Screen Rant: Alien: Covenant Is The Most Underrated Film Of 20174 Upvotes14 RepliesUpvoteAdd A Reply
As it arrives on home video, isn’t it about time people gave Alien: Covenant a second look and appreciate for what it is?
Covenant was one of the biggest films going into 2017 – it ranked at #9 on Screen Rant‘s most anticipated films of the year – but, at the end of a summer dominated by binary successes and failures, it holds an ignominious middle ground. Few hate but fewer would say they love; it’s viewed as average, and flawed average at that. To top it off, it was also a box office disappointment, barely scraping its budget back and calling into question the future of the franchise.
There are lots of sides to this but the most prominent has to be the resistance to Ridley Scott essentially turning Alien in Blade Runner. Both Covenant and previous prequel Prometheus married the ambiguous terror of an unknown threat in the already daunting expanse of space with something more grandiose and existential; first the alien was presented as the result of us trying to find our own creators, now it’s further the direct product of us creating our own subservient beings. It’s Dante meets Giger; the biomechanical sex metaphor used to tell a new version of classical Old Testament concepts.
And that’s different. For all the traditional Alien elements present in the story (which, needing to say little more, provide the requisite horror and action) – ship intercepts distress signal, crew finds crashed alien craft, creatures impregnate humans, new birthed creatures attack, a robot isn’t what they seem, hilarity ensues – it’s a step on from what we’ve come to expect from a xenomorph flick. That’s admirable in and of itself when so many franchise films play it undeniably safe, although ambition is worthless without realization (otherwise Valerian would be the hit of the year).
But we’d say that Scott actually does deliver on his promises. OK, not entirely – there are logic gaps that defy his world=building skill and he’s sanded off several interesting-as-written characters – but as a high-minded exploration of the human condition, the immutability of familial constructs and the act of pure creation it’s a big budget treasure. And it’s all thanks to David.
Just Like Prometheus, This Is David’s Story
The perception of Covenant being about the crew of the eponymous colony ship – as all the adverts sold it – makes sense, despite on a thematic level being totally misrepresentative. Scott’s original title for the film was Alien: Paradise Lost and indeed the real center of the film is the Ozymandias figure, David.
As we wrote upon the release of its pseudo-sequel, Prometheus has now essentially been redefined as Satan’s origin story, but Covenant is another film where clear focus isn’t apparent until the end, making grasping its full scope unclear. Here, despite not appearing for the first hour, David is the undisputed core of the story; the entire plot is motivated by his desire to find more humans hosts for his experiments and leave the Engineer homeworld, making him the unseen motivator and the crew simply pawns slotting into place.
It’s a smart story trick realized by a set of game actors, none more than Michael Fassbender in the dual role of David and newer, more robotic synthetic model Walter. The scenes between the pair are some of the most technically adept – even in the extended long take of the duo interacting you totally buy them as distinct figures in the universe – and also the most divisive – that oner has the infamous “flute fingering” exchange. That sexual undercurrent is often used to lambast the film’s supposed overreaching, although what’s more fitting of a series built around a penis-headed alien found in an egg inside a splayed-leg ship with entrances that look like vaginas than scientifically neutered synthetics expressing themselves through an Engineer-made phallus?
More than just a means for nostalgic titillation, across the film David is presented as the epoch of a tiered creator family – Engineers, humanity, synthetics, and xenomorphs – that culminates with the first two generations being pushed aside when the third gains autonomy (the closest thing to a soul); as we end, David descends into his sanctum to enact unthinkable xeno horrors on the Covenant’s 2000 sleeping colonists. And yet we know this isn’t a true victorious march into Valhalla due to a clearly established glitch in David’s framework – he mistakes the work of Shelley for Byron – making him as flawed as those that made him; and doomed to meet a similar fate. It’s a bleak suggestion that our creation which overtakes us is still as inherently broken as we are, one seeded through a focused story.
There Are Answers – But They’re Not Important
The other major criticism of the film seems to be that there’s still a needless ambiguity to the alien’s origin, the thing that Scott is ostensibly trying to tell; Prometheus was vague and although Covenant connects some dots, it keeps many unclear.
Or does it? Between the prologues released on YouTube before the movie hit and the deleted scenes and epilogue video files on the home release, the full story of what David did between Prometheus and Covenant – he killed the Engineers, experimented with the black goo, developed the alien and murdered Elizabeth Shaw in an attempt to “evolve” her – and the practical mechanics and motivations for his plan are known. There is, of course, the argument to be made that supplementary materials shouldn’t be part of a singular story, although you can reach these conclusions from what’s offered in the two hour runtime; we made an in-depth analysis of everything in the film upon release that relied just on what Scott offered.
The short of all this is that there are answers – they’re just not leaned on because that’s not the point. Indeed, the initial screenplays for both films are much more clear cut and forthcoming when it comes to real details, which after two movies Scott appears to be purposefully cutting back on. The origin of the xenomorph isn’t singularly what interests him; what does is what it represents. And so the thematic underscoring of the movie is the story, explaining the unconventional focus. What does the creation of the xenomorph mean? Where does it take us? It’s as abstract and large as Paradise Lost.
The umbrella criticism of the whole Alien prequel enterprise is that by explaining all the mysteries of the original film you nullify its unknowing horror. And the films seem to know that and so jump straight to the repercussions – the area where you can make grand statements.
That’s not to say others flaws don’t exist, but that the oft cited problems are all working to create something greater than what the movie is often credited for. Give Covenant (and, hey, why not Prometheus while you’re at it) another chance and you might find something that really makes you think.
Alien covenant is easily my second favorite movie. I hate watching YouTube videos about it because it's just people constantly complaining that a robot created the xeno and that is makes avp non canon.
There is one thing at least I hope people will appreciate more about movie, that is the stunning visuals and designs.
Watching the Xeno versus the crane in 4K and it's astonishing! Wish that scene was longer.
As I've said before...It's really hard core movie. A lot of characters I liked died and I'm not really happy about that...still gives me nightmares.
It's all darkness and death....perfect H.P Lovecraft cosmic horror.
Hopefully the next one gives a little more light at the end of the tunnel......Not just tentacles!
Very good write up. I recognised its brilliance the first time I saw it. Likewise Prometheus. I do have this guilty secret though: I am glad these films annoy so many people because it gives me a chance to slip into the guise of David and give their narrow point of view a good rubbishing!
Probably a lot of people didn't like it because it is too dark and leaves no room for hope in the end.
People want to be entertained.
That reminds me of a Radiohead song.
not drinking too much
regular exercise at the gym (3 days a week)
getting on better with your associate employee contemporaries
eating well (no more microwave dinners and saturated fats)
a patient better driver
a safer car (baby smiling in back seat)
sleeping well (no bad dreams)
careful to all animals (never washing spiders down the plughole)
keep in contact with old friends (enjoy a drink now and then)
will frequently check credit at (moral) bank (hole in wall)
favours for favours
fond but not in love
charity standing orders
on sundays ring road supermarket
(no killing moths or putting boiling water on the ants)
car wash (also on sundays)
no longer afraid of the dark
or midday shadows
nothing so ridiculously teenage and desperate
nothing so childish
at a better pace
slower and more calculated
no chance of escape
concerned (but powerless)
an empowered and informed member of society (pragmatism not idealism)
will not cry in public
less chance of illness
tires that grip in the wet (shot of baby strapped in back seat)
a good memory
still cries at a good film
still kisses with saliva
no longer empty and frantic
like a cat
tied to a stick
that's driven into
frozen winter shit (the ability to laugh at weakness)
fitter, healthier and more productive
in a cage
"He survived, he’s now in Disneyland in Orlando, and no way am I going back there. How did he end up in Disneyland? I saw him in Disneyland, Jesus Christ!"
"Just like Prometheus, this is David's Story" this is false, sorry. Prometheus was way more multi-layered and you have must look also at the fact that in Prometheus, David was a unit, it was never case that he was the first synthetic built by Weyland. The prologue, induced meaning into P which we have no evidence that was there in the first place. This can confirm only Lindelof and/or RS.
And why can't you accept that people would not like the story of a nazi robot in space? Is this something new ? No, it is already a trope. Of course, it makes you want to puke, it's disgusting but not scary.
Sorry I did not realize you just copy pasted the last link. You could have made it more clear. Hope that
@hox well said, hox. I love it too. It's a good way of measuring someone's intelligence, quite frankly.
Why must we be all stupid if we did not like/hate Covenant? I liked Prometheus from day 1 and now after re-watching all Alien movies, it is the only one I would watch again.
Nicely reviewed, glad I'm not the only one to see the brilliance in Covenant and what it retroactively does for Prometheus. :) I love the nihilism of these films and hopes the sequel doesn't change that. Same goes for the "Ripley" of these prequels, David. Please keep him the core, he's the thread that keeps it all woven together.
"The trick, William Potter, is not minding that it hurts."
Covenant is a masterpiece, no self respecting Alien franchise fan would say otherwise.
AC was better than Prometheus but it is far from perfect. My main complaint is that the characters are too weakly written. They are not complete idiots like some in Prometheus, they feel more like real persons but few of them are very memorable. I remember many of the characters in Prometheus (mostly for bad reasons) but few of them from AC. Saying that it is an average movie is probably fair but it is better than the movie that was released before it in the franchise.
Yes it was a bad thing to turn it into Blade Runner, that was too bad. I am glad that I am not the only one that dislikes that. Hopefully they will focus more on the human characters in the next movie and less on AI. For example I wouldn’t enjoy Alien as much if they chose to focus on Ash, that wouldn’t be as interesting, far from it.
“Just like Prometheus, this is David’s story”
Yeah and that shouldn’t be the case. If they ignore the human characters and focus primarily on AI then it isn’t very interesting to me. Who shall I as a viewer identify with? A crazy android? To me I got to have a human character that I can find sympathetic and interesting otherwise it is not a good movie, sorry. Oram was the most interesting human character in AC since he was one of the few that had some back-story, Tennessee was OK also. Unfortunately we were not given a lot of information about Daniels which was the main human character which made her less interesting. Daniels wasn’t bad it is just that se was too anonymous because I didn’t get that much info about her personality. Was the tough? Stubborn? Shy? What were her personality traits? They got to make her a lot better as a character in the next movie.
I don’t want the next movie to be about David and if it will then they got to have a lot better human characters otherwise it is a miss.
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