Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Alien: Covenant. Review & Analysis



Alien: Covenant, Ridley Scott's sequel to 2012's Prometheus, also brings us closer to 1979's Alien. While there are sequences and shocks which recall the latter, there is a fair amount of the former's ruminations on divinity, creation, and destruction. The end result is tense, heady, & entertaining, but it also feels like a hybrid of two different films imperfectly stitched together.

(WARNING! SPOILERS AHEAD! CONTINUE READING AT YOUR DISCRETION / PERIL!)

Part of the problem is expectations. We know what to expect from an Alien film.

We also have high expectations when it comes to Scott and science fiction, primarily thanks to Alien and Blade Runner (more recently, The Martian, and for some, Prometheus). Fair or not, we've seen what Scott is capable of when he maximizes his ability. Let's also be honest - no one is more aware of those expectations than Scott himself.

Alien: Covenant, like Prometheus, is preoccupied with making a big statement. Like Prometheus, the narrative twists doesn't cohere well enough to make the film an unqualified success.

But, also like Prometheus, it's visually resplendent and thematically challenging, as well as one of the bleakest franchise films in recent memory.

Tons more past the jump!

We Don't Know What The F**k's Out There!




The starship USCSS Covenant is in transit to planet Origae 6, transporting 2,000 colonists in stasis, along with over 1,000 more human embryos, and terraforming equipment. The ship is also equipped with a flight crew of about a 15 (including half dozen couples) in hypersleep and an android named Walter (Michael Fassbender) handling daily maintenance.

With over 7 years remaining in the journey, the Covenant is hit with a neutrino burst which does severe damage to the ship. Captain Branson (James Franco) is incinerated inside his hypersleep pod, while 47 other colonists are killed.

Walter and Branson's widow, Daniels (Katherine Waterston) make repairs to equipment in the terraforming bay. Meanwhile, while on EVA to repair the solar sails, Tennessee's (Danny McBride) comm picks up a signal from a potentially habitable planet in a nearby star system. The repeating signal appears to be a human voice singing John Denver's Take Me Home, Country Roads.

Executive Officer Chris Oram (Billy Crudup), a devout Christian with borderline Avoidant Personality Disorder, assumes command of the mission and makes the decision to divert the Covenant a few weeks off course to investigate. He reasons (over Daniels' objections) that if the planet is indeed habitable, it might serve equally well as (or better than) the original destination.

Upon landing in a shuttle, the Covenant's ground crew discovers the source of the transmission is a crashed spacecraft of unknown origin. Inside, they find the ID tags of Elizabeth Shaw, member of the lost Prometheus expedition from 10 years ago, as well as the recording she sent out. Two members of the ground crew are also infected with microscopic spores.

The ground crew, in the midst of bloody chaos, loses several members as well as their shuttle. Stranded and under attack by alien creatures, the survivors are rescued by another member of the lost Prometheus expedition, the android David (Michael Fassbender). He leads the Covenant's survivors to safety in an ancient city, covered with the remains of thousands of decomposed humanoid bodies

Needless to say, the remaining crew discover David is not as benign as he initially appears, and must escape back to the Covenant.

Look Upon My Works, Ye Mighty and Despair: Cosmic Horror & Unexamined Faith.



Author's Aside: I highly recommend readers also check out Stealing Fire. In Praise of Prometheus. It discusses concepts related to both Prometheus and Alien: Covenant, with an understanding of Nietzsche I could never hope to have.
One of the core ideas behind the entire Alien franchise is what's called "Cosmic" or "Lovecraftian" Horror. This brand of horror originates with author H.P. Lovecraft, known for works such as At the Mountains of Madness, The Call of Cthulhu, and The Shadow Out of Time.

Cosmic horror is often expressed by comparing humanity to the vastness of the universe and human obliviousness to cosmic forces of immense power. These forces could wipe out humanity in an instant, and without giving humanity a second thought. Importantly, Lovecraft had an enormous influence on Dan O'Bannon, author of the original screenplay upon which Alien was based.

In its earliest stages, Alien explicitly invoked the idea of man encountering cosmic forces far beyond its understanding. In the original Alien script, the eggs were not found aboard the derelict, but were found elsewhere on the planetoid inside enormous and ancient pyramids. This snippet from an O'Bannon essay featured direct references to Lovecraft's work:
Alien went to where the Old Ones lived, to their very world of origin,” Dan remarked in his essay, ‘Something Perfectly Disgusting’. “That baneful little storm-lashed planetoid halfway across the galaxy was a fragment of the Old Ones’ home world, and the Alien a blood relative of Yog-Sothoth.”
Having read At the Mountains of Madness, I see a clear template for the Lost City of the Engineers.

More importantly, to rebut those who criticize the very existence of Prometheus and Alien: Covenant for exploring the mythology of the franchise, this mythology was always intended to be there.

Further, it's beautifully rendered by Scott and his design team, headed by Production Designer Chris Seagers. As shown in the film, the Engineer City comes off like an Ancient Roman city. The central plaza is littered with the ruined corpses of thousands of dead Engineers, reminiscent of the preserved remains in Pompeii from over 2,000 years ago. The Engineer City is a true Necropolis.

Inside the temple where David lives, we have a visual anachronism; the knowledge belonging to a spacefaring race of super-humanoids - who have seeded untold numbers of planets across the universe and quite possibly wiped out equal numbers of burgeoning civilizations along the way - is recorded on scrolls and parchment.

Taking it a step further: this Necropolis and the Cosmic Horror it represents is the ultimate rebuttal to Oram's unexamined piety, and a primary source of the film's surprisingly bleak tone. Some critics have charged that Oram's faith is dropped like a hot potato after being introduced. I disagree. The film's events, and Oram's reaction to them, may be read as an examination of his faith.

Part of what makes Oram such an annoying (and real) character is that he uses faith as a crutch. He talks about taking the path which is laid out before him, and confidently assumes Providence is the guiding force behind the good fortune of the planet they discover. Who knows, he may even thank Providence for his assuming command after a tragedy. His shallow faith also gives him a sense of entitlement - witness his resentment at not being chosen to command the Covenant from the outset.

Once Oram inherits command of the Covenant, he assumes people hate him for his beliefs as opposed to his social anxiety and need for order - recall his rejection of the neutrino burst as a cosmic anomaly and his anger with some of the crew having a funeral service for Branson. He even taunts Daniels with his faith immediately after landing. Oram's wife Karine, played with sweet but firm shading by Carmen Ejogo has to continually (and gently) remind him to show respect to his shipmates.

The events of this film, beginning with the neutrino blast, are an uncaring and frequently hostile universe punching Oram repeatedly in the face. It's only when Daniels suggests letting go of his self-pity and focusing on saving his crew that his faith moves from a place of weakness to a place of strength - he goes to gather his flock, then confronts David about the truth of his situation. Crucially, Oram mentions having once seen the Devil to David - this is after David tried to stop Oram from killing the Neomorph which itself had just killed Rosenthal (Tess Haubrich).

It's this moral strength which complicates his death. Oram finds some measure of peace with his faith, just as the Alien series' greatest symbol of cosmic and body horror tears him apart. When he honestly asks David what he believes just before being ripped apart by the chestburster, David answers "Creation." Oram smiles at him, seeing the smug amorality of David's statement.

By extension, Elizabeth Shaw's fate (as revealed in this film) is just as insidiously deranged. Reclaiming her father's cross in defiance of Cosmic horror at the end of Prometheus, and determined to meet her makers, she ends up as David's test subject for an unknown number of biological experiments.

There's no getting around how aggressively Alien: Covenant flirts with nihilism.

Reign in Hell, or Serve in Heaven: Artificial Intelligence vs. its Creators



As if Cosmic horror wasn't enough, we also get the specter of artificial intelligence wanting to wipe out humanity. The opening scene sets the table.

Middle-aged trillionaire Peter Weyland (Guy Pearce) stands nearby as his newest creation, an android, becomes self-aware. The android identifies various items in a white room with mountain views, among them a Steinway piano, a Carlo Bugatti chair, and a pair of priceless artworks: The Nativity by Pierro della Francesa, and Michelangelo's David.

As David takes his name from the statue, he sits down at the piano to play Wagner at Weyland's request; David "chooses" Das Rheingold, The Entry of the Gods into Valhalla.

David is characterized as Mankind's newest work of art, a masterpiece of artificial intelligence. What's also clear is that Weyland views himself as an artist (creator) on the same level as Michelangelo, Francesa, Wagner, and Bugatti (As a side note, I also think it's likely that an egomaniac like Weyland impressed his mind on David's programming). 

During their conversation, David hits Weyland with the obvious assertion that while Weyland can create (importantly also meaning the ability to procreate), he is mortal. David, on the other hand cannot create, yet is immortal. Weyland's overwhelming self-regard leaves no room for the idea he's not a God, and so demands David serve him tea as he might demand of a servant.

From this seed, we see David's turn toward self-actualization. David (and Weyland himself) would've regarded it as becoming what Nietzsche called the Übermensch. Scott is also explicitly asking his audience whether the created owes anything to such an obviously selfish and flawed creator.

Marooned in the Dead City, David has bloomed into a malignant narcissist - imagine a kind of Doctor Frankenstein mixed with Colonel Kurtz. This is first expressed when he massacres the City's inhabitants using their own weapon - the black liquid from Prometheus. He experiments on Shaw, likely following the texts of the Engineers. His dwelling is filled with experiments, ranging from insects to dissected humans. The walls are covered with sketches of tortured creations.

As a result, we get something almost completely new to the Alien universe (outside of Brad Dourif in Alien: Resurrection), a Mad Scientist horror film.

Crucially, the film also asserts that David's malignant narcissism is exacerbated by his inability to procreate. David is sexually unable to express himself the way a human could. In the Alien universe, the inability to create new life is equivalent to death (which also explains why men are consistently victimized & marginalized within this universe, compared to women and the creatures themselves).

Consider how many times David asserts his sexuality (or expresses himself in sexual terms):

  • David teases Walter with a double entendre while playing the recorder: "I'll do the fingering." This scene, as directed by Scott and performed by Fassbender against himself, is spellbindingly creepy, homoerotic and incestuous at once. 
  • Moments later, he teases Walter again (in the garden) about his unconsummated desire for Daniels while also teasing that he had desired Shaw. In a sense, David serves as the Tempter in the Garden (recall Oram's statement from earlier) while the garden itself appears inspired by Arnold Böcklin's painting Isle of the Dead (which even has a version painted by H.R. Giger).
  • Before assaulting Walter (by jamming the recorder into his neck), David asserts humanity's weakness and decay - the colonization mission of the Covenant is a desperate attempt by humanity to procreate (be fruitful and multiply). 
  • David assaults Daniels in a room filled with rolled-up scrolls (shades of Ash in Alien) and kisses her.
  • Most importantly, David's greatest "creation" imposes its sexuality upon its victim, regardless of gender, and reproduces itself with ruthless efficiency. This brings me back to Oram's death by chestburster. Never mind the wicked joy and anticipation with which David watches Oram's suffering - but what better way to kill a pious Christian man than to orally rape him and force him to become the mother to his own offspring? David's ecstasy over his "creation" is one of the most truly amazing (if not outright bizarre) moments in the entire Alien series.

The concern over artificial intelligence takes on multiple layers between Prometheus and Alien: Covenant. The Engineers' bioweapon could certainly be taken as a metaphor for artificial intelligence, a warning about how creating such a power could overwhelm all safeguards and eventually lead to destruction. With David's arc, Scott literalizes what was implicit in Prometheus: humanity is moving in parallel to their creators and the thing they believed would make them powerful has turned on them.

These two strands - Cosmic Horror and Rage Against One's Creator connect two classic works of literature referenced in the film; John Milton's Paradise Lost, and Percy Bysshe Shelley's Ozymandias. In Paradise Lost, Lucifer rages against his creator, explicitly choosing to rule in Hell rather than serve in Heaven. Further, David recites Ozymandias mockingly, taking malicious glee in seeing the ruins of both Engineer and (he hopes) Human civilization. In a lovely twist to his narcissism, (and possibly Weyland's faulty memory) David keeps misattributing Ozymandias to Lord Byron.

This comes to a head in the film's final sequence. Though the narrative handling seems (see below) clumsy, there's a real kick when Daniels realizes David has replaced Walter on board the CovenantSeeing this sexually frustrated malignant narcissist hiding his preserved facehuggers among frozen human embryos and watching him stroll down the corridor eyeing sleeping colonists as blank canvases the way Josef Mengele might* while Das Rheingold plays over the speakers is a truly chilling note for this film to end on.
* hat tip to Matthew Stanley, who mentioned this to me in a discussion about the film.

Cosmic horror, body horror, and paranoia regarding artificial intelligence have long been themes in the Alien series. That being said, simply carrying these themes forward and developing them isn't enough to make the film a masterpiece.


One Wrong Note Eventually Ruins The Entire Symphony. Alien: Covenant's Narrative Issues.




In the case of Alien, the broad outlines of the story aren't anything which hadn't been already seen in any number of B movies of the 1950's and 1960's, including The Thing From Another World, Forbidden Planet, It! The Terror Beyond Space, and Planet of the Vampires.

What set Alien apart from its forebears was the quality of the execution. For this reason, the question when it comes to the Alien series really isn't originality. The question is whether the variations are both faithful to the Alien series and creatively executed?

Here are some tropes which are common to the Alien series, which are deployed in Alien: Covenant.

  • Receiving an unexpected transmission from a planet other than the destination.
  • The mothership (or primary cargo) remains in orbit while a shuttle descends to the surface.
  • The xenomorph.
  • Parasites incubating inside a host.
  • Androids with unknown or ulterior motives.
  • A harrowing final escape from the source of infestation.
  • The final alien is ejected into space from the ship.

As mentioned above, Alien: Covenant is (at least partially) a Mad Scientist horror film. Given that no two films in the franchise are completely alike, it's admirable and appropriate that Scott and his writers found yet another variation for this franchise.

To be clear; the problem isn't that we get a Mad Scientist Alien film. The problem is that we get 40 minutes of a Mad Scientist film dropped in the middle of an 80 minute stripped-down body horror film similar to the original Alien, and they don't really fit together. Furthermore, the first 50 minutes or so of Alien: Covenant are the best tension and terror this franchise has produced in 30 years, and pivoting to David's entrance slows the momentum right when the sense of chaos should be building.

Scott is fascinated with the nuts and bolts (as well as spectacle) of hard sci-fi, as he demonstrates early in the film with the repairs to the energy sails (he also demonstrated this in The Martian)Scott also seems genuinely energized with the introduction of the Neomorphs to the franchise, and he also absolutely loves the malignant narcissist David has evolved into, and what perversions result from it. It can't be undersold how effortless and engaging Scott makes these scenes look.

But it's the second ending, when the audience gets the xenomorph it has known and loved back on the screen, where (including the visceral shower scene) Scott's staging and pacing feels most mechanical, if not rushed - as if he's bored and saying "I've been here and done this already."

This sense of feeling rushed leads into the second source of frustration I have; the lack of narrative housekeeping.

Here's one example: When the shower scene takes place, Ricks (Jussie Smollett) and Upworth (Callie Hernandez) are the last surviving couple. Does it make sense that once the survivors had returned to the Covenant and they'd completed their official duties, Ricks and Upworth might decide to get cleaned up and have sex - both as a stress release and a shared sense of relief they're both alive and still have each other? I think it does.

However, we really don't get to see them interact as husband and wife during the film. Combined with the rushed/mechanical pacing, there's not enough suspense or character identification to elevate the shower scene beyond the visceral. It's a terrific gruesome kick, but that's all (this is why many critics have compared the shower scene to a bad slasher movie kill scene).

Another example: the landing party isn't wearing helmets when they first arrive on the planet. Remember, there's been a few weeks for the Covenant's crew to investigate the planet following the decision to change course. Furthermore, we don't know how much time passes after the Covenant enters orbit, but before the lander with the survey team heads for the surface. Given all that time and those resources, to suggest the crew hasn't done some sort of scanning / probing / sampling to verify the atmosphere was breathable and safe is pretty ridiculous. I had no problem presuming the crew had done this the 1st time I saw the film.

Unfortunately, this scanning / probing / sampling is never shown, nor is it ever discussed by the crew. One or two lines, or even a display on the bridge is all an audience needs.

Author's Note: When viewing the Blu-ray, the initial scan of the planet on the Covenant clearly displays an Oxygen/Nitrogen atmosphere, gravity similar to Earth (as stated by Ricks) and a temperature of approximately 20°C, but it's not emphasized or lingered on.

Showing these processes adds verisimilitude to the film by showing audiences a protocol and procedure (which in turn implies training and experience - adding depth to the characters) for the Covenant's crew to follow. I'll also note verisimilitude is a key to Alien's success.

My last big question / issue within the film is the disregard of the xenomorph lifecycle while simultaneously attempting to explain its origins.

It's not known how much time passes before Oram's chestburster emerges, but it seems to happen very quickly. Further, his chestburster emerges not as a snake / worm like in Alien or Aliens, but rather a gangly small alien with a head, arms, and legs.

When Lope (Demian Bechir) is attacked by a facehugger, the creature is only on his face for a moment before it is cut off - it bleeds some acid onto Lope's face in the process (and the acid here just burns the top few layers of skin - remember when acid burns through 2 decks of the Nostromo in Alien?). Further, the facehugger attacking Lope infects him instantly before being removed; as the xenomorph aboard the Covenant emerges from him in the med bay.

Also, it seems as though the xenomorph grows exceptionally fast here. There are also subtle differences between this xenomorph and the others we encounter which are incubated in humans.

Author's Aside: James Cameron smartly avoided this issue in Aliens by omitting the scene of a cocooned and post face-hugger Burke. It has been a stumbling block for every film in the series since.

I suggest (and hope) these xenomorphs are a "David variant." The eggs are larger, the chestbursters appear more developed, and the xenomorph is slightly different and (crucially) not as clever or intelligent. For those reasons, I don't think these are the same as those found on the derelict in Alien.

It's as if David has studied the Engineer's work, and is following in the Engineers' footsteps, but hasn't perfected the process. Recall the mural in the Ampule Room in Prometheus - the Engineers have long known about the xenomorph. I don't think the origin of the xenomorphs is conclusively solved (regardless of what Scott has said, especially given how the concepts for this film have changed over the last 5 years), as we still don't know if they were originally created by the Engineers. Alternately, it's still possible the Engineers discovered them on some other planet and reverse engineered their bioweapon from xenomorph DNA.

Either way, (as described above) the end result is the xenomorphs feel shoehorned into the narrative to supply a new threat for the climax, and to provide some sense of fan service.

Even if you're of the opinion the film is not designed to work primarily on a narrative level - as this this line by film critic Jim Emerson (discussing Prometheus) suggests:

"... when a film shows so little regard for the basic craftsmanship of storytelling and character, you have to at least consider the possibility that the filmmakers are telling you that they'd prefer it to be viewed in other terms."

... you'd still at least have to concede Alien: Covenant opens itself up to easily avoidable nitpicking by audiences who are doubly-on guard after Prometheus, which suffered from similar issues. Maybe these moments are sacrificed for pacing, or to reach an arbitrary 2 hour runtime, or even in an attempt to maintain a sense of mystery; it's hard to know.

What drives me nuts with Alien: Covenant is... if the filmmakers paid more attention to story structure, narrative housekeeping, and established series history, it might well have reached the greatness it so clearly aspires to. I also don't think we can exclusively blame writers Jack Paglen, Michael Green, John Logan, and Dante Harper. Scott is the director and co-producer, and clearly the person with final say in creative decisions.

Don't Let the Bedbugs Bite - Additional Thoughts and Musings




The Neomorphs are a wonderful addition to the series, and their introduction in this film is a sustained pitch of terror this franchise hasn't seen in decades. The sequence easily stands as one of the top 2-3 shocks of the entire Alien series. In fact, it might be the best we've seen since the original chestburster scene. It features intensely human performances, particularly from Ejogo and Amy Seimetz.

I really enjoyed Jed Kurzel's muscial score, which contained several nods to the late Jerry Goldsmith's Alien score (especially cues not used in Alien - it felt like Scott was apologizing to Goldsmith), and some hints of Elliot Goldenthal's Alien 3 score, while having a flavor all its own. I feel like the romanticism in Goldsmith's original score is better used as a reflection of the Covenant's mission and crew than in the 1979 original.

The repetitive nature of the transmission by Shaw would seem to indicate it was intentionally set up by David as bait for any human spacecraft which entered the area.

It seems likely that David killed Shaw expressly because she crashed the juggernaut - thereby stranding David on the planet after he'd wiped out the Engineer City's inhabitants.

I think it's possible David knew in advance of the Covenant mission. As the crew patches show, the Covenant is a Weyland-Yutani ship. Given the preparation needed for a colonization mission, and given that we don't know when the Covenant left Earth (within the 10 years since Prometheus, as the Weyland Corporation has been merged), it seems likely this mission was in the planning stages before the Prometheus left the Solar System.

I disagree with the criticism of Oram regarding the decision to investigate the signal. It's a rational decision to explore a potentially desirable planet within a few weeks flight time, potentially shaving years off their trip. Further, given the random neutrino blast which just killed their Captain and damaged the ship, and considering the remaining distance to travel to Origae 6, I think his decision is reasonable.

There are a few too many "Red Shirt" characters and moments where those characters conveniently find themselves isolated for bad things to happen.

That said, general criticism of Alien: Covenant for "stupid characters doing stupid things" simply doesn't hold up for me when the same criticism is put to other films in the series. Let's take a look at Alien and Aliens, films widely acknowledged as masterpieces (or at least genre classics):

  • Alien
    • Kane looks into the open egg (and no, wearing a helmet doesn't make it Ok. Still stupid).
    • Dallas emotionally demands an infected Kane be brought aboard the Nostromo, in violation of quarantine law and jeopardizing his entire crew.
    • Dallas orders take-off from LV-426 before the Nostromo is fully repaired.
    • Ash (the science officer) doesn't quarantine Kane or put him in hypersleep immediately after being brought aboard.
    • Brett continues looking for Jones, even after finding the chestburster's shedded skin.
    • Parker goes to get flamethrower fuel by himself.
    • Ripley goes back for Jones alone.
    • Ripley forgets to close the shuttle hatch behind her when she goes back for Jones.
    • Parker and Lambert make all kinds of noise while gathering coolant for the shuttle.
  • Aliens
    • A mission involving potentially dangerous (and highly valuable) alien lifeforms is put under the command of the highly inexperienced Lieutenant Gorman.
    • Not knowing why Hadley's Hope is offline, no one is wearing sealed pressure suits upon landing. Air samples and/or atmospheric readings are never mentioned or taken. How does Burke (or Gorman) know a viral outbreak hasn't occurred?
    • If the Marines do find the creature Ripley described in her report, shouldn't they be wearing sealed suits & heavier (if not corrosive-resistant) face-shielding and body armor before leaving the Sulaco?
    • No one realizes the colonists are gathered under the Primary Heat Exchangers, even though they have detailed colony schematics before they leave Operations.
    • Gorman (or Apone) fails to withdraw from the Atmosphere Processor immediately to re-arm once they realize the hive is under the Primary Heat Exchangers.
    • Bishop doesn't immediately report the problems with the Atmosphere Processor until the emergency venting happens.
    • Bishop doesn't immediately go to the uplink tower to remote pilot the second drop ship from the Sulaco. They'll need the drop ship to escape at some point, the sooner the better.
    • Ripley doesn't tell Hicks or Gorman about Burke immediately after she reviews the company logs. She waits until after she and Newt are attacked by the facehuggers in the Lab.

I agree characters do stupid things in Alien: Covenant, mostly as narrative contrivances. But we shouldn't pretend it didn't happen in the other films as well, for many of the same reasons.

As it regards the David/Walter switch, I'd like to mention a few possibilities (assuming that David not having a chin wound at the end of the film is intentional and not a continuity error). Walter, not David, has cuts on his face during their fight. Each of the following options is intriguing:

  • It is in fact Walter, who has chosen to assume David's quest. If this is the case, I don't think his having bandages and stitches is necessarily a mistake - they may help cuts heal faster.
  • David has somehow imprinted himself on Walter's body (either by force or with Walter's consent). Given the nature of David's quest for superiority / immortality, Walter's physical upgrades would be enormously appealing.
  • David's skin has the same ability to heal punctures as Walter's does. 

Would it ever be possible to stop comparing the female lead to Sigourney Weaver's iconic Ellen Ripley? It was unfair to Noomi Rapace and it's unfair to Katherine Waterston - who gives a strong performance as Daniels in this film. She's smart, tough, and resilient in the face of an unspeakable personal tragedy, and does everything she can to protect her shipmates and save the mission.

The viral prologue showing the crew of the Covenant absolutely should've been in the film.

It's amusing that Scott is going to get away with doing something David Fincher was crucified for doing by the fanbase. In Alien 3, that something was killing Newt offscreen and subjecting her to an autopsy. Scott does almost exactly the same thing here with Elizabeth Shaw. Given the bleak nature of both Alien 3 and Alien: Covenant, it also feels entirely appropriate.

Signing Off



I liked Alien: Covenant, but I'm not sure I love it. I liked it better on the second viewing than I did on the first viewing. I'm also looking forward to future viewings.

I was tense throughout the film, which is a testament to Scott's directing prowess. But for me, outside of the Neomorph birth and grass attack, it never builds to the fever pitch of terror that Alien reached or the unrelenting intensity Aliens reached.

Alien: Covenant is much like Prometheus; it's the work of an artist swinging for the fences. Its narrative is messy and too many characters are simple cannon-fodder.

Alien: Covenant also takes risks. It aggressively flirts with nihilism, it's thematically challenging, rich in subtext, and technically accomplished. Given time, it might one day take its place nearer to the best films in the series.

Lastly, to close the loop about expectations. I took my wife and two teenage children with me to see Alien: Covenant. My wife has seen Prometheus, and snippets of the Alien series, while this film was my kids' introduction to this terrible, bizarre, and beautiful universe.

They unequivocally loved it, and they want to see it again.


Author's Note:  All screenshots are taken from trailers for Alien: Covenant. They are the property of 20th Century Fox and may not be re-used in any other form. The author receives no money from this blog, and is intended only for educational / discussion purposes.

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