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#TAPReviews | “Alien Covenant”

Did Ridley Scott deliver on his promise?
Dulani Wilson 18th May, 2017 Movie, Reviews
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I remembered many a friend called the Alien-sequel Prometheus over-hyped, even a big letdown in the cinema compared to the trailer. But no doubt, Prometheus felt new. Hell, I enjoyed it. There. Not popular but I saw familiar elements to the Alien Anthology, but still felt I was witnessing something wholly unseen before then.

So when Alien Covenant came around, the promos in a sense felt new too, there was an effort to connect to the Prometheus film before via a prologue film and the fate of its survivors .

Ridley Scott was at the helm, classic Alien mythology started to emerge and seethe throughout the teasers and stills. But how’d the film stand up in cinema with it’s final unveil? Well, that’s why we’re all here, right. So, let’s give you purpose.

 

SPOILERS AHEAD

 

Now they will hear you scream

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Another ship, a space ark if you will, brimming with a crew and human embryos of the colonists ready to create a new home amongst the stars light years away. And as the rest of the crew rest in hypersleep, Walter the android is left in charge of the day to day functions. But in an effort to recharge space seismic phenomenon damages the ship and the captain loses his life. But alas the crews’ problems are just beginning.

Katherine Waterston’s Daniels and the crew come across a transmission from a once-believed uncharted territory. A transmission of a human voice humming. So, of course, that’s worth investigating, seeing as well the signal’s origination is from an Earth-like planet. And who wants to travel an extra 7 years in hyperspace to cohabit a planet that they actually knew more about.

Daniels made her objections known but felt a little docile much throughout the film. Okay, so the dead captain was her boyfriend, but the mere fact that the place-holder captain Oram– played by Billy Crudup – made an insulting reference to her no-rope, free mountain climbing boyfriend before the body even cold didn’t even elicit much of a rise from Daniels. No tension really existed in the group, and the way they got picked off was, for the most part, unceremoniously.

In any case, the crew happen upon a world that once was inhabited by the Engineers, but all that is left in their wake is the parasitic black pixie dust insect thingy that gives rise to the Neomorph. And it is no soon than the team split up on a strange new world does two crew members get infected.
 
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Can we say when it comes to the chest-breaching Xenomorph, the iconic Alien motif got a bit of revamp with the back-breach. Disturbing as hell. The neomorph obviously has a lot to learn, coming out the wrong way, causing some real nice detail with the protruding severed spine. Horrid stuff. And in the effort to contain the alien creature, well the first infected, the pilot and the ship gets destroyed. And the neomorph still gets away. Ah, classic universe with the screw.

But low and behold the with some warm bodies now available to help with Neomorphs Antenatal class sessions, it’s up to Daniels to get off the godforsaken planet and survive meeting the quickly evolved Xenomorph.

 

The Sketchy Science of Gestation

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I’m a fan of Alien. Pods. Facehuggers. Scurrying worm thingy. Growth into the perfect creature. Acid blood. Inner mouth assist. Whiptail. Intelligent as it is cunning. Good stuff. Not to say the growth of these bio-organisms from the last ring of hell wasn’t mind-bogglingly fast, but now we have neomorphs. Seemingly mouthless cretins which takes after their original hosts, the white-skinned Engineers. Then we have whatever back-breached the first infected crew member. Then there was the Captain who got facehugged and out of his chest came a xenomorph. But not as a worm-like creature; this baby had small functioning limbs, could imitate David’s movements and everything.
 
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It seems there isn’t much in the way of consistency in the evolution of the Xenomorph. Maybe you guys can help me in this respect. To me, the gestation of the creature is dependent on the host it infects. But one would expect the merger with the human would have yielded the same results of the first Alien movie. And if an Alien can evolve so quickly in the short (embryonic to adult) and long (Darwin evolutionism) sense, wouldn’t one suspect death to occur pretty much quickly for such an organism, much like the locust? They have Queens right? And speak of the devil, where was the queen that laid those eggs? Where’d David get them from?

I’m no alien biologist, so you may just want to ignore this section of the review, but the feeling is as of Covenant, the gestation of the Xenomorph is more muddled than it has ever been.

 

Why every single crew member deserved to die

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Let’s be real succinct here. I felt nothing for any of the crew members. Them dying, cut to shreds. Nothing. Okay, maybe when Kenny Powers Tennessee’s wife died.

“Why so cold?” do you ask? Maybe it was the fact that new captain Oram seemed more concerned discovering a new planet and asserting his authority than leading a safe mission. Or the fact that everyone exited the ship on a strange new planet with absolutely no breathing or shielding gear of any kind. It wasn’t like they crashed and were strewn across this world’s environment.
 
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Honestly, if it weren’t for the prologue, I think I would have connected even less than I have with the likes of Daniels and the crew. I hate comparing but Prometheus‘ Shaw was more impactful as a character than Daniels. Shaw had a real purpose – to find her maker… her god in the wilderness of space. Daniels… no, her boyfriend – wanted to build a hut on a lake on an earth-like planet like the pioneers of old. When you start basing your goals on puritans raping and killing their way across the so-called Wild West, well you pretty much deserve what you get. Ripley, well, she sonned both these ladies but to be fair, I think she’s from a time where she and Sarah Conor were the only badass but real/vulnerable human women kicking ass in sci-fi. Nowadays it feels like one or the other. It just feels something is slightly missing.

 

David – The Creator

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David doesn’t hold humanity in high esteem. We got this from Prometheus. And the very first scene where Weyland turns David on. The conversation between David and his creator is the age-old journey between man and god. Pious belief gives way to doubt, which gives way to denial and non-belief. David asks if Weyland created him, who created Weyland. From this string of question led to the inevitable mortality of Weyland, and David questioning whether a simple man who will succumb to death could truly be the god of him. Obviously not.

In the prologue, touched seemingly by Elisabeth Shaw’s act of kindness in repairing him, we are given the impression David has somehow found worth in humanity. But in Covenant, we see the aftermath of David standing on the ship hovering over a city of Engineers – the supposed crafters of the Xenomorph bio-weapon blight. David unleashes a payload of the canisters containing the parasitic bio-organism unto their makers. The created killing the creator. And like all great madmen, he quotes Ozymandias:

“My name is Ozymandias, king of kings:

Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!”

I though remember him using the word ‘tremble’ instead of ‘despair’. A droid committing genocide, on an alien race who in Prometheus he had awe and respect for. An alien race that took a perfect organism and reduced it to a weapon. A tool to do away with any enemy or human. The Neomorph was no more than the Engineers’ version of David. Later on, in Covenant, we realise that David, the creepy fuck, has spent his time cataloguing and studying the gestation and stages of the organism. Experimenting and growing a perfect Alien. David wanted to create something omnipotent. A god creating an even more efficient god. Not a tool to be controlled and used by others. But a god to be mutually respected. All creepy shit. Easy for him to do as the Xenomorph only gets violent with warm-blooded mammals, not androids.
 
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But the most disappointing thing I’d say about David was the painfully obvious impending twist he was a part of after the scuffle with Walter’s – the ‘twin’ Android. David ends up taking Walter’s place on the Covenant ship after defeating him in combat and making a hurried escape from the Neomorph-infested planet under Walter’s guise.

 

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A covenant, biblically speaking, is a promise that is made by god to man. When Ridley Scott descended from what I hope was a throne surrounded by tea and maidens that all look like Sigourney Weaver to make Covenant, I was expecting Prometheus revamped to the max. New, but familiar. Sadly there was more “familiar” than “new”. I wanted to care about Daniels at least. Her outcome. But there just wasn’t enough there. David, though a nice little masturbatory topic to delve into the concept of god, the creator vs. the created and mortality, felt more like a side story. For some reason, however, David was made into more of an integral part of the narrative, as if in a need to connect Covenant with Prometheus.

Alien Covenant‘s essentially a rehashing. Not necessarily a bad one. Ridley Scott kept his promise in delivering an Alien movie. But nothing I feel will be bolstered up in cinematic glory in the future, near or distant. It still will be interesting to see the direction of the next Alien film, or at least if some fresh blood were to take a crack at it – which is why I was keen on seeing Neill Blomkamp’s Alien 5, which has seen the axe since Ridley Scott’s return.

I think new environments, new character goals is still the way to go, and it will take some incredible writing to help evolve the Alien franchise in line with the Xenomorph’s ever-changing physiology.

 

RATING: 6.8 out of 10

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