Ridley Scott‘s Alien Covenant turns out exactly what we expected it to be. Filling in the shoes of a proper sequel Prometheus deserved. It is properly written in terms of story for the better half, then for the remaining half banks on mere cheap thrills to escape from what it aspires to be. Owing to that it ends up having a predictable story-line written to reach a certain end. And you see it coming from far away.
Ridley Scott does make great sci-fi and space movies. A wink at his last project The Martian of course. There’s no doubting him when there is the concept of space entailed. But it is that sense of complacency around this topic, I guess, that is making him a tad predictable. He has been overlooking a lot of things whilst doing so, and that’s not good news for his fans. For instance, he has tuned down considerably on horror. The concept of an alien on the ship is no longer giving us the chills. Why is that? Too much of it? I don’t know.
The Timeline of the Alien Franchise
Alien Covenant is on perfect lines of the Alien timeline which is appearing to be filling in all the right gaps. With the prequel Prometheus setting a new benchmark to pave a purpose, connecting everything has become a lot more fun. Alien Covenant answers a lot of questions and that makes delving into it an intriguing affair.
Here is the timeline we have so far:
93 AD – An Engineer sacrificing himself in a waterfall scene from Prometheus.
2023 AD – Weyland’s speech.
2089 AD – Discovering a star map in Scottish cave
2093 AD – Prometheus expedition.
2094 AD – Destruction of Prometheus. David and Elizabeth Shaw survive.
2104 AD – Alien Covenant film
2124 AD – Alien film
2183 AD – Aliens film
2184 AD – Aliens 3 film
2386 AD – Alien: Resurrection
Forgotten the previous parts? You can order the Alien Anthology from here:
Michael Fassbender as David: Case Study (Spoilers)
Michael Fassbender as David remains the heart and soul of the movie. Just like the prequel where he is the root of the evil, he imparts direction to the Covenant tale as well, showing up at just the right moment. Michael Fassbender also plays Walter who is an advanced android version of David, built to take care of the Covenant ship.
The conversation the duo has wherein David teaches Walter how to play a flute is deep in a way if you pay attention. David is trying to earn Walter’s trust, one of his own kind, at the same time trying to expand the dormant code in him. With Walter bound by his inabilities to channel creation, David helps him show that creation is possible for everyone.
It is poetic in a way if you realize that in real life too people are often convinced that they are not up for creation. But the truth of life is that creation is everything, and that’s what David intends to do. We can find him being mesmerized with the concept of creation when he helps a Facehugger incubate the captain.
The Crime of Our Species
David gets the primal truth behind it. The only setback is that he considers our species to be unworthy of existence. The poetic thing in this whole setup is that just like Engineers created us and then found us to be detrimental, they decided to kill us. In a similar fashion, we too created an android like David, and then by the end realized, his kind should be stopped too, like Walter trying to kill David on discovering about its deformities.
That’s the circle of life that keeps on going. It is befitting in a way as per Shelley‘s poem that David quotes:
Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair.
The conversation David has with Peter Weyland (Guy Pearce) in the prologue takes us back in time when David was created. With Weyland asking David to serve him and then asking him to join him in seeking answers about his creators has been beautifully presented. David chooses his own name by looking at the eponymous Michaelangelo’s statue. In a way, it depicts his power to be able to do wish for things the way he likes. He isn’t meant to serve, it’s clear from his gestures. His loathsome demeanour to be asked to serve him tea lets you feel how grand he wishes his life to be, and he hates being tied as a servant. He is quick to sense malevolence as well, and his reaction to it is well calculated.
Alien Covenant: The Plot Thickens
When you look at the plot of the movie it is in a way similar to that of the original Alien movie with a crew encountering a signal in space coming from a planet. In reality, they were headed towards Origae-6 as their mission to colonize a planet favourable for life. However, they encounter a radio transmission coming from a nearby planet that forces them to check it out since it promised an atmosphere resembling that of Earth.
On reaching there with a Lander to investigate, they find the crashed Prometheus ship (from the prequel) and discover that it was once piloted by Elizabeth Shaw. On their way back two of their team members get infected by alien spores. We are introduced to Neomorphs then who burst out from the infected people, and attack the rest of the crew. Their Lander gets destroyed in the process, Walter loses his hand trying to save Daniels (Katherine Waterston); that’s when David appears out of nowhere scaring the Neomorphs away.
They follow him to a temple like structure which used to be inhabited by Engineers on the planet. David claims that while arriving on the planet, one of the black goo containers accidentally dropped killing all the Engineers in the process. Also, that owing to the chaos, the ship had crashed and killed Shaw.
One of the surviving Neomorphs attack one of the crew members, who is then later killed by Captain Oram (Billy Crudup) fuming David up. On demanding to know what was he doing on the planet, David takes Oram to a chamber of eggs where Facehuggers laid dormant. He reveals that he used black goo as a catalyst to experiment on wasps to create a Xenomorph the ones we used to see in all the Alien Movies.
He then coaxes Oram into taking a closer look, tacking him against a Facehugger that goes on to kill Oram and then later becoming a Protomorph – an advanced version of neomorph. Walter figures out David’s truth that it was him who had killed all the engineers on the planet by releasing the black goo, and Shaw too who had ended up being a mere sacrifice for his experiment.
Sensing danger David shuts Walter down and attacks Daniels. Walter being the advanced version of David, restarts himself and then confronts David, the fate of which we are deliberately not shown. (You think it was hard to guess?)
Meanwhile, the Covenant arrives on the planet to extract the remaining crew with the help of some intermittent communication and a beacon that Daniels uses. The Protomorph follows them attacking the ship trying to make its way inside however is killed by Daniels who uses a crane arm to slay it.
There is a Protomorph loose inside the ship after the Covenant is inbound for Origae-6 once again. It had gestated in one of the crew members somehow and goes on to kill two more. With the help of Walter on the controls, Daniels manages to flush it out in space.
As the crew return to their pods for stasis once again, Walter is busy tucking them into sleep. With Daniels being the last one to go, she tells Walter about her dream to build a cabin on Origae-6. But when she realizes Walter doesn’t understand what she is talking about, she sees through him since she had confided about the cabin with Walter once. She realizes it was David all along!
David closes the stasis pod deliberately after which we find him planting two Facehugger embryos amongst the remaining human embryos as the curtain falls.
I think in an attempt to meet what Alien had originally set out on achieving, Ridley Scott has lost focus from the primal question of our existence. While the reason to love Prometheus was to have that inquisitiveness in us to find out the true cause of our origin, with Alien Covenant that question has simply ended up becoming a riddle. While there was so much we could have done with how Shaw could have at least had a shot at knowing more about Engineers, Alien Covenant simply destroys everything in its wake. It doesn’t even let us have a good look at them, or to figure why did they make us in the first place. More importantly, if we were mere experiments like David, why were they bent on killing us?
Instead of answering or even venturing into that enclave Ridley chooses to thrill fans with cheap shots of a Protomorph attacking people in the bathroom, letting them bask in the gore of chestbusters and spinebusters, finding it important enough to show the cliched act of jettisoning, of deliberately keeping people alone to become bait meat and other such dispensable bits.
The predictable stuff that you see from miles away was David cutting his locks to look like Walter. And then Ridley Scott intentionally cutting off the frame to not show the fate, David and Walter were about to come across in their face off. It is almost like he thinks he is being clever but the whole world knows there was nothing subtle about it. You can see the movie being rushed towards its climax as if the only surprise Ridley wished to keep was David under the wraps. It would have been great if Daniels had seen through the android she was always around. But alas! she was too dumb to see through what we figured hours ago.
The Final Verdict
Alien Covenant is great when you have stories to connect. It sieves right in with the timeline it is successfully augmenting itself to. It feels great if you look at the plot from David’s perversion, he is on his way to become a creator himself after all. The flick almost makes you want to question, what if our creator is a monster akin to David?
The movie is great in terms of theatrics, gives you ample focus to focus on, and is well written. But at the same time, it banks on those age-old cheap thrills which are no longer as breathtaking if you have been following the franchise up closely. We are way past waiting for an alien to show up from behind to sneak attack us.
You can check out the trailer of Alien Covenant here: