It's safe to say different people have different levels of expectation when it comes to cinema. There's an argument that a big-budget blockbuster doesn't need to have a watertight plot, if it has good action, good CGI or is at least entertaining. Others, though, believe that if multimillions have been spent on producing a work of creative fiction, there's a certain standard to expect.
Take Alien: Covenant. Ridley Scott again returns to his brainchild, five years after Prometheus. The sixth instalment in the Alien franchise is splitting fan opinion like a #Xenomorph to a sternum. For some, it's a worthy addition to the likes of Alien (1979) and Aliens (1986). For others, it's a sign Scott has lost the X(enomorph) factor. Personally, I was confused when I left the cinema; did I like it? Or did I hate it?
Before we go into the nitty gritty, it's worth nothing that essentially the main plot point of Prometheus has been more or less abandoned. Scott himself identified that fans felt the prequel neglected some of the aspects that they expect to see from the franchise, a franchise he feels could continue for at least another six movies.
In tuning into fans' desires, #AlienCovenant eradicates the philosophical musings that arose from its predecessor; rather than discover more about the Engineers, David kills them off and becomes a personification of all unanswered questions. For anyone wanting answers, it's clear they died consumed by black goo — much like the Engineers themselves.
'Alien: Covenant': Not The Sharpest Fools In The Colony
Huge diversion in story aside, I was struggling to identify what it was that stopped me from appreciating the unrestrained alien horror. After all, for fans of the series, Covenant appears to be a have-your-cake-and-eat it movie. But upon closer inspection, the film's flaw become painfully apparent: The characters are stupid. Admittedly, it sounds like a sweeping statement, but a closer look at the film's plot highlights numerous silly decisions. They really are stupid.
I don't want to question the hideous nature that sets off the chain of events. The neutrino burst, which leads to the death of a number of colonists, isn't great. Neither is the death of captain Jacob "criminally-underdeveloped-but-it's-fine-it's-James-Franco" Branson dying right at the beginning. But from that moment on, the crew aboard the Covenant make questionable decision after questionable decision.
I also don't want to question the decision to divert from Origae-6 to another planet. After the damage to the ship, and the shock death of Jame-...Jacob, it made sense to opt out of a seven year, stasis-induced journey. Fair call, but also the downside to a crew consisting of couples means that judgement is more likely to be impaired in the face of adversity.
Don't Think, It's Another Day In Paradise
Something must've impaired their collective judgement, anyway, because the crew trudge into the wilderness of an undiscovered planet without so much as a surgical mask for protection (this also annoyed me in Prometheus). The same something must've also given new Captain Christopher Oram a false sense of security as he mocks Daniels "Dany" Branson's valid concern that they know nothing about this new wheat-harvesting "paradise." Not to mention they don't scan the environment for contamination.
Thanks to zero protection from the outside world, a flying Xenomorph larvae burrows into Ledward's ear canal. Queue the classic #Alien trope — someone looks like shit; someone asks them "are you okay?"; they say "of course, I'm fine"; they begin falling apart faster than a white-water raft made of tissue paper; everyone realizes they weren't actually okay.
Then the soggy brown stuff hits the fan, and here's where the really silly decisions begin. I don't want to be harsh on Maggie Faris, the pilot of the landing ship. What happens next is brutal, unexpected, ghastly. Even so, for someone in a position of responsibility for a multibillion expedition to another planet, she handles the situation terribly (and why she was left alone on the ship, I don't know). It's like she took the rulebook and decided to go against every protocol:
- She initially does something right, by locking Ledward in quarantine. Good start.
- But after the Neomorph explodes from Ledward's back like a sadistic, bloody birthday cake surprise, she decides it's a good idea to open the quarantine so she can try to shoot it.
- As if that's not stupid enough, she's firing bullets like there's no tomorrow on the ship that provides the only option for escape.
For fans of Faris, I'll level with you, Karine Oram doesn't fare much better. After taking Ledward back to the ship, she decided to enter quarantine with him, tenderly stroking his moist, feverish face as he does his best impression of sugar-loving Edgar the Bug from Men in Black. Why doesn't she leave him in there until they know what the problem is? Maybe I'm just heartless and lacking empathy.
The Award For Stupidity Goes To...
Forget Faris. Forget Karine. The award for wide-eyed stupidity from the crew aboard the Covenant goes to... replacement captain Christopher Oram! For one moment alone, he deserves that title (David is a robot, so has a valid excuse — more on that shortly): Oram first-hand witnesses David seductively flirt with a Xenomorph. He witnesses David cry out in horror as he kills it. David. An android living on the planet, who is more than likely Facebook-friends with the aliens themselves.
So why does Oram then carry on? Why aren't the alarm bells ringing? Why does he then walk with David into the Xenomorph egg centre, and stare straight into the fucking thing as David smugly goads him by telling him there's no chance of harm? I'm hoping that this is because Ridley Scott diverted from the religious undertones of Prometheus and decided to demonstrate a serious case of Darwin's natural selection.
I'll end this (without even starting on the shower scene) by talking about David, although at least he can blame someone else for bad programming. Regardless, as the new figurehead of what appears to be the entire Xenomorph legacy, his motives are highly questionable. He admits he fell in love with Elizabeth Shaw, is happy with his human-like qualities, yet also wants to destroy humanity.
If that's the case, why didn't he kill the crew immediately? Or, at the very least, once back on the Covenant at the end, why didn't he kill them then? Instead, he plays along pretending he's Walter, and even helps Tennessee and Daniels kill the Xenomorph by trapping it and thrusting it into deep space — not long after crying over Oram shooting one.
Maybe they had a lover's spat. Or, maybe, David — like everyone else aboard the Covenant — is a few cards short of a full space deck.
Is this article harsh? Would all of us really act the same if we were in their space-boots? Is Alien: Covenant misunderstood?