowflakes. But, Jesus. Please excuse me. I did not expect some of the stuff I have been hearing.

  5. Well I liked it a good deal more than Mr. M but I find it mighty hard to disagree with any of his criticisms. I already made a lot of my feelings known in the second PROMETHEUS thread so I’ll try to not repeat what was said there. When I left the theater Thursday night I was mostly positive (except for the awful third act) but my opinion of it has been slipping since then. I guess I’ll be able to better form an opinion on re-watch (on video).

    One of the reasons my opinion went down is the whole turning David into a supervillain. He was great in PROMETHEUS and a main point of me defending it. I had hopes for him with the initial scenes between him and Walter. It was way more interesting when I believed he loved Dr. Shaw and he was taking the Engineers out as revenge. Also the more I think about it ALIEN 3ing Shaw bugs me more I think on it. She wasn’t a great character but she was an interesting one, especially compared to the other characters in PROMETHEUS and the dullards featured here. Also what does it add to the mythology of David creating the OG Aliens? Why make the OG Alien suck as bad as it did here?

    I can still respect Scott for not playing it safe with this prequel trilogy or whatever it will be (maybe only these two since it apparently had a disappointing opening weekend). It would have been easy for him to make a whole awful movie(s) of the terrible third act here but instead he is playing the mythology and subverting expectations. I do want to give him major kudos for that. I can’t imagine the ACTUAL creators of Dan O’Bannon and H.R. Giger (or even Walter Hill and David Hill) would approve of his messing up the Space Jockey and Alien origins, but as bad as it is, at least it was unexpected.

    As for them not making the PROMETHEUS 2 Vern wanted, I think Scott did want to make that one but after the critical response to PROMETHEUS, Fox said no. I only think that because apparently he’s said he wants the next one to be a prequel to this one. I’d rather believe it was Scott (a director whom I’m honestly not that a big a fan of) just subverting expectations again. Reminded me Hideaki Anno’s EVANGELION 3.0, at the end of 2.0 they promised a really big epic apocalyptic action movie but instead the movie ended up just mostly taking place in one tiny room with the protagonist being sad and forming a very homo-erotic relationship with another character who is trying to cheer him up. It was such an obvious fuck you to the audience and fans that I ended up loving it (sadly not here).

    Stern: Mr. M answered that already. Ridley Scott wants to make big epic sci-fi movies that asks question and make you think but no one will give him money for those so he’ll instead shove all that into an ALIEN movie with stuff people/fan expect and the marketing department want to him to add.

  6. well said, Majestyk. Although I will confess to very much enjoying the “porn for lesbians, by lesbians”-esque dialogue in the flute scene.

  7. The best way to look at Covenant is that it is like an alien offspring that takes on the traits of its previous hosts. It took most of its cues from Prometheus and Alien but there was some Cameronesque imagery too. The best part was when Scott remade the Alien 3 trap-the-Alien-in-the-corridors-with-lots-of-Alien-POV-shots. I wasn’t expecting that. The condensation dripping down the dome was a nice touch. Also, that crane sequence was on par with the self surgery scene from Prometheus. Instead of being icky it was just plain fun. The fact that the crane was shaped like the Alien jaw was a nice touch. Like the monsters the movie is sloppy and sometimes awkward but it’s now my third favorite Alien movie.

  8. Because of timezones, there will most likely be everything discussed to death once I manage to make it back on here, so let me just say what I think about it.

    I liked it. It’s not great, but very good and entertaining. The stretch from the birth of the first Neomorph until David shows up, are the first time since ALIENS, that this series is legitimately scary IMO. Those new Aliens are some vicous fuckers and if someone would have told me, that it’s scarier to imagine being randomly attacked by them, while standing outside in the open nature, than in the classic dark spaceship hallway, I wouldn’t have believed them. But here it is, a bunch of guys just standing there and suddenly, BAM, shit hits the fan AGAIN! Some people here (Mostly Mr Majestyk) think of Ridley Scott as some hack who only cares for pretty pictures and impressive sets, but stuff like this and a few, quick moments later on show that he is a seasoned pro, who knows how to use every trick in the book right, to create atmosphere, suspense, scares and so on. (Although I admit that he is very dependent on the right script, to make a movie that is actually good from the beginning to the end.)

    I’m also fully on board with the slow paced non-horror opening and I’m glad to see that it survived the editing room. I can imagine some nervous Fox suit nagging Scott about cutting most of the beginning and let the horror begin earlier.

    Of course the rest of the movie isn’t that good. Artificial intelligences, who try to explore humanity and wonder why they should serve us inferioir humans, are a worn out SciFi cliche and Michael Fassbender simply doesn’t have the talent or charisma to make stonerphilosophical dialogues with himself compelling. I’m not even sure if two Lance Henriksens would have made it better, but I haven’t found a movie that wasn’t better with Henriksen in it. So yeah, in my opinion they should have just used two digitally de-aged Bishops.

    Then of course the last act suffers from “been there, done that”, although even here Scott makes it better. At least the fight with the classic alien kept me interested. Compare that to whatever happened in those AvP movies, to have another proof of how much better a Ridley Scott movie can be, compared to some other guns for hire. I just wish he would’ve found a way to not make the final twist so obvious.

    And of course Mixalot called this movie “batshit bonkers”, but I still believe it’s pretty “normal”, even for a modern day blockbuster. Yeah, we have moments like the one where Hollywood’s current favourite pretty face actor plays with his flute and a random flashback to a interstellar genocide. Even if you ignore the existence of a certain ALIEN movie, that was directed by a certain crazy Frenchman who was given carte blanche, it’s still not as weird as PROMETHEUS. COVENANT doesn’t have a scene like the one, where the ripped off head of the most overrated actor since Jon Hamm (minus the talent for goofy comedy) warns Noomi about an incoming danger, then suddenly an extraterrestrial skinhead from the size of 1 1/2 Carel Struykens storms into the room and gets defeated, because he gets face fucked by an anime monster!

    Yeah, all in all I’m pro COVENANT. There is still enough room for improvement, but the series in on the right track, if you ask me.

  9. (Also on a pure visual hubba-hubba level, I really missed Noomi Rapace, but Katherine Waterston looked too cute with short hair, so I’m not complaining.)

  10. I do wonder Scott’s reverence to any continuity after his film. I thought maybe we’d get a mention of the Alien Queen or see a doodle by David but no, the eggs just appear/grown/whatever. I wonder if he does want to do a whole ‘screw anything post ALIEN, we’re going back to the deleted scene where Dallas and Brett and being turned into eggs’ and Fox’s marketing department won’t let him.

    Honestly I do go back and forth on whether or not they should have left that scene in. It’s pretty creepy and makes the already terrifying creator even scarier because at then we learn it gives you a fate worse than death. Then I realize we wouldn’t have gotten ALIENS probably and I don’t really want to live in that world.

  11. To go along with CJ’s comment on other’s (myself included) feelings on Scott as a director, I will say I don’t think Scott gets enough credit for his work actors. Usually the acting is great in his films. The only bad/bland performance I can think of off the top of my head from one his films was the woefully miscast Tom Cruise in LEGEND, though Tim Curry is there to pick up the slack.

  12. Nice Bahubali 2 shout-out, best action film since Fury Road, and closer to FR than I thought possible. Totally blindsided by that one.

  13. SPOILERS AHOY!

    Watching this movie, it’s almost immediately clear that Scott has no interest in making any more ALIEN movies. He doesn’t care about the xenomorph, its whole origin story is kinda a tangled mess which does not provide in intrigue what it loses in mystery, and the actual monster movie part of COVENANT is such a completely uninspired retread that it’s honestly a little depressing to watch. No joke, ALIEN VS PREDATOR does about as well with the Alien as Scott does here; its so utterly perfunctory and unimaginative that it barely even registers.

    What Scott DOES want to make is more gothic-philosophical science fiction movies, and, where PROMETHEUS was hampered by a dumb script, the screenplay here does much better here in making the themes and speechifying seem natural and integrated into the plot, and then it goes the extra mile and has two Fassbenders deliver the best stuff. I had my doubts when I heard the middle is like “A Hammer Horror Movie” — lots of people say that and they just mean there’s a castle or some fog or something. But I think that’s actually the perfect description here — the middle of COVENANT is gothic horror at its most arch and enjoyable (it also explains why Mr. M hated it so much — he hates Hammer and just wants to see good monster action, which this does not at all provide).

    But you know, I DO like Hammer, and this is some primo mad-science-in-gothic-castle speechifying stuff. And it’s not just the hollow pretensions of PROMETHEUS! COVENANT might just be an actual smart movie, instead of a dumb movie straining to seem smart. It’s pretty interesting. In fact, it’s almost a complete repudiation of PROMETHEUS’s themes. PROMETHEUS is all about trying to find identity through our creators. COVENANT proposes the exact opposite: it’s not important who made us, the important thing is what WE make. David is an asshole, but he’s right, and that’s why he gets to win. The movie drives home that point rather hilariously by offhandedly killing all the big bald white guys who seemed so important in PROMETHEUS. ‘Why did they invent mankind and xenomorph tech? WHAT IS THE MEANING OF OUR LIVES??’ PROMETHEUS begs. COVENANT laughs and says it’s not important at all, they’re still just a bunch of fleshy self-absorbed biologicals, just another dull version of humans with slightly better tech. Who cares what in particular they were trying to do?

    As to Mr. M’s complaint about whether or not David’s creations really are in any way an improvement, I don’t think it’s really the point. The whole thing might work better if it didn’t have to try and squeeze the xenomorph into a story that doesn’t really need it, but I think you can justify it thusly: David ISN’T a cold, logical automaton. He doesn’t like his creations better because they’re more efficient, he designed them rather whimsically, like an artist instead of a engineer (in contrast to the “engineers” he kills). He loves them because they’re his, and as such, they’re proof of what HE is.

    That’s a pretty nifty commentary on the hubris and self-absorption which defined the whole cast and central conflict of PROMETHEUS, and it actually makes that movie slightly better in retrospect, since I think it means we’re not really meant to take the themes of either movie as literal moralizing. Scott and his writers are playing with perspective and search for meaning, not necessarily claiming any of these characters has it right. I respect and enjoy that, especially when delivered by as many Fassbenders as you want to put in front of me.

    And then there’s like 30 minutes of halfhearted ALIEN retread on the end, but no matter. I was already won over. I wish they’d just cut to the last twist as soon as everyone got back on the ship instead of treading water with a scenario we’d already seen and resolved twice before in the same movie, but ah well, you can’t have everything. The twist is telegraphed from a distant galaxy, but it’s still a deliciously mean one. If it’s not quite as mighty a swing as PROMETHEUS was, it also connects a little more with what it’s trying to hit. Still hardly a home run, but I enjoyed a lot more than I dared hope; trim away 40 minutes of fat and I might even be willing to go further.

    TL/DR: It’s a movie which sucks at what it’s pretending to be, and great at the thing that it obviously actually is but can’t admit because who would spend a hundred million bucks on a repressed gay love story about the savage creative impulse in superintellegent robot Fassbenders? Gotta throw a marquee name in there for cover.

  14. Wow I hated this movie. It is such a mess, it has no clue what it wants to be. Sci if snorfest? Action flick? Claustrophobic horror flick? It tries for all three, and does pretty much nothing well. I didn’t even think it looked that good, which was at least a saving grace for Prometheus. The CGI aliens barely looked better than AVP, in fact the scene where the xenomorph drops from the ceiling onto one of the marines almost looked identical to AVP. As dopey as AVP is, I think it’s better than Covenant, which almost makes me want to cry. Actually, Life, which was in theaters for about a week earlier this year, was a better Alien movie than Covenant.

    I thought the characters were far dumber than the Prometheus characters. I mean, how many of these folks feel the need to walk off alone for no reason? “Hey, lets split up!”

    Probably the thing that made me the angriest was Daniels. It was as if they thought “this is an Alien movie, just stick a female lead in there and the rest will take care of itself”. I rewatched Alien and aliens this weekend and the best thing about Rippey is that she is brave, tough, but terrorfied as well. In aliens, you completely buy her going back for Newt.

    Daniels running out onto the ship with a bungee cord is just silly. I didn’t buy for a second that this character was this fearless. And honestly, it doesn’t make sense. She doesn’t know a thing about this Xeno, she just laid eyes on it for the first time seconds before. How does she even know it would be able to stay alive and locked on the ship in space? What is her motivation to flail about outside the ship with a pick axe fighting this Alien?

    If you stick the Millennium Falcon in a movie, it’s going to make me smile, because I have such love for the original Star Wars trilogy. Even if it’s a cruddy movie. I can say the same thing about the Alien. If I see the face hugger and the xenomorph I will have a decent time, no matter how lousy the underlying movie is. But this movie is pushing it.

    After I saw this Thursday night I said to my friend “it really must be hard to make a good Alien movie, because no on has done it in 30 years.”

  15. I’ll take Prometheus’s dumb ambition over Covenant’s lazy repurposing and retconning.

    Glad we both used Alien 3ed as a verb.

    But I still consider AVPR canon.

  16. Mr. S: “He doesn’t like his creations better because they’re more efficient, he designed them rather whimsically, like an artist instead of a engineer (in contrast to the “engineers” he kills). He loves them because they’re his, and as such, they’re proof of what HE is.”

    So when Ash says he admires the creature’s purity and praises it as a flawless lifeform, he’s just being polite? We’re not actually looking at a perfect killing machine, we’re looking at a robot’s finger-painting that he wants to hang on the fridge because he’s so proud of it.

    It’s a good theory. I almost buy it.

  17. To clarify: I DO buy that David considers the xenomorph to be the ultimate proof of his personhood. But I also think he thinks it’s a vast improvement on its predecessors in every way. The events of this film simply don’t support that, though, so either David is wrong or the entire ALIEN franchise is wrong. I’m going with the one that doesn’t wear a cape.

  18. Geoffreyjar, David had many sketches in his room, several of them were insects. I believe he was looking to eventually create a Queen to self sustain the egg laying process.

  19. Jack: I can definitely buy that, I was just wondering out loud (or meant too) if Scott was approaching these things from the perspective of him not acknowledging anything that didn’t come from his movie.

    I’m so glad I’m not the only one who thought the third act was shit and the OG Alien was sucked. I mean the Slenderman Aliens were way creepier than the OG one that we’re supposed to think is the real deal in this movie. Mr. M already stated better than I did why I don’t think anyone whose this is their first ALIEN film, will think the OG Alien creature is anything special. It’s like when I met this one person who only ever saw TERMINATOR PART GENESYS and retroactively decided that the original TERMINATOR(s) wasn’t any good. That’s the true horror of the reboot culture we live in.

    I never hated AVP so I think it’s funny how PROMETHEUS and it seems especially this one is making some reevaluate it. At least the treatment of the Alien creature that is. Luckily no one is reevaluating AVP-R, sorry Fred you’r e wrong.

    Mr. S: I was planning on waiting for home video to reanalyses the movie but your write-up is making me think I should go out and see it again sometime soon. Us correct-thinking Hammer horror fans needs to stick together!

  20. CrustaceanLove

    May 22nd, 2017 at 6:09 pm

    I had people telling me PROMETHEUS was an irredeemable piece of shit for about six months before I finally got around to seeing it, so I ended up enjoying it more than I thought I would. Now I find myself in the opposite situation, with critics praising Scott’s return to form and “back-to-basics” approach and me wondering if we saw the same movie.

    I mean, I thought this movie was okay. I enjoyed it. Some good gore, action and suspense. Some very effective imagery. But it definitely feels like Scott course-correcting from PROMETHEUS to a traditional, crowd-pleasing ALIEN sequel that he doesn’t really want to make. The visual nods to ALIEN are superficial and distracting, Katherine Waterston’s ‘Ripley-lite’ is a total non-entity, but everything involving David/Walter was completely riveting. The scene with the two of them playing the recorder (“I’ll do the fingering”) was one of the weirdest scenes I’ve seen in a blockbuster for a while and I loved it. I also liked the laugh-courting audacity of the baby Alien (I refuse to use the term ‘Xenomorph’) mimicking David’s messiah pose. But nothing about the Alien mythology or David’s authorship of the species makes sense, as Majestyk has noted. The eggs now have a gestational period of about three seconds. This is something I bitched about in AVP: REQUIEM, I never thought it was a complaint I’d have to make about a sequel directed by Ridley Scott.

    I did like the OG Alien. When it stopped weightlessly leaping around the screen and started walking/moving like a human being it was genuinely creepy and unsettling. I thought the CG for the Neomorphs looked pretty bad in parts, probably because of the lighting and skin tone.

    So, what are people’s opinions of the ‘twist’ at the end. There were audible groans from my audience when it was revealed, but I honestly can’t figure out if it’s meant to be surprise or not. It certainly seems like it’s supposed to play that way, but it’s so outrageously telegraphed and Ridley Scott seems so enamored with the character that I have to think he knows what he is doing.

  21. Wow, Vern, you enjoyed this!? I’m not trying to be a dick, but I wonder if too many shitty movies have got you making excuses for slightly better shitty movies. Could this happen?

    Mr. M and JeffG have got the goods. This movie was trash.

    The Aliens CGI was completely motion blurred and weightless. The characters were sooooooooo dull. I can barely remember any of them. And as dumb or dumber than the blockheads in Prometheus. They were just there to be slasher flick fodder…sneak off alone for a joint? Check. Guys sick like they got a virus on an alien planet but tell their mates “I’m Ok.’
    Check. Go off alone in a tunnel with someone you don’t trust? Check. Fuck in the shower? Check. This movie was all checklist with nothing behind the numbers.

    The Aliens were pointless…David just wanted to kill a bunch of folks. It doesn’t matter in the end what he designed, it’s the same motive as any other slasher flick but with poems and recorders and shit.

    By the by, I don’t think the ending was mean to be a shocking twist (since it was so fucking obvious). I think that Scott was just trying to wring tension out of when or if the crew would find out what the audience already knew.

    Absolute garbage.

    PS – I hope nobody thinks I’m disparaging slashers…I love those crazy bastards.

  22. Ridley Scott – “Hey I know, lets take one of the most iconic movie monsters, lazily demystify it’s origins, then film all the monster action entirely with CGI, mostly in broad daylight, with zero tension, weight or excitement”.

    He so clearly doesn’t give a shit about those sequences, which would be OK if it wasn’t 1/3rd of the runtime and the climax of the movie. At least Prometheus stuck to its guns and had its own identity.

    I have to second many of the commenters, AvP does a better job with the Alien material than this, which is just sad.

  23. Mr M — I’m not going to sit here and demean us both by pretending I think Scott thought about this very deeply or cared to do any more work than to stick a xenomorph somewhere in the script as a rhetorical McGuffin, but I like David enough that I’m willing to do the work for him here and say I think there’s a logic to be made out of it, if you are inclined to try. Obviously, the Alien is demonstrably worse than the original bioweapon at being a killer. The movie makes that painfully and abundantly clear (bioweapon kills every living thing on a planet vs Alien is easily defeated twice by a character who barely qualifies as a knockoff). But I don’t think David’s interest lies in simply being an efficient killer. I think he enjoys the circuitousness of the Alien’s lifecycle, the eccentric way it reproduces itself and both dies and lives on in its act of creation. I think he’s pleased with having taken a weapon and turned it into an animal, of having turned science’s destructiveness back from a calculated murder to a simple, primal instinct. He considers it more art than science. It doesn’t exist for a purpose, it just exists because he made it, and that’s what delights him.

    Plus he’s also right that his Alien looks way bosser than the beta version (no matter how much Scott stubbornly refuses to shoot it so it looks cool) so whatever its evolutionary superiority may be, it would definitely please a refined aesthete like David. So in that sense, big improvement.

    geoffreyjar: I can’t in good conscience recommend to another person that they watch ALIEN: COVENANT twice in theaters, but I do think that it’s a movie whose strengths will come forward more easily once the initial disappointment over what it’s not wears off. It sucks that it’s such a anemic ALIEN movie, but it’s cool that it’s a super weird gothic mad science movie for pretty much an entire movie’s length in the middle. It’s the movie’s fault for pretending to be something it’s obviously not really interested in being, of course, so I can’t claim it’s unfairly maligned or anything. But once its ruse has become obvious to everyone I think at least a small subset of people will be able to ignore the clutter and enjoy its sublimely arch classic horror vibe.

  24. I almost cried during this movie because I kept seeing it as an eulogy for the far-more-talented Tony Scott. There are a great many parallels to the Scott brothers’ relationship to be found, with Franco’s free climbing vignette as the key to deciphering the whole.

    Also, maybe it’s just where I am in life right now, but I found the married couples trying to survive to be a rather novel and emotionally compelling angle.

    Im okay with these prequels because they focus on the most interesting part of the original series: the fascist corporation that itself functions as a mirror to the Xenomorphs.

    I’m 100% down with Scott making 3 more of these $100-million philosophical slasher flicks, even if the Xeno variations continue to underwhelm.

    Post-Script: my dream project is a crossover film combining Alien and Terminator. I called it TERMINATOR: XENO and it hinges on the idea that John Connor’s mission to take down Skynet reveals that the central computer system was built on top of a derelict and the Temporal Displacement Device is powered by the ship’s interstellar warp drive. Also, there are Xenomorphs who have been locked underground for centuries in the ship, inbreeding and becoming larger, dumber, more violent… and hemophilic. Act 3 had Conner and co purposefully infecting themselves with facehuggers and becoming sorta suicide bombers in an effort to launch their chestbursters into Skynet’s mainframe, using the acid blood to defeat skynet.

  25. Also, they use the TDD to send one member back in time 10k years to leave essential tools all throughout the derelict (which has a sci-fi Indiana jones-style maze of booby traps) but inadvertently ends up creating the aforementioned inbred hemophiliac Xenos. And when the humans beat skynet, it ends up creating the world where Weyland Utani heads out into space. Both the terminator and Weyland’s synths were reverse engineered from tech on the Derelict.

  26. Okay but did anyone at least like the chestburster with the good posture? That’s really just me that thought that was amazing?

  27. Nope, I liked him too.

  28. That makes me wonder who would win in a fight: Lil’ great posture chestburster or Baby Groot.

  29. It sort of reminded me of the end of Spaceballs. Hello my honey, hello my baby, hello my rag tiiiime giirl

  30. You guys are really predictable…

  31. I agree with a lot that’s been said already. It’s fairly pointless and somehow maddeningly free of creativity. It doesn’t even really do anything with what little fresh material it does bring to the table – “Here is a giant, ghoulish, dead alien metropolis, but let’s just do nothing with it and instead spend our time in the same four or five rooms in one building. Those scenes of two robots talking about Romantic Poets in a lovely recreation of Böcklin’s Isle of the Dead are gonna mesmerize the audience to such a degree that they won’t even notice.”

    I can’t even be too angry about it – the parts of it that are a JURASSIC PARK-y retread of the Alien formula are well put together and the acting’s solid. That seems to be enough for most audiences. I just don’t get why this film even exists, nor why Scott is so intent on taking the story in the direction that he is.

  32. Cepe, I have seen the same criticism elsewhere but honestly, do you think anyone was really up for exploring the dead city minutes after seeing their friends and loved ones slaughtered by hideous beings and barely surviving themselves? Also they just got taken in by a weirdo who they probably can’t trust so their course of action (re-establish contact with the ship and GTFO) to me at least was believable.

  33. Jack – I didn’t expect them to literally explore the place, just to traverse it so we could get a better glimpse. So either the place David is taking them to could have been situated at another point in the city, nestled among other buildings

    or

    the crew’s inability to contact the Covenant could have required them to find something to boost the signal, something like an Engineer reactor found within the city itself. That way, some of them could have been stalked and offed by the Neos amid the creepy architecture and Scott could still have kept all of in his beloved Walter/David stuff taking place inside the Giger fan-art shack.

  34. I hated Prometheus. And Covenant follows a similar trajectory; you get that first hour of intrigue building to a moment where some weird alien shit gets released. Then it falls totally flat. However, I liked the characters far more in Covenant. Danny McBride calling someone sugartits demonstrated more character than anything in Prometheus. And Fassbender Fassbendering x2 was just excellent. The loss of Shaw was a bit of a disappointment, but hey, as Vern points out, it’s par for the course in Alien. RIP Hicks/Newt etc.

    This feels more like a homage to Alien, perhaps because of the fallout of Prometheus. The opening credit sequence, the iconography, the Giger-ish drawings David has lying about everywhere. But unlike Alien, it struggles with developing any sort of tension or menace. It follows the middle ground between the horror of Alien and the action of Alien and doesn’t really match either.

    Still, it may make Prometheus more palatable in the grand scheme of things. I enjoyed it. I didn’t hate it. But I think for the sequel, they should make a balls-to-the-wall Aliens style action extravaganza. Screw this silly horror shit.

  35. Oh, and while we’re on the subject of wasted opportunities, I kinda do wonder why most if not all on-set man-in-suit creature fx were CG’s over in post a’la THE THING(2011).
    I didn’t think it looked horrible, but check out those behind the scenes stills of the Neos/Xenos:

    New Behind-the-Scenes Stills from Alien: Covenant – The Official Collector’s Edition

    Although it’s still not due for general retail release until June the 6th, the comic book store exclusive edition of Alien Covenant: The Official Collector’s Edition was released last week! Alien vs. Predator Galaxy managed […]

  36. Vern: That was easily the dumbest thing I’ve seen in a movie all year. Everything about the way that scene is staged seems designed to remove everything vicious and animalistic about the original chest-burster (one of the most iconic scenes in all of horror) and replace it with this stilted, pretentious pantomime. I don’t mind the tall, upright alien when it’s full grown, but christ that chest-burster looked stupid. It looked like it was about to start singing “Volare.”

    geoffrey: “Scott was approaching these things from the perspective of him not acknowledging anything that didn’t come from his movie.”

    I’d say that Daniels’ hairstyle is proof that Scott has at least seen ALIENS.

  37. CEPE: Saw those yesterday I like the one with OG Alien just chilling on the rafters:

    It’s like it is a foreman and is looking down yelling at me to get back to work.

    With THE WOLFMAN and THE THING, both of those were supposedly instructed by Universal Studios to replace the really good practical effects with shitty CGI ones (in the animators defense, both were done last minute from what I understand). Here I think it was more like last year’s SHIN GODZILLA, where it was an artistic choice to replace the practical monsters with (almost) completely CGI mo-capped ones.

    Vern: Not sure what I think of the birth scene. On one hand it was weird and rolled into David’s arc about being able to create. On the other it was really silly. It also goes back to the whole AVP comparison thing, Anderson rightfully got a lot of flak for his PG-13 chestburster sequence but Scott didn’t direct Cruddup any better than whoever that lady was in AVP in terms of how much that suck to have that thing come out of you. We should get some pretty funny fanart out of tumblr with David and the Chestburster.

  38. Didn’t think the link would work, I was talking about the last one on the fourth row within CEPE’s link.

    pegs: Have you ever thought that maybe you’re being predicable by pointing out how predictable we all are? Like Ridley Scott’s half-thought-out themes, my poorly-thought-out joke sentence makes you think and is deep (probably).
    -I have no animosity against you at all by-the-way, just busting your balls a bit.

  39. Is it really a flaw that David might be delusional and his favorite Xenomorph isn’t THAT superior to the prior versions? I don’t think that’s thematically inconsistent with the recent direction of this series or his character. I believe Walter at one point in the movie corrects David’s recounting of Shelley’s poem, and then makes some comment about how one note or word being off can throw off the entire symphony, poem, and then by by extension the design. But David, perhaps, is too caught up in being artistic and admiring the aesthetics of his xenomorph.

    My issue with this movie is how David/Walter are 20x more interesting a coupling or two characters than any other human character in the movie. It’s truly hard to care about any of the non-android characters anymore than you’d relate to most of the teenage victims in Friday the 13th movies.

  40. CEPE — “Here is a giant, ghoulish, dead alien metropolis, but let’s just do nothing with it and instead spend our time in the same four or five rooms in one building. Those scenes of two robots talking about Romantic Poets in a lovely recreation of Böcklin’s Isle of the Dead are gonna mesmerize the audience to such a degree that they won’t even notice.”

    I see nothing wrong with that logic. Movies are under no obligation to exploit every conceit to the fullest. That’s like complaining that they don’t do enough with the Space Jockey in the original ALIEN. Sometimes it’s better to leave you wondering. If you’ve got something which will mesmerize me to the degree that I don’t notice, that sounds like a pretty great movie there. I don’t consider that a failure of imagination, I consider that proof of vision. and THAT’S what COVENANT could use more of.

    Vern — I’m with ya buddy, I liked the little chestbuster ROCKY moments. I think you’ve got to have a tolerance for the kind of florid gothic melodrama Scott seems to be shooting for (in the David part of the movie), since it makes no sense whatsoever from a hard sci-fi or even purely logical perspective. But I think it’s great. I wish the movie had the balls to just go to those kinds of ridiculous extremes more often, instead of settling for being a mediocre action movie in the final act.

    Tawdry — can you elaborate a little more on how you see the movie as mirroring the Scott brothers’ relationship? I haven’t heard that theory anywhere else.

  41. “Taking us from Giger’s enigmatic elephant-faced skeleton giants to just some slightly alien druid dudes in a stone temple is a criminal downgrade.”

    I completely agree but felt this way since Prometheus. The degree to which they altered the design and changed the size to end up with the Engineers was very underwhelming, although preserving the mystery of the space jockey and never explaining it would’ve been the best route to take.

    The chestburster alien birth was definitely one moment where I thought to myself, “What the fuck am I watching?” but not in a good way. The movie was a mess and it felt like it was trying too hard to please all audiences. Even the aliens looked cheap and unconvincing most of the time. Admittedly I was taken aback by Fassbender martial arts, but again it was not a good kind of surprise; I also looked up the fight choreographer and saw his awesome photo, though.

    Ghost in the Shell is another recent sci-fi blockbuster that I believe fell into the same trap of trying to appeal to different audiences wanting different things. People trashed that one even more, but I actually ended up enjoying it even though it’s not a particularly good adaptation of the source material and is horribly, hilariously whitewashed IMO. It still felt like something a bit different among the recent big Hollywood spectacles, while Alien Covenant just seemed sloppy and lazy. Also, Beat Takeshi.

    Are you going to review that one, Vern, or have you already seen and forgotten it?

  42. Joe – I missed that one but do intend to see it.

  43. To me the most boring part of PROMETHEUS was Shaw’s need to figure out why the Engineers decided to delete the human race. It’s obvious they’re callous assholes who simply need test subjects to demonstrate proof of concept for their bioweapon, or some similarly mundane/non-spiritually-revelatory thing.

    Meanwhile, David’s decision to spread the xenoplague by infecting Shaw’s husband (a far more nondescript and worse-portrayed character than anyone in COVENANT) was incredibly intriguing… The greatest fear PROMETHEUS left me with was what the fuck is going to happen with this untrustworthy David fellow that Shaw has adopted as her boon companion, but who also murdered her lover unbeknownst to her.

    So on that level, COVENANT scored major points with me by exploring the why’s of David, and Alien3’ing Shaw and the Engineers. (as awesome as the flashback is, I do question why there’s this epic celebratory gathering in the honor of some vagrant Engineer science mission ship, long presumed lost, returning home? And where are their routine security protocols?)

    I also thought the initial onset of horror, as the first humans fall victim to the xenoplague, was tremendous; classic sci fi horror material worthy of the franchise.

    A last thought: I’m surprised y’all weren’t more compelled by cap’n Crudup. The scene where he’s supposed to take over as captain and instill confidence in his crew post-Franco, and then stutters his way through it, is a great moment that invested me in all his subsequent decisions, up to his falling for David’s hilariously transparent ruse.

    I agree that the rest of the non-Fassbender characters sucked, with a pass given to Kenny Powers for got consuming the role with his persona.

  44. Also some anonymous commenter said this:
    “The whole point of the movie was that David didn’t have enough assets to finish his creations and now he has plenty.”

    Maybe the xenomorph is still in beta testing and that’s why their superiority is unapparent.

  45. Mr. Subtlety – As far as I can recall, we’re shown nothing of the city except the gate, the plaza and the one building David has made his home. For me, that’s not evocation, it’s omission. After two movies with at least a partial focus on that Engineer culture and their creation of our own, couldn’t there at least have been a brief but lingering glimpse at their city? As I mentioned before, I’m not asking for a full exploration here, no AT THE MOUNTAINS OF MADNESS-esque trawl through their hieroglyphics and murals and whatnot to give us a better understanding of how they clicked. Just something that better suggests that this is an imposing, unknowable, alien place. The Space Jockey sequence in the original, though smaller in scale, handled this far more elegantly.

    Don’t get me wrong, I liked the Böcklin reference. There aren’t many tentpole blockbusters that would so explicitly quote paintings from the 1880s. But y’know…

  46. (Probably should’ve written “After a movie” instead of “After two movies” because, er, yeah, there’s only been one…)

  47. CEPE: According to this, it would seem they never planned on using the practical man-on-suit effects. Just seems to be stand-ins to help the animators:

    'Alien: Covenant': How On-set Suit Performances, Mo-cap, And VFX Each Played A Role In Production

    Behind the scenes of Ridley Scott's newest "Alien" film, with before and after image breakdowns.

    Also, I guess maybe this prequel novel by Alan Dean Foster is going to tell the crazy misadventures of Dr. Shaw and David’s head?:

    https://www.amazon.com/Alien-Covenant-Official-Prequel-Blockbuster/dp/1785654764/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1495651631&sr=1-1&keywords=alien+covenant+prequel

  48. I liked it and it got my brain spinning in various directions. There were some brilliant moments and others that had me shaking my head. I rather liked the second in command character, though he went brain dead at the very end: “sure room full of alien pods created by madman android, that’s cool.” He was an asshole who actually mostly made smart decisions, not that they worked out well, but they were smart for the most part.

    Anyhow, here are some apologetics for some of the specific complaints folks have had, not sure they satisfy but I find them interesting…

    Q: Where did the Eggs come from?
    A: Shaw is the mother/queen of that brood, much as she was in Prometheus. Not a happy ending for her, but David’s “love” for her, and the nature of the images found in the movie with her and the new aliens adds up to her being the progenitor of those eggs. Creepy and horrifying to be sure and it fits the marriage theme of the film and the father theme of David established in the beginning.

    Q: Why are David’s Aliens better?
    A: They are smarter. They have acid for blood (pretty big advantage there). They are more terrifying for humans and make them suffer more. They are his creations rather than someone else’s. They have a social structure. All that said, they are clearly not as lethal as a plague of mass destruction, but we don’t really know what David want’s from them. His motivations are hard to fathom which is partly I think an effort to make him more frightening.

  49. CEPE — but I kinda think that’s the point. If COVENANT has anything on its mind, it’s a repudiation of PROMETHEUS’ obsession with trying to find identity by discovering our origins. Weyland built his entire life around trying to find his creators, and PROMETHEUS the movie is equally fixated. But David already knows who his creator was, and consequently knows that it isn’t important. COVENANT makes that case by casually offing the entire Promethean planet in a flashback. What was their deal, and why did they create the humans and the proto-xenos? Who cares, they were just some bald white guys with slightly better technology. For better or worse, the refusal to probe deeper into the Prometheans’ world is a feature, not a bug, of COVENANT.

  50. I’m assuming the “feature” is that Fox had no interest in making a direct PROMETHEUS sequel so they threw Scott a bone and said he could keep David in the picture as long as he could tie up all of PROMETHEUS’s loose ends in one flashback. Scott, ever the auteur, was like, “How hard could it be?”

  51. Well, as I said, neither PROMETHEUS nor COVENANT exactly gives the impression of great intellectual rigor or cohesiveness, and I’m not gonna claim that Scott or anyone else planned it this way, but I do think it’s kinda interesting that COVENANT works as almost a direct refutation of PROMETHEUS’s fixation on origins. PROMETHEUS is single-mindedly fixated on asking “why did these guys create us?” but COVENANT simply responds: “it’s not important in the slightest. You’re asking the wrong question.”

    Maybe it would be a better world if they actually DID have an interesting answer to the questions PROMETHEUS raises, but I think this way is sort of interesting, too. It makes the two-movie series a dialogue about the origins of identity, rather than a lecture.

  52. Unfortunately this interview with Empire kind of made me feel like a tool for trying to pull a BLADE RUNNER fan and read deep meaning into either film:

    Empire Podcast Alien: Covenant Spoiler Special With Sir Ridley Scott

    Listen to a spoilerific Empire Podcast with Sir Ridley Scott on the latest entry in the Alien series.

    Lazy type out of interesting shit here:

    Ridley Scott Explains Why The Engineers Wanted To Kill Mankind & David’s Motives

    The Empire Podcast has released a new episode focusing on Alien: Covenant. As well as discussing the film, the Spoiler Special episode also includes an interview with Sir Ridley Scott recorded during Alien: Covenant’s press rounds. […]

    —-
    Paraphrases:
    Empire: What is up with those Engineers?
    Ridley Scott: Eh, humans are asshole so they will use the black goo to kill them all. They do this shit all the time let me tell you.

    Empire: What is up with David?
    Ridley Scott: Eh, he just hates everything. Bit of an asshole really.
    —–
    So yeah, what we see and guessed is pretty much all their is to it. Times like these makes me wish more filmmakers would adopt the pretentious way of thinking of refusing to talk about their art so the audience is forced to talk and contemplate what it all means.

  53. I’ve always found listening to Ridley Scott’s ideas about his own films a bad idea.

    Deckard a replicant? Fuck off.

  54. Do you guys think the new Blade Runner will be as contemplative as the original or ashew to more action?

  55. CrustaceanLove

    May 24th, 2017 at 8:49 pm

    Sternshein: The 2 minute trailer already contains more action than BLADE RUNNER does in it’s total running time.

  56. I haven’t read too much of what Scott’s had to say about his other films, but he doesn’t really come across as a particularly deep thinker, so whatever philosophical ideas the scriptwriters have, in the end it’s Scott’s rather sketchy vision that prevails. I can’t remember if it was this or PROMETHEUS, but I read that the scriptwriter had to go back and keep changing the story’s direction and details to suit Scott’s whims, though I guess that’s probably standard Hollywood practice. A bit like one of Seagal’s later movies, I suppose.

    I liked parts of this. I didn’t mind the absence of Shaw as I didn’t find her a particularly riveting character, and the whole search for the gods came across to me as a bit corny, or at least cornily presented. Her ALIEN3-ing was a bit crude and grating though. I liked the detail of all the characters being couples, and appreciated the Daniel’s character’s not being romantically linked throughout the movie (maybe just a byproduct of the editing out of Franco though). I thought the buildup of tension was good … but then it just got silly, like PROMETHEUS.

    That shower scene, man. The audience at my showing (that would be five people) started laughing at that. It seemed to have been beamed in from a different movie. I don’t know if future people are supposed to be different from present people, but I don’t think I would have been in the mood after watching/hearing my friends and colleagues ripped apart in an explosion of entrails. I think I’d need a day or two. Maybe prospective colonists are made of sterner stuff? (Life processes in these recent Scott movies seem to move at an accelerated pace … people feeling horny after mindbending horror, virus spores growing into chest-bursting, human-sized monsters in a matter of seconds, that ridiculous Shaw self-abortion … I know it’s a future machine, but a stapler is still just a stapler … you’re not getting up and running around a few minutes after that …) I get the bad science in these movies – you have to become immune to that if you watch “Science Fiction” – but in a movie that wants to be taken seriously I do like it if characters behave as recognizable human beings.

    It’s a nice shower though. I guess they don’t have to worry about water rationing.

    The David/Walter fight scene is of those post-action thingies too, though I guess maybe it gets a pass as it’s the same actor fighting himself? I wouldn’t have thought that in this day and age it would be too difficult to have a clearly shot fight scene with the same actor though.

    Christ, that’s a lot of words. Sorry about that …

  57. By the way, I’m not up on sci-fi speak, but is there a term for the kind of thing where something is supposed to happen to a whole world, but they just show the events happening in one tiny corner of said world? You know, like on the Star Trek TV show where they detect problems on some planet (e.g. the population all think they’re 1930s gangsters, all the adults have disappeared, etc), and then they beam down and solve the problem – but only for a group of about ten inhabitants – and leave satisfied with a job well done? Like if an advanced civilisation detected Earth’s suffering war and destruction, but only sent a mission to break up a small dispute in a community centre in some village in Kyrgyzstan. Like in THE TIME MACHINE, where the time traveller frees the Eloi from the Morlocks and it’s presented as a great victory, though he’s presumably only solved the problem in that one tiny corner of what was once an English village.

    The only reason I bring it up is that I kind of got that impression from the bombing of the Engineer city. An impressive gathering to be sure, but still just a city in what would probably be a populated world. Presumably this world has islands and oceans and stuff, which might slow down the virus/alien’s spread and given this advanced civilisation time to work the problem?

    As a side note, they didn’t think to try and contact this approaching spaceship on the radio or something? I mean, they can’t be all that trusting if they’re devoting so many resources to bio-weapons and stuff.

  58. I wouldn’t consider setting sail on this sea of negativity for a million bucks, so let me just send a message in a bottle and say I saw it last night. And I liked it. I liked it good. So let’s talk about it again in 10 years when all this circle jerking has come to a halt.

  59. geoffreyjar – It’s interesting how the pictures in that article you linked (the suits/CG one) make it look like the on-set versions were pretty terrible and the CG versions naturally superior – which may well have been the case, but then the other behind-the-scenes stills give the impression that in some shots at least, the suits and puppets were really effective. I guess it’s hard to assess without seeing the un-augmented film. All I can say is that I would’ve preferred the practical, corpsy Neomorph with the NOSFERATU hands to the ones we got in the end. But for that to work, they would have had to drop the Velociraptor-esque approach to the Neos and instead have gone with more of a ’30s horror “probing hands from the shadows” take. Either way, the improvements to film itself would, in all likelihood, have been pretty minimal.

    Subtlety – You may be right. Majestic may be right (probably is, considering that PROMETHEUS wasn’t exactly loved by the public and Scott is nothing if not pragmatic). Maybe both of you are. I said before, somewhere above, that I don’t know why COVENANT even exists, nor why the series should continue after this movie. With the removal of the Engineers and the whole alien origins angle, what is there left to explore that we haven’t seen before? In the Empire podcast, Scott talks about the next one going into themes of colonisation. Why would anyone want to see that? Didn’t ALIENS already deal with that, both in terms of human and Xeno colonies? Are we finally going to get that dopey “a bunch of Aliens in the mall” material William Gibson came up with for his rejected ALIEN 3 script? I kinda don’t want to find out.

  60. So let me get this straight. The xenomorphs are created by coincidence? Why do all the movies have to be connected by androids?

  61. Because they’re all about the dangers of artificial or un-natural life.

  62. Really? What was so unnatural about the aliens in the original couple movies? They seemed like they were just some predatory wildlife doing what comes naturally to me. Just some super effective organisms who were perfectly evolved to their way of life, totally surviving of the fittest over these poor dumb meatbags who thought they knew everything. Seems like the main theme there was that, for all of humanity’s conquering of their environment to the point where they could comfortably, even lazily, exist in space or on planets that were not fit for human habitation, nature is still gonna come back and fuck you up with a perfect, primal simplicity your clunky machine guns and ugly terraformers and cocky robots you made in your own image are no match for, because nature is and always will be way more of a motherfucker than unnature. Turning all that into a throwback “Science is bad, mmmkay?” story about mad scientists straying into God’s domain seems to me like a major step down from all that.

    TL;DR: “Hey, look at this weird thing I made in my spare time” is never going to be as scary as “Look at this weird thing that just fuckin’ happened because the universe is bigger and crazier than you ever imagined.”

  63. Flipping my logic around on myself, I guess it could be used to prove your point. Humanity’s entire existence in space is an unnatural/artificial life, and it has put them at the mercy of the toothy motherfuckers that actually belong out there in the black. It’s a theme that continues right up to the mostly pretty crappy RESURRECTION, in which scientists who think they can harness the xenomorph’s natural power learn that you can’t lasso a tornado.

    This theory, of course, only works if you completely disregard PROMETHEUS and COVENANT and their laborious step-by-step domestication of the wild and unknowable xenomorph, which I’m comfortable we’ll all be doing in ten years anyway.

  64. Majestyk, everything goes tits up in ALIEN because Ash wants the “baby” to be born. In ALIENS the terra formers obviously chose to study the thing that was growing in Newt’s dad’s stomach instead of just burn the body. The prisoners in the third one had been locked up because they were sexual deviants. In the fourth one the scientist did nothing but experiment with the creation of artificial life. Oh, I think there’s a thread here.

  65. But the xenomorph itself is not unnatural. It killing your ass is the most natural thing in the universe. So while it’s the unnatural or artificial existence of humanity that puts it in jeopardy, it’s the forces of nature that cause the actual damage.

    What I’m saying is, while there is definitely a theme of humanity flying too close to the sun on wings of wax, the sun itself is perfectly in the right to melt them and send them crashing to their deaths. The xenomorph is the sun in this scenario: naturally occurring, perfectly formed for its purpose, and utterly unfuckwithable. The xenomorph itself is not a symbol of man’s hubris in thinking it can improve on nature; it’s a symbol of nature itself.

    Until of course Ridley Scott turned it into a lame science project. Now it’s just Frankenstein’s Monster for the four billionth time.

  66. So I think there’s some overlap to our ways of thinking, the main difference being that you think PROMETHEUS and COVENANT fall in line with the themes of the preceding films and I think they do the opposite.

  67. There is of course no right or wrong way to interpret a piece of art. But this theme makes sense to me, because even in the first movie it’s pretty clear that the alien eggs doesn’t belong in the metal invironment they’re growing in. And Ash’ fascination with the facehugger is the trigger to everything else that happens. The xenomorph is a creation, a weapon, not a piece of nature that turns against us. It wants to wipe us out, not because of it’s own survival, but because it was created without compassion, love or conscience.

  68. You’re welcome to that interpretation, but I think it’s pretty fucking lame, especially if the alien was created in the dull, happenstance, borderline incomprehensible circumstances depicted in these two (and counting?) dumbass prequels about morons and their bitchy robots.

  69. That sounded dismissive but I’m really not saying my interpretation is right (although clearly I think it is, let’s be honest), just that your interpretation makes me like the entire concept of the series less. According to PROM/COV, mankind went out into space and found nothing except the same bullshit they brought with them. No wonder, no mysteries, just more assholes and their boring weapons. If it works for you, cool. It bums me out.

  70. Yeah. I haven’t been bold enough to have seen this one yet (I will soon though) but turning a species originaly perceived as Alien wildlife into science experiment created by a dangerous man made science experiment (android) is as bogus and uneccessarily demythtifying as it gets.

    I’m glad I know of this shit going into it because now it won’t punch me so hard in the gut as it would’ve otherwise. Will also help me take this one in on it’s own merits (if it has any) instead of haunting my mind and distracting me from acknowledging any good that the movie actually has.

  71. Seriously though. I just found this out not too long ago by accident (somebody spoiled it in a review without warning) but the conceit that this wild life indigenous to an alien planet and wanted by corporate fuck faces to be used as the ultimate military bioweapon was just a bioweapon all along sure makes these new joints seem even more useless then originally thought.

    Like what’s the point? Like Majestyk said we go off and explore unknown space to find…more of the same type of think tank you find on earth. Boo!!!

    Such blatant lack of imagination should never be encouraged. Not with sci-fi especially. I forgot who said it in the PROMETHEUS thread but Ridley realy should’ve just gone ahead and directed BLADE RUNNER TOO himself since the only things he views as worth exploring and of any importance was what he had to say via the robot people.

  72. Okay, last post from me on this. Mr Majesty, that kind of supports my theory. There’s nothing out there that we haven’t brought with us in our minds. No almighty god, nothing more intelligent than us, no answers, no nothing. Everything’s our own invention.

  73. Mr M — although interestingly, the Alien doesn’t seem to eat the people it kills, right? So in that sense, actually not at all like an animal. Animals kill you if you threaten them or they’re hungry, but the Alien seems to just want to straight up murder every mutherfucker around for purely malicious reasons.

    Frankly I’m not sure any of the films up til PROMETHEUS really have a theme, per se; what PROMETHEUS did sort of brilliantly (along with all the other stuff it did totally idiotically) is that it took the birth and motherhood motifs in the first two ALIEN movies and channeled that into a much more concrete theme, which happened to take the form of speeches and stuff. That may have been a bad move, particularly since –having made THEME the motivating force of the work– they then failed to do anything with it. And it’s definitely a huge departure from everything which seems important about the original ALIEN. But since that’s what we have, there’s no use crying for what might have been; I find plenty of interest in the idiosyncratic pretentiousness of the PROMETHEUS/COVENANT cycle.

  74. But even that in itself is not definitively true because the only concrete truth is that we don’t know. Hence the existence of such questions in the first place.

    Now in the context of this series of movies seems like the whole purpose of it was that the giant albinos were right all along. Humanity ain’t shit and worth putting to rest because all we do is create misery. Like even when the intentions are good (David D. Android a.k.a. the nuclear bomb of this kovie verse) we always just end up architecting the source of our own chaotic demise. That will always be our major malfunction.

    Ok cool. But in the end what you’re saying is that the engineers were as human as we are because that’s exactly what ended up happening to them as well (they create us, we create robots, robots create killer parasitic monsters that then end up killing the engineeers). Uh ok but then what’s the point of creating multiple movies to drive that point home?

    Like what do you get out of creating this perception of grand and vast mystery when the endgame is just stating the obvious (man ain’t shit)?

    No wonder this movie has pissed so many off. It’s fundamentally useless because there is no real purpose.

  75. That kind of hubris and solipsism is exactly why Scott’s conception of the series is so unscary. How can you be caught in the grip of primal, timeless terror when you can’t even look past your own navel?

    Also, we didn’t invent everything here on earth, so I don’t see why space should be any different. We didn’t invent tigers. Tigers exist. Seeing tigers as merely a function of ourselves is why we’re almost out of tigers. That kind of mental masturbation is base solipsism and pretty uninteresting as a primary theme.

  76. I used “solipsism” twice. I think I might have used up my pretentiousness quota for the day.

  77. I went tonight with my son. He thought it was ok. I thought it was garbage. I really like Alien and Aliens, haven’t really liked any other one. I thought Prometheus was not good. I wish I could add more to the conversation, but the whole movie was just pointless to me and I think Mr. Majestyk got it exactly right with the very first post. Not to say anyone is wrong for liking it, cause to each their own, but I am just flabbergasted that anyone would think it was good, let alone “brilliant” at times. Art is subjective, I guess.

  78. zero-mentality

    May 25th, 2017 at 4:11 pm

    Do FORBIDDEN WORLD: CREDO and GALAXY OF VOL-TERROR: CANDIDE have release dates yet?

  79. I have a feeling this movie is going to be a huge flop. I don’t exactly have my finger on the pulse of the nation, but you get a feeling when a movie has legs and it doesn’t. I see almost every big release the first weekend it’s out. I was out of town and didn’t get to see guardians but I will see it this weekend. Get Out as the same way. I ink a good judge of a movie is if you didn’t get to see it the first two weeks out of you would still bother to go see it.
    I have a feeling a lot of people who missed this the first weekend will probably just wait until they can see it on pay per view. There is zero buzz about this movie, even though it got good reviews. I also bet Pirates 8 or whatever it is dies a quick death. I think Wonder Woman is going to kill it, too, btw. I think it will be Deadpoolish.

  80. I think COVENANT will do fine. Not in over 1 billion ways, but good enough. Especially because it was cheaper than it looked and it’s fucking ALIEN and people are after all those decades and weird sequels and spin-offs still not totally sick of it.
    POTC 5 will do good enough too. The series has a still a huge fanbase (although critics were out for it since part 2) and even the very TV-movie-ish part 4 was still good enough to not piss away all goodwill. (Depp’s private escapades might have turned some people off, but I think Jack Sparrow is bigger than Johnny Depp.) I’m sure it won’t break any box office records, but still will most likely make thrice its budget back within the first two weeks domestically. (But of course that won’t stop bloggers from referring to it as a huge box office bomb.)

    WONDER WOMAN will definitely have a huge opening weekend. If it has legs (no sexist pun intended) will depend on the actual quality, but the pre-release hype I’ve witnessed so far seems genuine and not in a “We must praise this movie for misguided feminist reasons” way. People seem seriously excited about it. It’s not super high on my list, but I will definitely check it out on home video or if a friend asks me to see it with him.

    But don’t believe me. I was the guy who thought that LONE RANGER would be the sleeper hit of its respective summer and that the SLEEPY HOLLOW TV show would be cancelled after three episodes. (It ran for 4 seasons.)

  81. I still need to catch up on the talk back, but I think this was a better film than PROMETHEUS, but it wasn’t as ambitious or interesting. COVENANT is skillfully crafted but much of it feels like an uninspired rehash of ALIEN, Scott seems more fascinated with David then doing something exciting with the xenomorph.

    I was thinking that this film including Scott’s other ALIEN films and BLADE RUNNER use synthetic life as a lense to explore ideas about humanity, the meaning of life, God, and creation but he never seems to come to a clear conclusion or have a cohesive perspective.

  82. Covenant is doing well in Asian countries (outperforming Prometheus, in fact), no so well in Europe and South America; it opens in China mid-June. We’ll see what kind of legs it has this four-day weekend, with $20 million for the 4-day being a very rough over/under.

    But like CJ Holden said, it’s cheaper than it looks, so it doesn’t need to do that well; it breaks even around $300 million, which it’ll hit even at a 25% drop from Prometheus. Given that it’s getting a Chinese release, I’m sure it’ll pass that number.

    The interesting drop to my mind is in the demographics. The Alien series has always had strong female leads, and while this is no exception (she’s not as interesting as Shaw and not in the same ballpark as Ripley, but still solid), the marketing didn’t reach women well. 43% of Prometheus’ audience was women; 32% of Covenant’s was female. Similarly, it skewed a lot younger (about 50% against Prometheus’ 65% over 25). Marketing focused heavily on the visceral horror aspect; I think if the marketing had emphasized Dany’s character more instead of just showing her scared, and had given more sense of the Hammer middle act, it would have stuck harder.

    Maybe.

    But then, I loved the Hammer mid-section except for Shaw’s fridging, so I could be wrong there.

  83. COVENANT is number 1 at the box office here in Norway.

  84. You mean it isn´t banned for heresy yet?

  85. No, but it could be because, unlike people in Sweden, we can still afford to go to the cinema.

  86. It is number 1 there, but it also made less than half of what Prometheus made its opening weekend.

  87. Did anyone see Life, BTW? With Jake Gyllenhaal and Deadpool in it?
    I didn’t love it at the time, but it really is a pretty good Alien movie.

  88. Of course we invented tigers. Everything we know, we know in terms of our perception. The concept “tiger” might have some external platonic reality, but all we have access to is our concept of a tiger, the shadow the “real” thing casts against our cave’s wall.

    The idea that “we are all that is out there” can also be looked at not as a solipsistic view but a holistic, Alan Wattsian view (you == the universe, the universe == you).

    These are simply ideas of how to interpret the world, and I think it’s nuts to seriously argue that only certain ideas are worth exploring in fiction but not others, that some interpretations can be compelling and invoke wonder, mystery, and terror, but not others. It’s like a religious person, unable to understand how an atheist could possibly lead a spiritually fulfilled life.

  89. I didn’t say the idea wasn’t worth exploring. I said that, in the context of what we already know about the ALIEN universe, it’s not interesting. You want to go down the rabbit hole with the “What if I’m just a brain in a jar somewhere?” stuff, that’s fine. To me, that stuff just doesn’t matter. When the tiger rips your face off, you stop wondering about whether it exists only in your mind. You’ll stop wondering about a whole lot of stuff, in fact, and start focusing on how to get the fuck away from this tiger that, for all practical purposes, definitely fucking exists and is not a function of your own perception. That’s kind of what the xenomorph does: It puts shit in perspective. You stop believing in the reality if all of mankind’s constructs–money, duty, authority, society, ego–and you commit fully to the here and the now of empirical evidence. I believe Ripley herself said it best: “God damn it, that’s not all! If one of those things gets down here then that WILL be all! And all this, this bullshit that you think is so important, you can just kiss all that goodbye!” Making the xenomorph just another facet of all of mankind’s contrived bullshit robs the character–indeed, its entire narrative function–of its power.

    For me, anyway. Obviously select others find Scott’s Philosophy 102 In Space lectures more intriguing. We’ve gotten a good discussion out of it, at least.

  90. You’ve made plenty of points about why the execution didn’t work for you; I would argue the problem is just that, the execution, not that the underlying metaphors are boring/useless.

    You mentioned earlier it’s another Frankenstein monster story, and yes we’ve seen that before. But who cares where you start as long as you have something to say? Maybe there is a great David-created-the-xenomorphs story to be told and this just wasn’t it.

  91. Well, sure. Hypothetically, Scott could have made a movie postulating that xenomorph eggs come from unicorn assholes, and if the execution was dope enough, we’d all be saying, “Now why didn’t I see that before? It’s so obvious!” But that still wouldn’t really make the unicorn anus idea a good one, and I honestly don’t think anyone’s that good a filmmaker anyway.

    Still, we could be getting into a chicken/egg thing here. Was the idea bad because the execution was lacking, or did the execution suck because it was a bad idea? I think it’s the latter. PROMETHEUS and COVENANT were executed in very similar fashions, but I didn’t hate PROMETHEUS, as shoddy as it is in so many respects, while I pretty much hate COVENANT. I think the reason is that PROMETHEUS, while ostensibly taking place in the ALIEN universe, is really its own thing. It’s far enough from its source material than it can more or less tell its own story with its own themes and conclusions without me worrying too much about how that stuff doesn’t fit with what we’ve already seen. COVENANT shoves its contradictions right up against ALIEN, and it cannot survive the comparison. Neither its themes nor its continuity are consistent with what we already know. There’s an uncanny valley thing going on where the closer it comes to ALIEN, the more wrong it feels. Is that a matter of execution, or are some stories, when placed in certain contexts, just a fool’s errand? I suspect the latter. I can’t imagine filmmaking so good that it makes the retrofitting of an unknowable cosmic destroyer into a robot’s daddy issues something I’d applaud.

  92. JeffG: I saw LIFE, I had my thoughts in the second PROMETHEUS thread. Overall, I’m positive on it but I didn’t care for the end. One doesn’t have to make as much excuses for it as they do PROMETHEUS or COVENANT. So yeah better than expected.

    As for the debate going on right now. Surprised the number of people defending the David created the Alien plot line. Like Mr. M said, it takes all the creepy unknown aspect out of the character. It also makes the world much smaller. I had finally reluctantly forgave them for de-mystifying the Space Jockey and making them uninteresting and now this. Reminds me of debates going on in other fandoms. I like OG STAR TREK but my brother is a big time Trekkie. After three reboot movies being ranging from bad-to-okay, we’re not convinced STAR TREK is really worth having around anymore (though we are cursed to look forward to and be hopeful for STAR TREK: DISCOVERY).

    *If you’re wondering how I can be a semi-STAR WARS prequel defender but struggle with ALIEN prequels, that’s easy. Man that was just STAR WARS, no big deal. This is ALIEN, a much cooler and sacred series. Yeah Darth Vader making R2-D2 and C-3PO is kinda silly and makes their marriage an incestuous one. Overal I can forgive that corniess if only because if it is from their creators making that wrong-headed universe-shrinking decision. Dan O’Bannon, H.R. Giger (and to a lesser extent, Walter Hill and David Giler) had no say in turning the Space Jockey into a giant albino or making the Alien a man-made construct and also suck real bad. I mean maybe O’Bannon would have agreed with it, after all when he was asked for an AVP idea he pitched the idea that the Predator is the fifth-stage of the Alien. SPOILER: They did not go with O’Bannon’s pitch.

  93. Well let me say that to some extent I am simply playing devil’s advocate, rather than trying to champion the David-as-creator plotline.

    But I don’t see why it would have to shrink the world to have David create them if you make David himself sufficiently other and mysterious and unknown. I think it’s the difference in how you look at artificial intelligence: is it a mundane function of human technological prowess, or is there a HP Lovecraftian element where we entered into some contract with unknowable forces?

    If you’ll permit a bit of a ramble: In the study of this stuff, the talk about “weak AI” and “strong AI”. Weak AI is any specialized-purpose AI, like a self-driving car or an algorithm that predicts what kind of ads you are likely to click on. The self-driving car will never, ever learn how to compose Prometheus theme music.

    David would be general purpose or “strong AI”, and as far as I can tell there are no computer scientists who believe we’re on the horizon of achieving such a thing. But even some of the “weak AI” stuff is creepy as fuck. Unsupervised machine learning algorithms that conclude shit on their own, such as (spoilers for NIKETOWN) “if you perform these seemingly unrelated, trivial actions, you must be a terrorist!” We don’t really need to understand the underlying data, but we know these algorithms can be extremely powerful and accurate so we trust the results.

    So what sort of mysterious shit did the Weyland software engineers do to create David? Did they even understand what forces they wielded to produce the results? And when David starts doing things that we don’t expect and can’t explain, is it out of a navel-gazing “look at how fallible and hubristic humans are” notion, since David is an allegory for a human? Or maybe David is something truly other, representing a force as unknowable and mysterious as whatever you were dreaming cooked up the xenomorphs in the first place?

    I don’t think the films sell you on any of this, but I can think of more interesting potential ways to look at David than “robot with daddy issues”.

  94. @Sigfried Trent: The Neomorphs have acid blood too. Walter loses one of his hands from the blood. This is speculative, but I think it’s still very much in question how much Ridley Scott will acknowledge the Alien films he wasn’t involved in, and the strongest indication of the Aliens as having a social structure, a hive, and possibly more intelligence comes from James Cameron’s movie. But I agree with your other points. Still I would point out that David is an android who makes numerous errors in the movie. I think that’s quite symbolic of his potential madness and off-kilter mental state for

    One final thing I’ll throw out there is it’s possible that Walter is thrown off by how the Xenomorph, when it sees his face on the screen, snarls and attacks the screen. Fassbender flinches and blinks in reaction, suggesting his surprise and possible fear. Maybe he’s worried his creation will kill him, or is not easily tamed, it’s quite a different reaction than the one he gets with the first Xenomorph he bonded with (seemingly). His startled reaction makes me wonder if that plays into any of his subsequent decisions not to prematurely take out Tennessee and Daniels in the airlock (alternatively, it’s a good test run for his Xenomorph to see what he should tweak in the future.)

  95. PROBABLY SPOILERS TO SOMEONE….

    Had a day to myself finally, so naturally I went and saw this (in between some bouts of Vern-age).

    I loved this film. I loved the cast. The audacity of the film-making. The weirdness. The expansiveness of the world. The way it takes the staid ponderousness of Prometheus and blows it up, making me able to appreciate the that film so much more now that if functions as a companion piece to this one.

    Fassbender is just a beast. Really enjoyed Billy Crudup. The Xenomorph looked great, I thought, and did lots of cool shit. The whole gothic weirdo Frankenstein Fassbender stuff was glorious. Inspired, horrific, gross-out, Jason X-with-a-better-budget fan-servicey shit that I would never have believed Ridley Scott would have done. Repeated extended cuts to floating, bobbing severed head. Hell to the yes. More-straight-up-weird-than-homoerotic Fassbender-on-Fassbender playing the recorder scene. Priceless. Fassbender-on-Fassbender judo smackdown in an Alien film. Oh, man. The movie is just full of mean-spirited, scenery-chewing joy. And you can’t just say it’s fan service, because there’s also just so much weird stuff. Like the Xenomorphs themselves, it’s just a weirdo hybrid exercise in what happens when a facehugger latches around Prometheus and births an Alien.

    If you can’t enjoy this stuff, you need to visit the proctologist, because you have a large, uncomfortable object lodged in your rectum.The only way I can see you not liking this film is if you really disliked Prometheus or Alien or both, AND if you don’t enjoy Fassbender. Because it’s just a work of sheer joy and fun but continues to riff on some fun big ideas. I agree with Subtlety that it essentially serves to deconstruct Prometheus. This film reverse both Alien and Prometheus (with all kinds of callbacks and grace notes), and yet it utterly refuses to treat either as a sacred cow and insists on doing its own thing.

    I can’t remember the last time a film was able to blend horror, sci-fi, really good acting and flourishes of utter camp this effectively.

    Now all that said, I can’t really take it seriously as a straight-ahead prequel to Alien: The simplicity of ALIEN is a huge part of what makes it work, and the old saw that bringing the monster out into the light (literally or by revealing an elaborate backstory mythology) makes it less scary holds here as much as anywhere. But dang if Ridley Scott’s whacked-out “David” series doesn’t work as a fascinating exercise in big budget, alternative-history fan fiction.

  96. Sorry, I meant to say “reveres,” not “reverse.”

  97. Finally saw this one, so it’s now safe for me to read the review and the comments. I just want to say that Majestyk’s comments here are epic, even though I enjoyed the movie far, far more than he did.

    I agree that giving the Alien an Earthly origin changes the meaning of the original film (where it seemed to be threateningly unknown) in a somewhat unwelcome way. But many series, if they last long enough, develop in unexpected ways.

    It’s just as unlikely that Godzilla would change from Tokyo’s destroyer to its defender, or that Daffy Duck would change from a whooping, hunter-taunting loon to a bitter George Costanza prototype, or that Snoopy would change from a semi-normal dog who walks on all fours to an aspiring author and fighter pilot who can communicate with birds. These things happen.

  98. vern your instinct to devils advocate everything is admirable, but you are going way too easy on this shit. not only is it a lame retread of every ridley scott alien film with worse effects and less interesting characters, it manages to drive the final nail into the coffin that now houses the gorgeous lovecraftian cosmic horror of alien.
    that universe is no longer a vast unknowable expanse that could house infinite nightmares; instead it has been reduced to a tiny humancentric murder backdrop where it turns out that the butler did it. everyone involved should be fucking ashamed.

  99. ALSO while i agree that the flute scene was one of few interesting things, in retrospect it does not sit well with me at all. giving villains homoerotic undertones SOLELY to try and make mainstream audiences uncomfortable needs to fucking stop. its not only gross and problematic, its a lazy trope that has been played out for decades.

  100. Can we all agree that the idea of introducing Ripley’s parents into the Alien timeline is the dumbest fucking thing? If the next movie has David and Ripley’s parents encountering Aliens then Ridley Scott can really go fuck himself. He’s ruined this franchise. Ugh, what a bad idea.

  101. Whoa.. the same guy who thought it was a great idea to turn the Space Jockies into giant albino men and made the titular creature, the ultimate in unknowable terror, a man-made creation now thinks it’s a good idea to add a quasi-destiny plot-line to Ellen Ripley, the ultimate just-doing-their-job and was in the wrong place at the wrong time character? Color me shocked.

  102. I would not put too much stock into anything Ridley Scott says now about what he’s planning for the next one (if he even does a next one).

    I understand and sympathize with people who are expecting this to really elegantly work within the ALIEN continuity. If that is a deal-breaker for you to enjoy these films, then you’re not going to enjoy these films, period. And I get the implicit argument that any film that self-consciously positions itself as a prequel, sequel, or “shared universe” film deserves to be held to the same quality and continuity standards as the other films in that universe. I think that’s generally an understandable expectation, but I think it’s also possible to give the filmmakers and the series a bit more latitude to be loose with the continuity and to engage in soft rebooting, reimagining, and various flights of fancy. I grew up on the Jason and Freddy films, where the continuity and cross-entry logical coherence was all over the map. Every sequel was like a soft reboot or at the very lease brought in all kinds of mythology or continuity issues that were ignored or contradicted by other films. Not saying they were great cinema, just that I was always down to spend more time with the core character and premise and then allow a lot of latitude for weird and different shit, which works to various degrees.

    So, I agree that finding out Michael Fassbender engineered the xenomorph does nothing to increase my enjoyment of ALIEN 1. Indeed, it would detract from my enjoyment of an ALIEN 1 viewing if the mantra “David engineered this species of aliens” was scrolling across my mind. I treat COVENANT more like an alternate timeline or reimagining or postmodern / meta fan fiction thought experiment brought to life. Treating it that way, I find a lot to enjoy in it. I feel the same way about FORCE AWAKENS. Nothing about that film or the prequels is going to retroactively diminish my enjoyment for the originals. If it does strike gold and do a truly satisfying sequel that snaps right into the continuity and quality level and elevates the originals or builds on them, then that’s fantastic. If the new film fails to clear that bar or just does something else weird, I can still enjoy it without the need to negatively compare it against the original or despair at how the retconning or ball-dropping has somehow tainted my enjoyment of the original.

  103. My opinion on this movie is still flaky. Depends on when you get me. I am starting to lean towards it more negatively though. We’ll see when I rewatch it on home video. I’m fine with head-cannoning this series into alternative universe territory though.

  104. I really enjoyed the xenomorph in this one, but I heard a lot of people complaining about it, and I think Subtlety even said he thought AVP did better execution on the xenomorph front. I thought the xenomorph looked great in this. There were some really cool shots. I agree that the xenomorph scenes are a bit tacked on and involve a lot of callbacks to the original film, but I had fun with it. It’s like a really good-looking, Saturday matinee B-movie. With it being 30 years since they did a really good ALIEN film, and with all the weird directions they’ve taken (from RESURRECTION to AVP to PROMETHEUS), I can’t take this one too seriously, and I also can’t be too mad at it. The cast, the visuals, and the sheer balls-out weirdness carry the day for me. And I think it’s as gory and horror-y an ALIEN film as I’ve ever seen.

  105. I´ve always been picking on ALIEN fans not liking ALIEN movies. And I ahve always been a casual ALIEN fan. But this one is pretty much inexcusible. I appologize to Mr Majestyk. Because this was……Jesus Christ

  106. Not only was the first hour made by Paul W.S Anderson with a less talanted crew. But the rest of the film is completely lacking of drama whatsoever. Shit seem to happen at times and that is it.

    I honestly can´t believe any of this is made by Ridley Scott.

  107. I would give it a few years, Shoot. Like with most sequels that comes along after 15-20 years these too have to mature in peoples minds. I’m sure we’ll see people changing their minds eventually. Maybe you too.

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