Wednesday, 24 May 2017

Alien: Covenant

Alien: Covenant needed to make up the ground lost in Prometheus, which is a tall order. Ridley Scott doesn’t have it in him to make a bad looking movie, but someone still has to write the damned thing, and it needs to make something approaching sense for the visuals to have any real point. Prometheus set out to explain something about the origin of yer ackshul aliens, and pretty much tripped over its dick, since the explanation didn’t make any sense and wrecked the continuity of the earlier good movies even if you somehow thought it did make sense. And the writers’ cunning ploy to mask the idiocy of the plot by making everyone on the screen an idiot didn’t really cover up anything.

Covenant’s job, apparently, was to paper over the cracks and somehow link these new movies into the canon. It’s worth recapping where Prometheus left off. Elizabeth Shaw has a very familiar looking alien spacecraft she doesn’t know how to fly, and an android head in a bag. And she sets off to find the mysterious engineers who presumably created all this embuggeration.

Fast forward a decade or two, and there’s a colony ship chugging along through space which picks up the universe’s weirdest distress signal - I think we can all agree that playing John Denver is a cry for help, but it’s not generally seen as functionally equivalent to a Mayday. Never mind, they turn the colony ship around to go take a look at what it might all be. Turns out, it’s the Engineers’ planet, and somehow Elizabeth Shaw found it, found a whole extra body to nail onto the loose head she had in the bag, and that the combo went completely nuts and annhilated the whole population of the planet with a souped up version of the same bug which made Prometheus such a fun festival. Spoilers, I know. It takes the crew of the Covenant most of the movie to figure this out, but time is short on the internet and I figure the word will be out by the time anyone reads this.

As wiping things out plans go, the notion seems faulty. The Engineers are star faring. They ought to be all over the place, not just on one planet, and if the colonies suddenly stopped getting news from home, you’d think twenty years would be time enough for some of them to come and take a poke around the ruins. But nope, the planet’s deserted. Nothing but plants to be seen. Because the pathogen from Prometheus kills anything with meat in it, as Michael Fassbender’s creepy android cheerily points out.

Speaking of Michael Fassbender, you get two for the price of one. He’s playing not one, but two androids. They are supposed to be different, but since one of them is way off the the left on the Lecter spectrum and the other is a taciturn idiot, it’s not as much of a stretch as an actor of Fassbender’s talent needs to showcase his art. In fact, he may have been a smidge more interesting in Assassin’s Creed, depending on whether you prefer him messing up a computer game, or a movie franchise nearly older than he is. Either way it’s sort of impressive that he’s in two SF movies in the space of a year which really don’t work. Covenant does waste fewer Oscar winners, however.

Anyhow, the whole monstrous stitch stuff together bit of the movie boils down to this; David has spent some long span of years messing about with the Engineers’ creepy pathogen trying to come up with the perfect implementation of the monster, and the hapless crew of Covenant are his perfect petri dish so that he can finally get them looking just like they do in the very first movie. So the villain was people all along. Well, robots, and people made the robots, and you know what, it’s not remotely as clever as it thinks it is. Because no matter how much you buy into the notion that David designed the perfect creature of Alien, there’s still a huge hole where there needs to be an explanation of how the setup for Alien comes about. How does the bummer ending of Covenant turn into a crashed alien spacecraft full of eggs on a howling desolation which is definitely not any of the planets we’ve seen so far in these new dumber movies?

Presumably the third movie in this effort will try to answer this. But the question is, why bother? Dan O’Bannon took Giger’s drawings and a half memory of AE van Vogt’s novels and hashed out a perfectly good back story for the creatures nearly forty years ago, and Scott had the excellent good sense to realise that there was no need to explain it then. Nothing’s changed in the meantime.

No comments: