Alien: Covenant

Last night I sneaked out to watch Alien: Covenant, the nth Alien film. (Seriously, I’ve lost track how many there are now. Do you count the Alien Vs Predator films, or are they just too embarrassing? Does Prometheus count? Was there a film after Alien 3, or did I just imagine that?) This time around, I watched it in IMAX* (helpfully reminded by an extra long spot at the start of the film that IMAX is a trademark of the IMAX Corporation (©)), from the fourth row back from the start, because I either really like seeing really bloody big aliens, or I like getting a crick in my neck. 24 hours later, I’m recovered enough to write about it.
It’s not quite a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing, but it is bloody loud at times, and quite a lot of the time it’s signifying an earlier Alien film, rather than being meaningful alone and of itself.

There’s a Ripley-a-like, Daniels. There’s a Nostromo-like crew (this time a bunch of married couples crewing the eponymous Covenant). There’s some Alien eggs, and chest bursting (far more revolting than ever before) and an alien with that vagina-dentata-penis-mouth thing. We’ve seen a lot of this before, and some of the explanation and exposition is only really important if you want to know what’s really happening at the start of Alien, or after the end of Prometheus (in which case there’s a disappointing vagueness to quite a bit of this). Oh, and there’s a John Denver song (is that unique to this episode of the series?) and an evil android.

There’s also flagrant disregard for biological safety procedures. Yeah, let’s land on an alien product and *not* wear full hazmat suits. Let’s go smoke a joint in the woods where we’re meant to be collecting samples of a new biosphere, and lets sniff things. Those people deserve to die for such stupidity. (Then again, the person who does try to enforce proper quarantine procedures blows herself up by accident, so nobody does that well out there.)

The gore is good though. There’s new ways to make aliens bursting out of people’s flesh horrifying – this time it’s albino aliens burrowing out of throats or backs, leaping and shrieking. There’s the obligatory people getting killed while having sex in a shower scene, because this is a horror movie after all, and that’s what happens if you have sex. The fight scenes are properly frightening, lots of scrambling and panicking and tripping over, and the end (before the incredibly obvious twist, and the mindbendingly shit security on the spaceship’s control systems) is a redux rehash of Aliens. Which is nice.

There’s some slightly off-putting product placement. There’s a rover droid made by Audi, which we see for all for 5 seconds. Everyone appears to be equipped with a GoPro, which seems optimistic as they’re on the verge of going bust in the face of superior Chinese imports, and it’s not even the 22nd century yet. And the terraformimg equipment is a bunch of tractors and earthmovers from JCB, and it’s nice to see that a British excavator company is leading the (possibly unethical) charge to go dig up other planets in the future, rather than Caterpillar or John Deere or Komatsu. Hooray for the Brits! (Hang on, is this whole thing about being destroyed by your creations a metaphor for Brexit? Does that explain why it’s a raining all the goddamn time? Did I read the whole film wrong?)

So in total, I’m confused. It’s not really that innovative as an Alien film, yet I don’t know that if you came to this cold you’d see it as a great action film. There’s all the beautiful stillness for the first hour, where nothing much happens but you’re rapt with attention because you know something bad definitely is coming round the next bend. There’s some philosophical soemthing, which is nice, but it would also have been good if any of the crew had personalities beyond "feisty woman" and "man with hat". Maybe the androids are just too interesting for us to care about humans any more. (See! Again! It’s a metaphor for British firms outsourcing, or something! Raise the drawbridge, we have a new interpretation!)

In short, I liked it, but it felt like it left out too much back story, as if some extra footage on the internet, plus the other films, was enough. And it needed less rain.

One response to “Alien: Covenant”

  1. Cool, won’t be able to see this at the theatre/IMAX but def need to get a new dose of OTT alien gore. Chances of Cecile wanting to see this though, will be way less than zero …

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