Alien Covenant: Ridley Scott gives moviegoers sci-fi Rorschach test

Alien trailer

Question: How much do you want to bet that somewhere in Hollywood there is a producer who is thinking up schemes to make Wonder Woman vs. Alien happen?

The past weekend was rightly dominated Gal Gadot’s solid handing of Diana Prince, but if you’re like me and had to deal with sold-out shows, then you faced the “Do-I-stay-for-the-later-viewing-or-go-home?” predicament.  There was  a third option — seeing Alien Covenant — but I shirked my writerly duties and got you this review late. I hope you can forgive your humble (I try) blogger and consider the analysis below as similar situations unfold in the weeks ahead.

Here is an except from my latest review for Conservative Book Club, with a link to the full text once I’ve pushed fair-use content to its outer limits:

Director Ridley Scott’s latest foray into the universe he made famous roughly 40 years ago is a bit like a Rorschach test. Is it primarily a Prometheus (2012) sequel or an Alien (1979) prequel? Is it a highbrow science-fiction flick about the origins and meaning of life, or is it just another opportunity to show seemingly smart people make stupid decisions that lead to gruesome deaths? Alien: Covenant, like a quickly scurrying “xenomorph,” is hard to nail down.

One of the big challenges with bringing a film like Alien: Covenant to the big screen is making it fresh. Die-hard fans of any beloved franchise (e.g., Star Wars) understand that on some level they’re paying for the same roller coaster ride, but that doesn’t absolve creators from supplying a few new twists and turns. Luckily for Alien fans they have a 79-year-old Scott, whose lifetime of experience brings forth a gorgeous film that demands respect despite its flaws.

Alien: Covenant’s plot revolves around a crew of would-be planetary colonists who are wakened from hypersleep due to an emergency. Their captain dies, and a pensive man of faith named Oram (Billy Crudup) takes his place. Newly widowed Daniels (Katherine Waterston), an android named Walter (David Fassbender), and a small band of explorers decide to investigate a radio signal from a nearby planet instead of reentering hypersleep and risking another calamity. The chaos that follows serves as the bridge between Prometheus and Alien.

As expected, Oram and much of his crew soon find themselves overwhelmed by a hostile planet filled with xenomorph-producing spores that burrow inside ears and noses. The team is saved by David (Fassbender), the older — but more problematically human — model of Walter from Prometheus. He hopes to hitch a ride on their orbiting spaceship once an electrical storm subsides, but for reasons he has no intention of disclosing to his innocent human visitors.

Without spoiling the movie, the key to understanding David’s motivations lie in Alien: Covenant’s prologue, in which he speaks with his inventor.

“If you created me, who created you?” asks David.

His “father” (Guy Pearce) calls it the “question of the ages.”

“Allow me then a moment to consider — you seek your creator; I am looking at mine,” replies David. “I will serve you, yet you are human. You will die, I will not.”

A further window into David’s digital mind comes later in the movie during a conversation with “brother” Walter. He references fallen angel Satan from John Milton’s Paradise Lost: “Better to reign in hell, than serve in heaven.”

Check out the full review over at CBC here.

Alien trailer Walter

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