Close friends, facebook “friends”, passing acquaintances, and the rest of the audience present when I first saw Alien: Covenant at the cinema will have a fair idea of how this review is going to go. I can’t quite tell what the majority opinion is for this film, by reading other reviews at the time, it’s really divisive. So I couldn’t in good conscience do an Unpopular Opinion article for it, so here it is in a Weekly Review, because it’s just been released on DVD.
For now, let’s just say I didn’t love it as much as The Dark Tower (2017).
I’m going to warn you now that there will be spoilers. But don’t worry, I’m not just going to say “Spoiler Alarm” and then the next sentence will be those spoilers. I’ll pad it out with some nonsense so you’ve got enough time to decide to stop reading.
We open on a futuristic lounge. David, the Android, is chatting with Mike from Neighbours. He’s done really well for himself hasn’t he, old Guy Pearce. And Jim from Neighbours, actually old Alan Dale. Seems to pop up in everything. But what about Colin Farrell?! He started out as a young priest in Ballykissangel. Love him or hate him, his career path has taken a decent trajectory.
But it’s just David (Michael Fassbender) and Peter Weyland (Pearce), having a chat about art and the meaning of life, and Pete is asking Dave to name all the things in the room, including himself and then there’s the statue of David (Michaelangelo’s David) and David calls himself David.
Deep. Deep, meaningful fucking big pile of old bullshit.
I’m just typing while waiting for something to happen. I’m not going to be able to keep it up.
Now we’re on a space ship. Something’s gone wrong. James Franco’s dead (oh yeah, James Franco is in this film long enough to die).
They’ve got a space sail to fix.
Now we’re going to check out a weird signal.
I have the benefit of seeing this before, so as I write while the film plays (we’re now at minute 22) I can write the rest of my thoughts while we wait for something else to happen. Let’s see how much I can write in an hour.
Ridley Scott (I’m going to call him Rindley Sconch from now on, I’ll explain at the end) can suck my cock. You had your turn at the wheel. You gave us Alien (1979) and it was glorious. You invented THE most terrifying creature in cinematic history since Jaws (1975). Did you know that Jaws actually had a major impact on the economy of seaside towns for over a decade? Seriously, it scared enough people about shark attacks that there was a sharp decline in families going to the beach.
Or should I say SHARK decline?! No, no I shouldn’t, because that’s not a phrase.
And following the release of Alien, the amount of people who signed up for deep space mining expeditions plummeted to an all-time low.
What was good about Scott handing over the reins to James Cameron is that a new and exciting director had a chance to take this perfect villain and create a new scenario in which he could flourish. And this is debatable, and not an argument that I’ll ever set out to win, but Aliens (1986) is a better film than Alien. It’s just fucking exciting or at the very least interesting the whole way through.
Cameron hands it over to Fincher, who again, was an up-and-comer at the time. Had we known then what Fincher’s claustrophobic style was, would we still have given it to him? Possibly not, but Alien 3 (1992) was an interesting take, back to just one alien, but also no weapons.
I’m not sure how we got to Jean-Pierre Jeunet, but he injected some 90’s action in to the story line along with some colour. Also not a popular opinion, but I really like Alien Resurrection (1997). It’s just good fun.
Now the runt of the litter, Alien vs. Predator (2004) (whoever wins, we lose). That was a real fucking shame. I never read the comics, but the artwork that I used to see for the series just made it seem awesome. But Paul W.S. Anderson (the second worst director called Paul Anderson) gave it a shot, and did it in his Paul WS Anderson way. Unfortunately the WS stands for “weak shit”. The whole film was a buddy-cop movie between the curly-haired mixed-ethnicity chick, and a Predator. But, it did set up for Alien vs. Predator: Requiem (2007), which is exactly what the battle should have been. Two species, on earth, not giving a fuck that humans exist. That was the Strause Brothers (Colin Strause and Greg Strause), who I’m not overly familiar with.
Create an excellent character, and pass it around to see what different talents can make of it. Mission: Impossible (1996) has done this excellently. Each with a different director doing their own thing. And it’s fantastic. We will of course have to apologise to future generations for MI2 (2000), but we really fucking loved John Woo in the 90’s, so it seemed like a good idea at the time.
Walter: I think if we are kind, it will be a kind world.
For Rindley to decide to pick up his creation 33 years later (with Prometheus (2012)) and then another 4 years after that, with this film is an egregious show of hubris matched onscreen by the motivation of Petey Whales in the former film.
Quick break, I’m at 50 minutes, and an alien has just rocked up, so I’m keeping a stopwatch handy to show overall screen time of the alien.
Aaaaand, I’m back.
Maybe I’m alone here, but what was so good about the Alien character throughout the films is that it’s basically invincible, so how do we survive it? I’ll admit there was a modicum of intrigue about where did the ship from the first film come from? But I was happy with the answer “Somewhere else in the vast cosmos”. Ok, yeah, that checks out.
But no, we’ve got to go back and put humans in there, so it can be some sense of irony I guess. Like, we can blame God, or some other uncontrollable force for creating all the disease and hatred and global warming that happens in the world, but actually, if you look at the hard facts, it is actually mankind’s fault. Wow. Great stuff. Can’t you let us just enjoy this one without the need for introspection, Sconch, you uppity prick.
If you want to do an origin story, go ahead and do one. And I don’t mean that in the colloquialism of “you can go ahead and do one, mate”, I mean it in the granting permission of, “yeah, go ahead, you can do ONE”. How can you make a long drawn out prequel of Prometheus, then realise that you still haven’t answered any questions, so you’ve got to have another stab at it.
Oh, what’s that? You want a three-minute scene where one android (David, Fassbender) teaches another android (Walter, also Fassbender) to play the fucking recorder? Jesus Urethra-Scraping Christ this is insufferable.
David: When you close your eyes do you dream of me?
Walter: I don’t dream at all.
That’s right, here’s a paragraph about something completely unrelated to give you time to decide if you do actually want to read the spoiler. If you are my editor, you can skip to the very end, there won’t be anything for you to edit from now on.
I’ve watched loads of news clips, and late night talk show hosts, and read loads of articles over the weekend about Donald Trump’s twitter war with the NFL, and different celebrity’s responses to it. And everyone has an opinion, but the one thing I can’t find data on, is whether or not anyone actually boycotted watching any NFL games. I’m a huge NFL fan, and even though I pay for subscription, I went to the pub to watch the Lions game, because it was on Sky, so I can’t watch it live on my subscription. Thousands of people seemed to be of the opinion that football players shouldn’t be using their platform to make a peaceful protest, but I couldn’t find a single person say “I don’t agree with them not saluting the flag and anthem, and I’m showing my support with the president by not watching the game that I love”.
I’d also like to take this time to apologise to my friend Joseph who commented on a facebook post when I tried to point that out. I felt his comment was a little combative, and couldn’t work out why, as we’re usually on the same page about these things. He also didn’t care for Alien: Covenant. But now, two days later, I realise that I had also posted that those Japanese Game Show videos you see clips of, aren’t actually game shows, they’re mostly sketches from a Japanese comedy show. And Joseph had posted one such video earlier that day. My smugness wasn’t pointed at you Joseph, I had seen several similar videos that day. I apologise if you thought I was attacking you.
THAT is how you do a Spoiler Alarm. So now, here is the plot of this dumb fucking film.
David is telling Walter a story of how he tried to save the indigenous race of the planet they are on, along with the main woman from Prometheus. But we have just seen a flashback of him wiping them all out, and presumably her.
David then takes Dr Manhattan in to his cave-laboratory. This is where the entire storyline falls apart. He explains that he took the spores, and the basic version of the alien and created it into the ultimate Alien form through mutation, explaining that patience is everything.
Walter: One wrong note eventually ruins the entire symphony.
So, if the Weyland-Yutani corporation is the mega corporation with unlimited resources that we are lead to believe, and if the whole point of the missions from Alien, Aliens, Alien 3, and Alien Resurrection is to get these killing machines back to earth… TO USE AS WEAPONS (ignoring how fundamentally stupid THAT is) why the fuck couldn’t they make them, in a laboratory ON EARTH with all their technology. DAVID IS JUST ONE GUY IN A CAVE WITH BARELY A SCALPAL!!! It’s not like genetic modification is a new concept. Oh my god, fuck this movie.
Oh, and when they first met David had long hair. And Walter had lost half his arm. David then cut his hair. Can you imagine how this is going to end? This one isn’t really a spoiler because they tell you half an hour before the end that it’s going to happen.
Jason is another perfect character like that, and they even took that motherfucker in to space. And that was a better movie than this.
There’s an old saying about not wanting to see how the sausage is made. That’s how I feel about the origin story of the race of aliens. They were scary as hell when you can imagine a planet of them somewhere just running around causing mischief. But now we have these films it’s quite possible to assume that we have seen, through all their iterations, maybe 75% of all the aliens that have ever existed.
In summation, I manually kept a stopwatch for total screen time of the aliens. Face-huggers, grey-blank-helmet, full on exoskeletons… the TOTAL time, COMBINED, for ALL ALIENS… 5 minutes, 13 seconds. Can you really call this an Alien film, when there is almost as much screen time devoted to playing the recorder?
This film might as well have been called “James Franco: Covenant”
My personal recommendation, if you would like to watch an Alien film with a different slant, download the podcast “Superego Cinema: Alien”, where four comedians do voice over commentary with Alien. It syncs up perfectly and is hilarious. One of the comedians is Paul F Tompkins, who I have mentioned many times before, and is, I believe, the funniest man alive. The second is Matt Gourley, who does a creepy impression of H.R. Giger, and constantly refers to Ridley as Rindley Sconch. I defy you to listen to it and not want to call him that from now on.
“My name? It stands for ‘Hey! Really Giger”