Title: Alien: Covenant
Describe This Movie In One Simpsons Quote:
Comic Book Guy: Question: is your name Ridley Scott or James Cameron?
Homer: No, it’s Homer.
Comic Book Guy: Then I would thank you to stop peering at my screenplay, *Homer*. If I see a movie where computers threaten our personal liberties, I will know that you stole me idea.
Homer: I’m just waiting for my kid. [mental note: steal his idea]
Rating Using Random Objects Relevant to the Film: One-and-a-half Screaming Lord Byrons out of five.
Brief Plot Synopsis: "Hold my beer."
Better Tagline: “Space: the final abbatoir.”
Not So Brief Plot Synopsis: Colony ship UCSS Covenant is still seven years away from its destination when a rogue neutrino wave temporarily disables it, killing several members of the crew. While performing repairs, they receive a mysterious transmission from a seemingly lifeless planet. Against the advice of acting XO Daniels (Katherine Waterston), to say nothing of empirical observation or simple common sense, Captain Oram (Billy Crudup) selects this new planet as their ultimate destination. When they arrive, events soon take an unpleasant turn, the least jarring of which is the discovery of David (Michael Fassbender), a synthetic cousin to Covenant’s own Walter (also Fassbender) and sole survivor of the science vessel Prometheus.
“Critical” Analysis: It’s probably as good a time as any to stick a fork in the Alien franchise.
Covenant represents one of two planned links between Prometheus and the 1979 original. The movie takes place in 2104, which – like Prometheus before it – paints an almost depressingly optimistic portrait of our near-future spacefaring capabilities. More importantly, it leaves a mere 18 years between Covenant and Alien. Director Ridley Scott has already stated there will be two more prequels leading up to the events on board the Nostromo, but after the relative scarcity of original ideas in Alien: Covenant, it’s hard to tell what more, if anything, Scott has left to say.
That’s not entirely fair, in retrospect. Scott obviously thinks the mystery surrounding the xenomorphs’ origin is one which requires multiple movies to explain (whether this is backed up by actual fan interest is debatable). The thing is, in Covenant we tie up pretty much every loose end, from the question of what fate befell the Engineers to what was responsible for the xenomorphs’ final incarnation. This new information (and the beefed-up presence of synthetics David and Walter) is all that prevents this entry from being a straight-up Alien remake, albeit a very pretty one.
Examples? There’s a mysterious signal that diverts our heroes from their original destination, events then transpire that place our short-haired brunette in the position of crew leader, who must take her team through a Cyclopean landscape brimming with horrors that are awakened by their own stupidity/carelessness. Hell, Scott wants it both ways, blending action elements recognizable from Aliens into the horror framework of the original. The first two movies were the best (and arguably only good) movies in the series, so that should help, shouldn’t it?
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It bears repeating that just about everyone in this movie is aggressively stupid. One could even argue galactically so. This would appear to conflict with the sort of advanced technology required to send colonizing missions to the stars, so your guess is as good as anyone’s: maybe the smart people build the spaceships and the dumb ones are those blasted into the void. Every decision, from redirecting the Covenant’s destination away from a thoroughly vetted planet to one whose only form of recmmendation is a ghostly voice singing a John Denver song (yes, really), to splitting the team up on a now-hostile planet, to tactical decisions potentially causing the deaths of thousands of hibernating colonists (decisions which come to nothing, naturally), it’s hard not to arrive at the conclusion mankind will end up conquering the stars in spite of itself.
The carelessness that went into developing the ostensible plot only offsets the loving detail Scott gives to the David/Walter arc and the importance ladled onto David’s origin/evolution and that of the xenomorphs. Admittedly, the eventual reveal of how the “aliens” attained their current form is … troubling, but one could argue a huge part of what made the original so disturbing was in not knowing anything about the so-called “Space Jockey” or how the ship came to be loaded with alien eggs. Prometheus deliberately muddied the waters (all according to Scott’s plan, he says) while heavily leaning on the creation aspect. Unfortunately, like its predecessor, Covenant poses more questions than it answers.
And as with any Scott creation, the production design is gorgeous, and the effects — especially those xeno…sorry “proto”morph-related – are top notch. The final alien form is the most accomplished vision yet, but when the human cast is drawn so thinly, who cares? Only Danny McBride’s character stands out somewhat, mostly because his fairly straight “Tennessee” is basically Danny McBride lite.
Given all the about-faces and half-formed ideas coming from Scott in advance of (and following) his two prequels, it’s hard not to view him as kind of an anti-George Miller. Where the latter favored meticulous storyboarding and trusted the audience to fill in Mad Max: Fury Road’s blanks, Scott insists on showing us how the narrative sausage being made. The results, like actual butchery, aren’t very pretty.