Alien: Covenant, 2017
Signed up the 28/03/2017
"May I ask, Father, if you created me, who created you?" With these words we quickly learn that David is as impetuous and curious as can be; not quite how you'd predict a synthetic person would turn out to be. Taking it from this establishing question, Alien: Covenant continues forth to explore themes of creation and origin as the plot advances.
This installment of the pioneering franchise by film industry giant Ridley Scott- which dates back to 1979- doesn't introduce any new tropes to the Alien story. It rather circles around itself, being sure to blend in some allusions; perhaps as a test of how much longer the franchise can sell us its many versions of the same plot, unfolding in a similar sequence, before we completely abandon it. I can confirm that the film is watchable, though, which is a big deal nowadays. But even that comes as a sort of tragedy for the esteemed director and the ascendant that is the Alien brand.
What it does well, though, it does very well. The film expands on the story of its descendant, Prometheus. We find that David is the lone survivor of the Prometheus mission. We also learn of the vicious fate of the scientist that was heading that mission, Dr. Shaw. Covenant also does well in introducing and expanding on lore and mythology. It even has various shots which borrow from the likes of 300 and Troy.
Michael Fassbender's David is a composed, chilling and callous. He is responsible for most of the interest sparked throughout the rather stony extraterrestrial folktale. His synthetic "brother" (double) Walter (also played by Fassbender) is the complete opposite of him. Walter admits that after their creator realised that David was far more human and inspecting than he was comfortable with, he made the later versions a lot more like machines than human. It is also revealed that these upgraded (or rather downgraded) versions are unable to create- unlike David who had been afforded the privilege. A thrilling privilege he means to raise hell with.
We witness the Covenant crew being baited by a mysterious transmission that comes through in the form of song. The clever signal is meant to effectively communicate that there is indeed human life close by- that there could be an isolated planet that is habitable. The new captain of the space station, ambitious and eager to lead as he is, goes against better judgement- and reproach from a reliable crew member, Daniels- and decides that the crew will journey out to this stealthy planet. He figures that it is not far from where they are anyway- as opposed to the remote planet which they were initially missioned to colonise.
At this secluded planet, initially thought of as some sort of paradise, the expedition crew find darkness and terror- far left from the fresh start they were hoping for. After being tormented, and some infiltrated and used as incubators, by neomorphs, the remaining crew is led to safety by a mystery man. He is later revealed to be David. Inside the wide and staggeringly silent shelter we're reeled through dozens of skeletons laying about, adding to the increasingly haunted atmosphere. After a while the expedition team find that David is, as suspected, corrupted as ever. His plans to extinguish humankind to make way for a much stronger specie, created by himself, are exposed. This is where we see how far off the rails one's own illusions of grandeur can take him. David is adept, he's meant to create, to revolutionarise, and there is no telling him otherwise. This makes you question your personal ambitions, and leads you to assess your own moral values.
Overall, Covenant excels in some areas and completely falls flat in others. There's no middle ground. Perhaps the franchise should have bid its farewell one or two installments ago, but here we are. Stuck with a film that manages to hit the spot, and at the same time not at all. David's story would've been interesting to continue, as they seem to be teasing to, a long, long while back. But after seeing Covenant, we become too wary of yet another installment to be truly invested in what comes next.
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