Alien: Covenant
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Alien: Covenant

It is not at all uncommon for various works of fiction to be set in the same universe. This establishes provisions for shared experiences, characters with repercussions generated by characters in one story carrying on through the common universe. Among the most famous of such a crossover occurred when Sir Isaac Asimov joined two of his most popular franchises, ‘Foundation’ and ‘I, Robot.' Recently one of the most influential filmmakers in the science-fiction, horror genre, Ridley Scott, has seized the opportunity to unify two of his best-known works in that arena, ‘Alien’ and ‘Prometheus,' the former has already achieved the quadrilogies status while the latter is ready for an initial sequel. Some aficionados of this specific category of storytelling referring to the film under consideration here, ‘Alien Covenant’ as ‘Alien-5/Prometheus-2’. Sufficient empirical evidence has been presented to support this, but while watching the movie, it does deserve to experience on its own, independent merit. Admittedly, this is impossible due to the purposeful interweaving of the stories utilizing one, ‘Prometheus’ to establish the groundwork for ‘Alien’ while Prometheus’ endeavored to provide the missing connective tissue to bind that venerable franchise together. To be fully successful in this well-intended goal this installment of the overall saga must succeed while forging a bridge between the two component series. The difficulty of this task significantly exacerbated by the perception of the fans. After the incredible success of the first two Alien movies followed by decreasing appreciation of the rest and a similar reaction to ‘Prometheus.' This placed inordinate pressure on Mr. Scott to revive the reputation of one of his dominant claims to fame. Although he fell short of completely achieving the movie’s potential, the result was entertaining and managed to provide some consolidation of the stories and insight into the growing number of monstrous xenomorphs.

The film begins by establishing a strong connection to ‘Prometheus’ with a prologue depicting trillionaire Peter Weyland (Guy Pearce), having a conversation with his newly activated android, David. The synthetic named himself after the iconic statue of David by Michelangelo. The discussion turns deeply philosophical when David confirms Weyland is his creator musing as to who created Wayland. Thematically this does create a bond ensuring this movie a direct sequel to ‘Prometheus.' It forms a pathway necessary to initiate the official unification of the two storylines. In doing so, the filmmaker must tread the fine line resulting from the need to maintain, extend and ultimately blend the internal consistency for both individual component story lines. Fans of science fiction a prone to demonstrating internal consistency in their entertainment. For the members of this audience adherence to the canon goes beyond the normal into a manic obsession.

After this brief prologue, the main story begins in 2104, eleven years after the events in ‘Prometheus.' The gigantic space ship, Covenant is on a mission to colonize the newly discovered planet, Origae-6. Determined to be highly compatible with terrestrial life. On board are 2,000 colonist in hibernation and 1,000 frozen embryos as the second generation. Also in hibernation are a small number of support crew, married couples. The only one awake is Walter (Michael Fassbender), physically identical to Adam but as a later model has been recorded to reduce some of its humanizing characteristics including independent thought and its penchant for philosophy and music. When an unexpected stellar neutrino burst is detected, it is already too late to prevent systems failure which resulted in the death of several colonists. When Walter begins to revive the crew a malfunction shorts out one of the hibernation pods gruesomely immolating the ship’s Captain. Jake Branson. Next in \line for the command is First Mate Chris Oram (Billy Crudup), an extremely religious man who considers the mission of the Covenant to be an act of destiny. He is constantly at odds with the Captain’s widow, Janet "Danny" Daniels (Katherine Waterston), in charge of terraforming the new planet. There is little time for grieving; repairs must be made. The conflict between Danny and Oram is crucial to the progression of the story and is efficiently handled when Oram declines approving time to hold funeral services. Despite the official objections, the crew backs Danny, and a brief service was held. This establishes the underlying group dynamic where Oram may be officially in charge, but Danny is the emotional core of the crew.

While scanning the surface they discover a very unexpected and unusual signal, the song ‘Take me home’ by John Denver. Superficially the planet resembles the Earth, but a closer look is required. As they disembark the first thing that is noticed is the complete absence of any trace of animals. There are many varieties of lush flora present but no fauna. Among the plant life, the list of impossibly unexpected grows as they come across a field of wheat, wheat that was obviously cultivated. It will soon become evident that another far more insidious than what they yet encountered. A black mist, spores, they opportunistically infect a couple of crew members through the ear and nose. Soon they begin to feel sick. This is the point in the proceeding that fans of the ‘Alien’ franchise have been anxiously awaiting. As David brings a crewman to a chamber filled with decidedly familiar large egg-shaped objects. With the audience entirely aware of what will follow a face hugger xenomorph explodes from the now opened shell attaching itself to the face of its hapless incubator. In short order as the crew hope for a peaceful immune meal the anticipated next phase of the creature’s life cycle rips through his body rapidly fleeing the scene. This ‘chest burster’ is different, instead of a worm-like an adult xenomorph only small and seemingly an albino. It does, however, possess the zeal and proficiency for killing.

In any film with a primary intent to connect two allied franchises, it is inevitable that familiar material from both primary sources. It is the frequently unenviable task of supplying the viewers with suitable shock and terror when every element of the scenes intended to frighten are fully anticipated. Fortunately, Ridley Scott has earned his ranking as a master class auteur and was fully able to entice the audience into becoming completely invested in the story while holding them firmly for the duration of the movie. A substantial portion of this success can be attributed to Mr. Scott wisely deciding to treat those scenes as if they were components of a straightforward horror film. Fans of that type of movie are accustomed to watching their favorite boogeyman slice and dice through yet another hedonistic group of teens utilizing his preferred method of carnage.Similarly Mr. Scott becomes a master of horror using the anticipation of the audience, teasing them by leveraging what they know to heighten the inexorably growing tension. This departure is not complete; the technologically advance science fiction components continue to provide the effects-rich look and feel of an advanced space ship. This diversity of settings from the Apple Store look of the ship of the claustrophobic, dripping corridors of the ancient alien vessel, continually moves the vantage point of the viewers between the glossy ambiance of the ‘Prometheus,' to the dank hallways of the ‘Nostromo.'

One point that has been a major discussion and contention from the moment the initial announcement of this film was issued avid fans have considered every imaginable aspect of the roles played in the story by the indomitable Ellen Ripley and the rise to the occasion Danny Daniels. The main similarities are they are both incredibly strong, resourceful women are accustomed to being adjacent to leadership but never fully in charge. When that hierarchy is altered by the most unexpected, violent means they are both forced to put aside their familiar personality traits to become a warrior charging into the unknown. If the roles were portrayed by men, this issue barely would barely be made. Strong male characters played by decidedly masculine actors can easily step into such a role without many comparisons to similar characters played by other actors of that archetype. Ms. Weaver and Ms. Waterson both excelled in their portrayals, each imprinting their distinctive, unique stamp on their respective characters. Both women are extraordinarily versatile actors who have proven their skillful application of their talents in a broad variety of roles and genres. The similarities in the situations are present by design and necessary to merge the franchises securely, but it is a disservice to force such a complete comparison of their performances.

bulletAudio Commentary by Director Ridley Scott
bulletDeleted and Extended Scenes
bulletInWorld Featurette: Advert and Photos
bulletDavid's Illustrations
bulletProduction Gallery
bulletMaster Class: Ridley Scott

Posted 08/20/2017

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