Film Thoughts: Alien Covenant

Spoilers ahead

…Hey, Vasquez, have you ever been mistaken for a spoiler?

1.
Here’s a formula for you: David + Walter + flute = Boredom

A wannabee profound moment that was actually dull and embarrassing. I’ve read that the innuendo was written as deliberately comical. But whether the cringe was purposeful or not, that moment was jarring in how tonally off it was from the rest of the film. Most films need moments of levity. But not like this

2.
I thought Tennessee would be the most annoying character. Prometheus’ attempts at humour consistently fell flat. While Covenant has a different writing team, I thought Danny McBride would be tasked with delivering similarly bad lines, ticking off good ol’ country-boy stereotypes along the way. Yet Tennessee was the most watchable non-mechanical character in the film.  

The only problem with McBride’s performance is that Tennessee is the same person before his wife’s death as after. By its nature, film generally has to accelerate the grief cycle, particularly in an ensemble death-fest like Covenant. But Tennessee had almost no cycle. A few seconds of sadness, then he hits the emotional reset-button and is back on the clock. Maybe those scenes weren’t filmed chronologically. Perhaps McBride shot the scenes after the wife’s death before he acted finding out about it

3.
I saw the twist coming light-years away, something I’m usually terrible at spotting. I wondered why we/I miss such things, and saw two possible factors:

a) The skill of directors, writers, and editors in concealing twists. The best moments surprise us, then we immediately realise where we missed hints. It must take such talent to foreshadow without giving the game away

b) The skill of all involved in making a film so engaging and entertaining that the critical part of the audience’s mind switches off to some degree. Are viewers more likely to spot an upcoming twist in a bad film than a good one? If so, is that because the Enjoyment part of their brain has switched off and the Practical part has switched on? Or is it because the greater the film-makers, the better they hide their reveals? As it relates to this film, if Covenant had been better but revealed the Walter/David plot point the same way, would I still have noticed it?

4.
I had the horrible feeling that confirmation of ‘Walter’s’ true identity would be saved for the third film. If nothing else, worrying about that kept me involved throughout the final scenes

5.
The first alien appearance was a magnificent moment, one of the best scenes of the series. Prime franchise claustrophobia

6.
Number of films in the Alien franchise: 8

(By my count) Number of times the alien has been defeated by being shot out of an airlock? 4

With all the guns, flamethrowers and walkers, half of Alien films require death by airlock, really?

7.
I don’t have any storytelling experience to speak of but, given how frequently characters do dumb shit, I assume it’s hard to tell a dramatic story about smart people who do smart things. Logical responses have to be ignored, vital information kept a secret. But there’s the stupid we can ignore, and then there’s Covenant stupid.

Okay, there’s also Prometheus stupid.

Oram walks in on David practically cuddling an alien while his friend’s decapitated head floats in a bath. Yet he still holsters his gun and follows David into a dark, creepy room. He still looks inside the weird egg. And even when something stirs within, he still leans in. Maybe he was overwhelmed by curiosity. Maybe it was bad writing. You be the judge.

After the crew are attacked by aliens, David leads them to a ‘safe space’ that seemingly has no doors. He brushes off their questions about safety. So they don’t push it.

The crew are understandably concerned about their wellbeing when they first land on the planet. Yet one of them chooses to leave the group in order to take an ecology reading. They’re potentially months ahead of schedule, she couldn’t wait until the area was secure?

(Also, the guy who stayed with her went off “to take a leak”. All we saw was him sit down for a rest. Was his pee edited out for pacing? Was he lying? Did he go wee-wee in his pants? People need to know)

8.
At least discussion of the planet’s atmosphere was kept to a minimum. Only the picky (and Neil deGrasse Tyson) would complain about people not wearing helmets on a strange planet. Do you know why it’s okay for them to be helmetless? Because it’s fiction, which doesn’t have to completely resemble real life (the same reason we accept brightly-lit rooms at night and people who don’t say goodbye). We want to clearly see and hear the beautiful Hollywood people, and helmets wouldn’t allow that. Helmets and atmospheres only become an audience-acceptance problem when you draw attention to them, as Prometheus did. At least Covenant mentioned them in passing, then moved on.

9.
Does a planet similar to ours have to look so much like Earth? The planet looked like any forest here, with bigger trees and steeper hills. In Alien films I want environments that look, well, alien. Predator can have the jungle. I want banged-up spaceships and weird barren planets, not Yosemite

(I’ve never been to Yosemite)

10.
I wasn’t emotionally invested enough in Covenant to truly feel the final scene’s darkness, but I appreciated it. I’m never going to complain about a bleak ending. David killed thousands with the virus. Now he’s got thousands more to tinker with. He’s already one of cinema’s most productive serial killers*, and he’s got so much more to do. It’s remarkable how commercially successful the Alien franchise has been, given its general bleakness.

*Remember that the Empire of Star Wars wiped out entire planets. Take that, Hannibal Lecter

11.
David ended Prometheus as a head in a duffel bag. So, during Covenant, I waited to discover where his body came from. After the film ended without an explanation, I found out that this had already been explained in an extra. I’m all for additional content, but it should be a superfluous bonus for the fans, not something the film is incomplete without

12.
Was James Franco’s involvement purely to surprise us, because we’d expect a big name to be the star? If only his character had survived, Covenant could’ve been so much…worse. You’re a poor man’s Dave, Franco

13.
One of the ‘controversial takes’ I read was that the ‘Engineers’ David wiped out were actually a different race. I threw apostrophes in there because that was what I believed all along. Those people looked like they’d gathered to worship David’s craft as it descended, as if waiting for the Engineers to return. David lives in what appears to be a church built to worship Engineers, not a place designed to accommodate them. Those people resemble Engineers, but they also look like the person in Prometheus’ opening scene, who appeared to sacrifice himself for his gods as they flew off. Perhaps a reveal of part three is David discovering he hadn’t destroyed the Engineers after all.

14.
Engineers or not, I liked that we saw them die, both because that scene was memorable and that, if we didn’t see it happen, we would’ve had David give a lengthy retelling of it (perhaps with flute-music interludes)

15.
I presume the name Walter was a nod to producer Walter Hill. Because, if I had the job of naming androids, I’d probably cycle through hundreds of names before landing on that one. Even after you’d created your 153rd android, you’d probably still find them cool enough that you’d find a cooler name than Walter.

“How about ‘Walter’?”

“No, it’s Gerry 9”

16.
Covenant’s characters were less annoying than those of Prometheus’, but also less memorable

17.
One reason aliens are so deadly is their quickness. The one in Covenant’s finale must’ve had a sore leg or a cold, as it wasn’t speedy enough to evade a lumbering metal claw

18.
My memories of some Alien films are pretty vague now. Nevertheless, in descending order of quality:

i) Aliens
ii) Alien
iii) Alien 3
iv) AvP 1
v) Covenant
vi) Prometheus
vii) Resurrection
viii) AvP 2

19.
I had no sense of how many goddamn aliens were around on that planet. One per person after David released the virus, but how many still existed years later? Were they subsisting on the burst bodies they hatched from? Were there others in the city who didn’t become infected and were later hunted and eaten? Were there other cities on the planet? Did the aliens learn to eat other things, like wheat? Did they then lose their taste for blood and become liberals? As the ship descended to pick up the survivors, I knew it would be attacked. The question was, by one alien, or a horde? I feel like a good film should give you a better idea of that answer

20.
I feel like I missed some of the details of this film. Did David’s ship actually crash? If so, what caused it? If not, why did it take the tops of trees?

21.
A super-low point: the alien is born, sees David raising his hands, and copies him. Stupid, and something I could imagine happening in Spaceballs

22.
Even a robot can be the stereotypical crazy guy living alone in the woods

23.
Seeing Fassbender in a pointy hood just made me think Magneto was in the film. Or the guy from Assassin’s Creed. Is Fassy the the most frequently-hooded actor in Hollywood?

24.
I don’t think androids would be programmed to fight as gracefully as Walter and David did. I imagine their fighting style being hundreds of rapid punches to the kidneys

25.
Will we see exactly what transpired with David and Walter? Probably as an extra before the third film comes out

26.
Why was David even granted access to the ship’s computer?

27.
Goodbye

* In your endo

 

 

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