– By Paulie Spiceflow –
Many Alien fans walked into the theaters this weekend with high hopes. The newest installment, directed by Ridley Scott, promised to learn from the mistakes of Prometheus and put out a film worthy of the groundbreaking original. Critics generally gave it positive reviews before it premiered. From the trailers and a few rumors, there was a good chance a big part of the Alien mythos would be revealed.
Most of those fans walked out of the theater with a single question on their mind: “what the fuck was that?”
Alien: Covenant failed to live up to the promise and instead disappoints with incoherent themes, plot holes, non-stop gratuitous violence, and a cast of utterly forgettable characters. Gore, a few scares, and some solid special effects did not prevent it from being a dumpster fire.
Make Up Your Mind!
Covenant could not decide what kind of movie it wanted to be. The opening scene suggests it would try to follow the philosophical underpinnings of Prometheus, examining human origins. The backstory had an Ancient Aliens feel, which is not a bad thing. The architects, the installation, even the ships in Prometheus were impressive but that movie abandoned those themes to be a basic monster flick. Covenant gave up on the human origins theme after the very first scene.
In the middle, the movie explores artificial intelligence through the new Michael Fassbender android named Walter. Only, the movie offers the barest of examinations of AI or creation themes. Then it is abandoned to become a monster flick.
Origin of humanity, artificial intelligence, alien first contact, sci-fi horror… the movie never made up its mind what kind of movie it wanted to be.
Paging Doctor Freud
Consider this, a being penetrates and impregnates another against their will for the purpose of reproduction. The concept, which is found in nature in several forms, is utterly repugnant to us and considered among the worst crimes one human being can do to another. Part of the horror and fear of Alien is a creature violating you, exploiting your body, then murdering you for its own purpose. The teeth, claws, and acid blood are also pretty terrifying but not the whole package.
Alien: Covenant goes a step beyond the parasitic act and gives a voice or consciousness to the creators of these nightmare creatures. They speak on their reasoning and the love they have for their incredible new creations. The creator confronts Walter about his artificial origins and inability to be creative. In their minds, even artificial life is superior to humans. The scene involves a man-on-man kiss, which by itself is not shocking anymore but changes the aura of the movie from terror and survival, to something intimate and sexual. In another scene, the creator pins down Daniels (played by Katherine Waterston), and leans over her atop an altar like table.
Human sacrifice, ritualistic sex, the senseless slaughter of one astronaut crew after another, including a the slaughter of two crew members having sex in the shower, and the implantation of alien embryos on the ship with sleeping colonists… The symbolism is disturbing to say the least.
The alien creatures are terrifying virus-like parasitic predators but they are just animals. Throw in the conscious, intelligent creator, and you change the evil from a virus to a rapist.
I wonder what Dr. Freud would say about the plot and perhaps what psychoanalysis he would offer for the writers and director.
Alien and Aliens gives you plenty of quality characters starting with the hardcore bad ass Ellen Ripley. The sequel added Hicks, Hudson, Vasquez, and Bishop. You remembered their faces, their personalities and their names. Prometheus had semi-memorable characters played by Guy Pearce, Charlize Theron, and Idris Elba.
Not so for Covenant. Walter and Daniels get a lot of screen time but I never felt connected to either of them. Walter, who looks and sounds exactly like David from Prometheus, really never developed much. Daniels was a solid heroine but really lacked the presence of Ripley. Tennessee (played by Danny McBride), other than his hat, was utterly forgettable. I cannot remember the name of any other character, nor did I give a shit what happened to them.
A Franchise of Failure
It is with great sadness we remember the first two movies and silently weep for what could have been for this franchise. Alien and Aliens are undisputed classics that sit atop most top-10s of sci-fi horror movies. Lieutenant Ripley was among the first great heroines of our time, and the xenomorph itself invaded the nightmares of millions. Bill Paxton’s character Hudson gave us the iconic lines “game over man!” There was such a wealth of awesomeness, one had to conclude it would dominate the subgenre for years, maybe decades to come.
Alien 3 resurrected Ripley on a remote penal colony fighting one xenomorph, an inexplicable de-escalation of action. Alien: Resurrection was a flop. Then, the owners of the property stopped giving a shit. Alien vs. Predator was a cool cross-over idea but was largely a B-movie. AVP: Requiem was an utter disaster and is arguably the worst film in the franchise.
When it was announced Ridley Scott would direct the alien prequel: Prometheus, expectations ran high. While it aimed higher thematically and had much stronger production values, it disappointed many fans. It’s biggest flaw being the absence of the xenomorph until the very last scene.
With the abysmal failure of this latest installment, I think its time we fans admit that this has been a franchise of failure. If Ridley Scott cannot bring it back to life, who can?
Paulie Spiceflow is a regular contributor, movie reviewer and unbelievable smart ass. He prides himself on his excessive knowledge of movies, TV, books, internet memes, and pop cultural references. During college, he spent minimal hours studying but took full-advantage of the free internet and lack of bills to broaden his knowledge in numerous genres including spoof comedy, fantasy, Shakespeare, military history, zombies, and cartoons.