The Dumbing Down for the Modern Audience?1,848 Views7 RepliesAdd A Reply
A bit of a different take on Alien Covenant.
First and foremost I will wholeheartedly say that Sir Ridley Scott is an absolute genius filmmaker. Some of his movies have withstood time, critics, and continue to be embraced by generations. I look forward to this movie, and I am planning on watching it on opening weekend. However......
I remember an interview with Scott in which he stated he cut Prometheus a specific way in order to placate today's modern audience. And that he cut it, making it shorter to match people's attention spans. (Not a direct quote) I've heard younglings state that they never got through Alien as it was too "boring". Yes, the cast talks for 45 minutes before anything significant happens. I get it. I will say, that the original Alien movie terrified me to no end, and at the age of ten I believed whole heartedly there was a facehugger under my bed......(insert terrified emoji here).
Does gory really equal more terrifying? John Carpenter's, "The Thing" pretty much showed alien life forms taking over, changing, transforming, and exploding human beings in gruesome ways. Yes, we haven't seen back or throat bursters, and today's filming technology and special effects are eons advanced compared to the 80's. But have we already seen what there is to see? The shower scene has been done in numerous horror/slasher stories, and when watching it you see people in the most vulnerable of cir***stances meet their demise. "Visceral" to the end. Alfred Hitch****'s "Psycho" scene demented bad guy replaced by the big chap?
In the trailer, watching the Captain look curiously into the open egg and already knowing what is inevitably going to happen really didn't have me on the edge of my seat. Simply because watching Kane look into the egg numerous times it's just kind of well....the same ole same ole. No edge of the seat, just crapped my pants feeling. Have we already seen what there is to see?
After the third viewing of Alien back a loooong time ago. I was always intrigued and continually wondered about the story of the Space Jockey. What was his story, and the ship was so bizarre and strange and "alien".
People complained very loudly about not enough "Alien" in Prometheus. Ridley Scott for the longest time believed it was played out. Has it been? Does the Captain get facehugged, make it back to the ship up in orbit, little chap shows up, becomes Big Chap, goes on killing spree, Daniels demonstrating great resolve and bravery kills said Big Chap(s). Wait, Ripley already did that right.
I by no means am saying that is what is going to happen. I'm simply saying I hope it doesn't. New species, similar DNA I can embrace. Similar cir***stances, plot lines, events. I may be disappointed. Hollywood tends to rinse and repeat in order to make huge profits. (The Force Awakens) anyone? I honestly just hope this isn't the case and Sir Ridley Scott had full control. I hope Fox executives stayed out of his way and let him do his thing. If the script was written and then rewritten based on sample surveys and future profit based on what executives believe audiences want, ugh....all I can say is I hope not.
Firstly, I disagree that Sir Ridley Scott is an "absolute genius filmmaker". Just remember his most recent of flops, Exodus: Gods and Kings. To my mind, James Cameron is more deserving of such an accolade, but that's another topic for another time.
However, I do share your wish for the film(s) to refrain from using genre clichés and retreading old story arcs as you've described. If there's nothing new to be said, is it worth saying? And by 'new' I don't mean pred-aliens and new-borns and deacons -- I mean something that adds and enriches the mythos of the original monster.
When I heard that parts of the script had to be reworked by not-the-original writer, it harkened back the disaster of Lindelhof on Prometheus. That said, the same thing and some was required for Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, which was outstanding. So all is not lost.
I'm not sure why the 'nothing happens for 45 minutes' myth persists. Dallas, Ripley and Ash are searching for the missing hugger at the 45 minute mark.
That aside - I don't care if Ridley "dumbs it down" as long as it's entertaining.
I haven't seen the trailer but I have read reactions. When we discussed the second film being given an Alien prefix I suggested that as soon as intel begins to come out it will use the life cycle as a branding tool. From the set, from later iv remarks over and over again the alien referencing was offered. Caps/hand designs and now the trailer.
None of this tells us anything about the story the characters and how it will move from Prometheus. Many people will go to the cinema and say
a) Its awesome the gores back and it frightened me.
b) Its a dull repeat of previous movies with the ubiquitous quote from an ALIENS marine and when do we get the Ripley movie.
c) It has more of the atmosphere of Alien but it has retained the fascinating sub creative intent of Prometheus but with much more exposition and clarity about what is being proposed.
In other words its not the artist that is dumbing down it will be a reflection of the difference between those at one extreme who make snap judgements live in a world view of instant gratification who are desensitised and lack the capacity for real emotional experiences and those who at the other extreme who have their emotional and intellectual antenna switched on. The internet is simply putting that before us all.
The trailer is spoon feeding to capture audience. The film will be different and will disappoint those whom think the values of the trailer will be consistently exposed through out.
I am confident that at 78 Ridley still knows both how to make a super film even if he doesn't get it right every time and he understands how to communicate effectively with the potential audience.
The life cycle is a branding tool and as I said elsewhere its a motif for telling the story but it is not the story. They hesitated with Prometheus to use it though actually if you care to watch the film properly it tells you much more about it than the cycle itself.
With Covenant, as John Logan has said, they are comfortable this time round. The beast for its own sake is cooked its what goes round it and how it is contextualised that makes it interesting but when you want to hit the easily distracted information overload generation use it and the gore as the banner, thats all thats happened so far.
Anyone notice Daniels is a terraforming specialist now thats important whereas imaginative busting "nothing happening here move along"
As always, your posts provide a good insight and perspective. Although Prometheus was filled will symbolism throughout, the film itself promoted itself as a horror film prior to being released. I believe, and still do, that the film had such potential but fell way short of what it could have been. I do sincerely hope this film moves along and as usual some of the rumors prior to release are nothing more than that, "rumors". I have no issue watching a crew meet their demise while exploring a hostile planet. Earth can kill you in numerous ways so obviously space exploration in general would be a hazardous occupation. I do sincerely hope aside from the slasher/horror elements there are some good and concrete answers provided and with this production we get some answers and the "story" moves along. I still believe it would be ironic if David ends up being the demise of Paradise. The creation (David) of the created (humanity) ending the creators (Engineers) would be quite interesting; more so than the Engineers meeting their demise at their own hands due to the evil biology they lose control over.......
Good point that the Prometheus trailer (which I never saw but looked at after watching the film) did riff Alien and then the film withdrew from it in terms of its general character. Almost as if Fox allowed the Lindelof thing to happen and then at the marketing and late decision stage took fright.
Alien Covenant at this stage is different to Prometheus in three ways.
1) It is comfortable with the Xenomorph iconography.
2)The screen play was written by a high exposition writer John Logan whereas Prometheus had a low exposition writer.
3) They were much more comfortable with the script going into Covenant than Prometheus and the fact they have worked very fast and speeded things up bears testament to that.
Your point about David is an interesting one, it reminds me of some thing Ridley said that the subsequent films will peal back layers and reveal more. David is actually working through those layers. We know the Engineers are now simply regarded as a "superior species" For the big idea David to be repaired but enhanced and Co Equivalent of the Engineers makes a good deal of sense. As I have said elsewhere this may alter the emphasis of how Covenants, and their breaking are portrayed.
We know that John Milton's poem will inform the narrative. Here is an extract from a piece which discuss's how Milton (aka Ridley) portrays Satan (aka Engineers aka David surrogate Engineer)
No matter how brilliantly Milton created the character of Satan, the chief demon cannot be the hero of the poem. For Milton, Satan is the enemy who chooses to commit an act that goes against the basic laws of God, that challenges the very nature of the universe. Satan attempts to destroy the hierarchy of Heaven through his rebellion. Satan commits this act not because of the tyranny of God but because he wants what he wants rather than what God wants. Satan is an egoist. His interests always turn on his personal desires. Unlike Adam, who discusses a multiplicity of subjects with Raphael, rarely mentioning his own desires, Satan sees everything in terms of what will happen to him. A true Promethean / Romantic hero has to rebel against an unjust tyranny in an attempt to right a wrong or help someone less fortunate. If Satan had been Prometheus, he would have stolen fire to warm himself, not to help Mankind.
This statement struck me as some thing which could be extra ordinarily prescient to Covenant. The Engineers, and here I am talking Janek's view that Lv 223 is a convenience for all Engineers, stole the fire for their benefit so they could re order things to their liking, not for the Gods purpose and set in motion the retribution and punishment we see on LV 223, they uncovered the Xenomorph gene or strain, an accident or a booby trap. Big idea David, like Loge in Wagner's opera, knows of the gods wickedness and now re borne sets off to Paradise to act as a proxy for the hierarchy to destroy them.
However as with the poem he breaks his promise
Similarly, Satan's motives change as the story advances. At first, Satan wishes to continue the fight for freedom from God. Later his motive for continuing the fight becomes glory and renown. Next, the temptation of Adam and Eve is simply a way to disrupt God's plans.
In Covenant once in the ascendancy he will pick up the tools and knowledge that he has acquired and begin his own sub creationism and re ordering. That Daniels is a terraforming expert will lead her into some dangerous temptations.
The Covenants that will be tested will have at their centre David and he would argue that he is merely learning from others by example. The Engineers through Davids acquired knowledge will be shown to have broken their Covenant with the hierarchy he, like his behaviour with Charlie, is merely a response. For him to break his Covenant with Shaw would not surprise me at all.
The other element that makes this interesting which is both connected and unconnected with Milton's poem is the A I element. Where do David's motives come from. Is he aping mankind the engineers and the hierarchy as part of his curiosity. Why is he doing the things he is doing if he is mechanical this may be part of the big idea that he is gaining his own momentum and emotional drivers. Why seek to blend the Xeno strain with mechanics because he can ? What is he expecting that to achieve are they his warriors rather like the Einerjar of the poetic edda and he is playing Odin. If he is preparing for Ragnorok, he wants to place Eggs into holds and fly off to places in a Juggernaut what his role as a surrogate engineer who can fly a Juggernaut?
This is in response to your idea that David brings hell with him. He certainly has Black Goo canisters in his office, there is clearly some complication in the stages of the big death (mummies and then ash why both if its ancient retribution) and I am unconvinced that the Juggernaut is damaged.
Ridley offered the Martian through a single charismatic actor which communicated all the ideas he wanted to. He may well go the same way with Covenant and give David a really firm grip on everything that happens and needs explaining. In that arrangement Walter is the contextualising element and gives Michael the chance to flex his acting muscles just that bit more which everyone including Fox agree is a good thing.
Your last post I find intriguing. A deep allegory with complex and interesting interpretations. David as Satan? Interesting in that Ridley has stated that one of the things to be explored in this movie is whether David has a soul. I would pose the question then, and within that context as he is a synthetic, "What then does it mean to have a soul?" Is it AI coming to a point in which it is so brilliant it becomes sentient? Self awareness with or without a spirit? And in looking at this further what place does Walter fit in? Two peas from the same pod. One perhaps with a high moral compass yet soulless, the other self aware, no moral compass, yet possessing a soul. Rumor has it that Walter and David play a sort of chess match with Walter losing. Walter believing David to be inferior due to lack of upgrades but in essence David is actually the one with the soul, perhaps superior? David, misguided, based on our standards of what humanity should be, but possessing a soul nonetheless. And if in fact this would be the case what place does Shaw have within the grand scheme of things? Is she a catalyst of sorts? A suffering victim of David's evil science/biology?
Intriguing.....I do wonder, if in fact these things are in some way portrayed if audience members will take away some of the hidden meanings or like you stated before, they will walk away with wow that was gory or meh, a dull repeat.
First of all its very heartening to read your response as much as it is dispiriting to read the responses on the Alien UK Facebook page. I have no problem people disliking things which I find appealing but it is the lack of real enquiry followed by the swift denunciation that is frustrating.
Most good art requires effort to make a relationship with it. A L I E N was a very slow build movie where the antagonist appeared for 4 minutes. Prometheus had some organisational issues (Peter Weyland should have been more real so the revelation the entire mission was a hoax for his needs would have been clearer earlier) but you weren't asked to root for any character, more share David's vision of curiosity, thats hard to do. People often say why did Milburn/Fifield do not do this or that imagine you are a synthetic looking back at mankind's behaviour no wonder you want some sort of ascension and connection with these Gods.
This brings me to your point about David (self employed) and Walter (employed) and your excellent comparative thoughts. This movie will be about what ever David has become a compliant Robot and Daniels. This is conjecture but possibly Daniels the mother who has left her partner behind with the daughter, Daniels the technician intrigued by what David has uncovered and Daniels the survivor who has to man up from a more emotionally tactile base than her daughter will 18 years later.......
She may do the stuff Ripley does but just the look on her face in the before the Temple still looks more emotionally engaged than the dour Ellen who may not have had a strong mother figure to raise her. Could be way off we shall see and thanks again for your response to what I call applicability rather than allegory. The latter is more a retelling whereas the former is more about echoes and inspiration. I also find, not in this case, people with a highly religious or political bent see allegory in things as part of the message from ....... Ellie had a miraculous and unusual caesarian on christmas day but that doesn't make the Deacon Satan it simply encourages me to see symbolism that this is not, to come pack to the OP, shock for shocks sake but an indication that when you go seeking your maker with someone who wants to steel the fire you may find, all you will find, is yourselves and their errors. How Shaw will respond if David is responsible for the destruction of Paradise will be most interesting thats if she is able to say anything.