Film Corner: Covenant


Anyway, if I want to start Covenant tonight I need to do it now, so I guess let's do this.

We open with David being turned on for the first time. Weyland quizzes him about what he sees and feels. Weyland looks a LOT younger than before, which suggests that the David on Prometheus was an older android model than I'd expected. David and Weyland talk about god and needing to meet one's creator and David instantly questions why he should have to serve Weyland if Weyland is ephemeral, fleeting, and capable of death. This is just... argh, no.

The best I can do here is assume that David was programmed with Weyland's values, because there's no *objective* reason to assume that immortal beings are inherently better than mortal ones. Something being fleeting does not make it less precious. It feels like Scott or whoever wants to make a really profound point about existence with these movies but instead is just exposing a lot of his own fears and biases which aren't, strictly speaking, facts or objective.

Covenant is a colonial vessel full of embryos, so we're at least back on track with "ordinary" people and motherhood. 15 crew members, 2000 colonists, 1140 embryos. I guess this solves the Adam and Eve genetic diversity problem. The computer ("Mother") tells Walter, the android, to recharge the solar sails and they're lovely and good. The computer in Alien was called "Mother" (and "Father" in Resurrection), so it's nice to return to that theme too.

Walter checks on some embryos which look more formed than I think is right. I... wonder how far along those are and how long the resulting pregnancies are supposed to be. Current IVF pregnancies aren't faster than "normal" ones.

A space emergency results in an emergency wakeup of the crew, and a woman's husband (possibly the captain?) burns to death in his chamber. It's an effective opening: space is scary, life is short, bad things happen. These are very Alien themes. She processes her grief against a screen of pretty forest, and it's reminiscent of Ripley processing her daughter's death in a similar environment. It's nice to see that someone at least *watched* the Alien films before making this.

The ship is damaged and needs repairs. The new captain is nervous, jumpy, and not well-liked; he talks over the other crew members. (Shades of Gorman from Aliens?) I remember thinking/hoping in theaters that Daniels (new-Ripley) be trans masc. It's really unclear to me why there are so many apparently cis men on the crew; why wouldn't you want more people with uteruses for all these embryos? Unless we have achieved full external wombs at this point, which may well be the case.

They might also be religious separatists; there was a line that sounded a little space-religiony. We'll see. Oh, it's the new captain who is religious and he's got a HUGE chip on his shoulder about it. If you're a white man and you believe in god, you're discriminated against by all the atheists and your career suffers, don't you know. I'm sorry, I just. There are absolutely stigmatized religions, but they AIN'T white men men who believe in a Christian-sounding god. Fucking heck.

While conducting ship repairs, they pick up a signal of someone singing "Country Roads" and realize there's a habitable planet nearby that is even better than the one they're traveling towards. "How did we miss this?" They can get to the better planet in 2 weeks, or they can limp with their damaged ship to the original destination in 7 years. This is good: there are actual *reasons* to touch down!

Danny sensibly objects to charting a new course. Yes, this planet looks better but they mapped and trained for the other planet. There's things they might not have considered. This is a reasonable conundrum! I like it! Both versions carry risks. 7 years in space could risk another random emergency. Landing on the "better" planet might kill them all if they failed to notice the anthrax-tigers in the first scan. There's risk either way! They set down with a water landing, while the colonists stay in orbit. This all seems very sensible and safe and careful.

The field they are walking through is clearly wheat so it's actually cool when one of the crew is like "this is wheat, wtf". Does it make sense? Not yet! But it's creepy. The party splits so that someone can work up a Science at the edge of a swamp. (Sure, okay!) Danny notes that the forest is completely silent. No birds or animals. I think about whether that's a good thing or not. (No anthrax-tigers, but no game.)

While working up the Swamp Science, a man steps on smallish dark egg-like husks and gray dust flies up. That's worrying, given the gray goo in Prometheus. This stuff definitely feels like a deliberate biological weapon.

I'm flagging, though. We might have to finish this later. Oh! They find one of the Engineer ships from Prometheus. And another crew member inhales the gray dust. I forgave them for not having suits on because I wasn't sure they'd even *have* planet-suits and of course they supposed did a million scans on this place before landing, but here is where suits would be good.

They find Elizabeth Shaw's dog tags, which is funny because I didn't notice her wearing any in the last movie, just her dad's cross. It has a Weyland symbol on the tag. Walter and Danny know about her disappearance 10 years ago, and about the Prometheus. not secret?? You'd think if it were common knowledge that Weyland went out on a ship and didn't come back, someone would have investigated. Also, 10 years does not feel sufficiently long for space travel but okay.

The swamp team rushes back to the ship because the man is coughing and vomiting. The medical officer helps them to the med bay and looks alarmed when she pulls his shirt off and his back sprays blood in her face. She runs for help and locks the bay behind her. She is reasonably worried about quarantine--they talked about it over the radio--and I can believe that in the heat of the moment she's not thinking about the fact that she has blood on her face. This, too, works as reasonable people making reasonable errors!

Oh my god. Wow, yes, THIS works as horror. The chestburster bursts from his back, which is just different enough to be terrifying all over again, instead of old hat, and the tiniest little alien starts stalking the woman in the room and it's SCARY. Well done. Yes. So far, this is working. But I really do have to go to bed because I have work tomorrow. I'm sorry, friends.

Okay, when we left off we had 1 woman locked in the medical bay with a scalpel and a tiny alien and 1 woman running to grab a gun and radio for help. I LIKE THIS. They're both focused on survival; they're both trying to make the best decisions they can. Like, you can agree or disagree with the medical officer's actions to not break quarantine for the trapped, probably doomed woman but I *understand* her reasoning. She feels like a real person instead of...whatever the characters in Prometheus were.

Also, a word about the set design and use of color here because *chef's kiss*. The starkness of the white medical bay against the red alien is working really, really well and reminds me of the great visual design in the first Alien. Then the medical officer frustrates me by live-firing a gun near flammables and straight up exploding the entire lander, so that part is annoying. But these things happen and she was in an understandable panic.

The second man who was sickened by the black goop spawns an alien and it runs off. We get the BRIEFEST blink-and-miss-it of a survivor with a wedding ring touching his hands after death, and that was supposed to be the "gay representation" we were told to be grateful for. (Still salty about that!)

The alien comes back to run towards Daniels/Danny and Walter (android) throws himself into the alien to save her. Bless him. The alien Luke Skywalkers his hand and Walter looks with shock at the wound. Oh shit, more are coming through the wheat fields and this is genuinely terrifying. Wheat fields just *are* scary, I don't make the rules. A robed savior sets off some kind of sonic flare that scares the aliens away and yells "follow me" and now we have our very own Obi-Wan, cool.

They're led through a courtyard covered in... what the hell are these things? Statues of people? Dead bodies? I don't know, but they're creepy as heck. Nice to see someone with an actual conception of horror worked on this film. Obi-Wan reveals that he's David, the android from Prometheus. He says when he and Elizabeth set down here the goop-cargo was jostled and she died in the crash. All the local animals were infected by the bio-weapon goop. I want to know where he got his body, since he was just a head at the end of Prometheus.

They tell David about the colony ship in orbit and he seems *really* interested in that. David cuts and colors his hair so that he looks just like Walter. I'm sure this is going to go good places. Walter reveals that David unsettled people, so later models were made more machine-like and less creative. David goes to a lookout point and quotes the Ozymandias quote, which is always a sure sign of trustworthiness. We get a flashback of an alien race--it looks like the Engineers--being happy to see the ship come in. David opens a hatch and rains down black goopy death on everyone. I really do wish his new body would be explained.

If the handwave is that Elizabeth made one for him, then I will resurrect her just to punch her in her trusting face. That would make zero sense after what David pulled in Prometheus. From a thematic standpoint, I do not like going from the themes that "androids are people too" to "if you allow androids to be creative, they turn into sociopathic murderers". This was a chance to undo Prometheus' bad work and instead they doubled down. David and Walter are basically just Lore and Data. Mrr.

@MelodyHaren. They did previews that talked about the time in between and her completely repairing him is EXACTLY what happened.

Goddammit, Elizabeth. He killed her boyfriend, impregnated her with an alien, tried to force her to stay pregnant with same, and hit her in the stomach staples, and she put him back together believing he wouldn't shiv her in the back. WHY.

David shows us Elizabeth's grave and says she repaired him and that he loved her. He and Walter argue over love vs. duty and whether Walter is in love with Danny. Elsewhere, a woman undresses to clean up. THIS will definitely end well.

@McNutcase. They did establish that boundless, unreasonable optimism is very much her defining trait.

Oh, yeah, no, it's totally in character for her to repair the obviously evil guy who plans to kill her, I do agree with THAT. I just hate that her character was written to be so credulous. In an Aliens movie!!! Ok. When we last left off, a woman was taking a shower in a dangerous situation, which always ends well in movies. A monster that looks way more humanoid than xenomorph is suddenly just there (how? why?) and bites her vampire-style in the neck.

Shower Woman screams but no one hears her. Elsewhere, the colony ship (still in orbit) finally manages to contact the landing party. They reveal they've had casualties and need immediate evacuation. There's a whole subplot I'm not sure I explained wherein the guy driving the colony ship is worried about his wife in the landing crew and he keeps taking risks to try to contact her. I'm not sure how I feel about that. It's one of those plot points that makes sense in the sense that I would totally be that guy, but which is irritating on screen because it's like, dude, the sleeping space lesbians need you to keep your shit together.

Anyway, now that I've thought way too much about the morality of risking the lives of cryogenic people for the sake of an away team, Husband tries to order the ship into a storm and "Mother" tells him she can't do that, Dave, because it will destroy the ship. One of the crew members helps Husband override the ship's safety protocols and I grind my teeth because I assume they aren't going to immediately die and that annoys me. If the computer says a storm would destroy the ship, I want that to be TRUE and not just a matter of FAITH. I am an *engineer* there is MATH involved in these things, it is not just a matter of spit and gumption.

Danny and the Captain sit while Walter tends the fire with his remaining hand. I don't remember seeing how the Walter-David conversation ended, so I'm assuming this *is* David and he's already dumped Walter into a ditch somewhere. Captain goes looking for Shower Girl and finds her being eaten by a monster which, AGAIN, is not very xenomorph looking. Did the alien franchise people not understand what people like about this franchise? The look and feel of the xenomorphs was a *draw* to the series!

Actually, sorry, this is one of the androids (face blindness, sorry) who found Shower Girl being eaten, probably David. The captain creeps up behind him with a gun and tells him to move but David tells him "don't shoot". "Breathe on the nostrils of a horse and he'll be yours for life," David says, breathing on the alien. I am 99.999999% sure this is not true. Why do I not have any liquor in the house. (I can't mix it with my meds, that's why. But still.) As a test, I have breathed into the nostrils of a cat and all he did was lick his nose and then give me a bitchy look before running off. Probably going to ask @beardyblue to give him treats after the indignity he's suffered.

The captain kills the alien and then trains the gun on David, telling him that he "met the devil as a child and have never forgotten it" and that David is going to tell him what the hell is going on. I... uh... huh. Captain continues: "You are going to tell me what is going on or I am going to seriously fuck up your perfect composure." I have never so quickly been on another character's side before, well done. David tells him to follow him, and that seems like a bad idea.

David shows him a laboratory where he's dissected various xenomorphs (I guess these don't have acid for blood and come to think of it we avoided that in Prometheus too; did the writers dislike that angle) and a cave with eggs. David tells the Captain to look inside. Oh geez. The Captain does so because obviously David has proved himself SO TRUSTWORTHY and he gets himself facehuggered.

Walter is with Danny, so I guess the android-switch hasn't taken place yet? That seems very odd to me; I guess David confessed to Walter that he murdered every living thing on the planet and Walter said "good talk, thanks" and went back to the others without warning them??? Anyway, everyone splits up to look for the other people who split up and died.

Captain wakes up while Danny watches him from a ledge above him. I don't think Kane recovered that quickly, but eh. Captain almost instantly chestbursts. It's not as good as previous chestbursts. It stands and David smiles and pretends to be its mommy. In David's lab, Walter finds Elizabeth's body with the chest dissected and all the organs on display. This means David lied about burying her in the garden. Walter does not react. What is the point of hiring good actors to have zero reactions as an android, I don't know.

Why is David safe from the aliens on this planet, actually? The entire series is full of androids being attacked by aliens; there's no special sense they have which tells them an android isn't food / breeding material. Walter confronts David and points out that he's wrong about morality and about who wrote Ozymandias. David weeps and tells Walter he loves him. He leans in to kiss him and deactivates him with a flute to the neck. As someone who is disabled and wants more disability in fiction, I'm annoyed that Walter clearly only lost his hand in order to tell him apart from David in various scenes.

Another crew member is facehuggered. His buddy cuts the thing off and acid finally comes into play. Then a proper xenomorph drops on them. Bout damn time. I guess this is the one who came from the captain. David finds Danny looking at his tentacle-death drawings of Elizabeth Shaw and he tells Danny he's going to do to her what he did to Elizabeth. Somehow we've come full circle back to Alien with sexualized violence from an android, but I like this considerably less.

Walter saves her and tells her to run. David, confused, says he's meant to be dead. "There have been a few updates since your day," Walter says, which is the type of badass one-liner I would like if it hadn't come at the expense of a woman threatened with sexual violence. It is very vexing for a series which is supposed to be about strong women characters, suddenly veering into the Michael Fassbender Hour with him playing both the hero and the villain so he can be extra cool at all the things. This feels masturbatory (though I don't blame Fass). If they wanted this to be about an android, they easily could've made Walter a feminine presenting android. If you really needed David from Prometheus to switcheroo into the android, switch "brain chips" with her or something. Easy enough to write.

Danny, Wounded-Guy-Who-Will-Die-Next, and "Walter" (lol, it's definitely David) run for the ship as it touches down and then quickly takes off again. Danny has to run out and deal with an alien on the underside of the ship. This colony ship has a lot of guns, which normally I wouldn't expect to be necessary in space. Did the original colony location have anthrax-tigers? Anyway, Aliens used industrial equipment to kill an alien, so Danny uses a crane to kill this one in a scene that makes me want to chant "the claaaaaw" like those little Toy Story fuckers.

"Walter" helps Danny inside and they lift off to space and the colony ship. Everyone patches each other back up and Danny is extra gentle with Walter who definitely isn't Walter but they're going to ride this to the end and tear our hearts out. Danny is woken by the computer and told to report to the med bay because there's an unidentified life form on the ship. They show up to find a chestburst corpse. Walter smiles over the comms.

The ensuing blood bath lacks tension because we already know Walter is David and that we're heading for a Bad Ending. Here is where a girl android would've made for a better twist--you expect the switch *because* Fassbender plays them both. An android shouldn't need to resemble another android to pull a switch; that's one of the cool things about a lifeform who has a detachable / removable / transferable memory!

The xenomorph walks more upright than I like; they've made it more human and less monstrously catlike. Anyway, Danny blasts it into space like in Alien. They're at least trying to do series callbacks. Danny is the last to climb into the cryotubes. As her tube closes, she asks Walter if he'll help her build her cabin on the lake and she realizes with mounting horror that he has no idea what previous conversation they're referencing. She falls asleep and he goes to count all the embryos and colonists because now he has lots of genetic toys to play with. He vomits up two xenomorph facehugger embryos he's been carrying. What a great ending.

And that is how two movies with Michael Fassbender completely killed the alien series and both need to be declared non-canon fanfiction. Sorry, Michael! Next will be Alien vs. Predator but in a different thread and AFTER feeding the cats so they don't eat me.


Post a Comment