Alien: Covenant

Why couldn’t you just suck, like a normal movie?

Not actively being one of the worse films ever made is about all it has to offer.
Reported on 11th of May, 2017

Prometheus remains a blindingly terrible film, and so with Alien: Covenant, I was hoping for a good hatewatch. Instead one can say, and one does throughout, that it’s ‘not as bad as Prometheus.‘ By the end, I realized that not being actively one of the worse films ever made was about all it was going to offer.

We would understand ‑ kinda ‑ people on an alien environment not wearing protective gear.  It's horror, ya gotta go with it.  But maybe a surgical mask?  Handkerchief?  Space handkerchief?

Ah, but it's a prequel.  They hadn't invented space handkerchiefs.

The film is a case study in a-scene-where-ism: no ill-, jokingly-, randomly- or even well-conceived idea is left out. One could measure, precisely, exactly how not quite terrible but still pretty bad it is by simply counting and rating the films within it. Out of the fifty-seven, two are good, six had potential, eight were awful, fourteen bland and seven contained Mr. Danny McBride in them and blinded the viewer. I don’t know how they did it seven times, but that’s Danny McBride for you.

Fortunately for my survival, ten of them were high, high camp. Unconsciously, I think, the film recreates 1950s horror tropes in a high-tech environment, including Mad Scientist in a Castle (34), Holy Shit, The Butler Actually Did It? (46), The Evil Twin (12), The Shower Scene (48), and Let’s Have Sex And Get Killed By the Victorian Subconscious (54). The effect was almost charming.

And, to be fair, the characters are Shyamalan stupid, including such classics as Let’s Split Up, We’ll Be Safer That Way (23) and I Saw That You Were Evil Twins But I Didn’t Check If You Were The Evil One (56). When characters act like idiots, it’s both hard to sympathize and delightful to see them die: hence all horror.

But there is a limit. When it introduces potentially good idea that aliens can infect via the lungs through a spore (4), and then simply discards this idea later (31 – this counts as the film being stupid), we would understand – kinda – if people having landed in an alien environment wouldn’t wear protective gear. It’s horror, ya gotta go with it. But maybe a surgical mask? Handkerchief? Space handkerchief?

Ah, but it’s a prequel. They hadn’t invented space handkerchiefs.

Alien: Covenant

11 May 2017 @ The Gaumont Rennes

-$1.00 or, if one must be jejune, and one must... 
★ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆


There is another limit, and I’ve been leaning towards this a long time. Films are always about ethics, whether you like it or not. This is especially true of big-budget films. If a lead does something truly reprehensible like murder children or be racist or cast Danny McBride, we check out. Studio pictures are always moral discussions; the fact that the hero – from Mr. Humphrey Bogart in Casablanca to Ms. Felicity Jones in Star Wars: Rogue One toys with cynicism emphasizes the importance of morality for the basic mechanics of genre.

What I see in this film, and in many others, is instead of expression of the filmmakers’ unawareness of these basic human traits, what I’m going to call the Jon Polito saying ‘Ethics’ rule.

In the opening of the great, great, great Miller’s Crossing, Mr. Jon Polito describes the importance of being able to trust a fixed fight, concluding with spreading his hands and saying: ‘So back we go to these questions–friendship, character, ethics.’

The black hole of irony, and Mr. Polito’s utter commitment to his character’s belief is what I think about whenever I see characters acting evil in movies where we supposed to think of them as good. I can hear him in my head: ‘Ethics’.

This is a tangent of I(S)Q, that we want our characters to be stupid, but not so stupid that we lose all sympathy. They same must logically apply to characters actively behaving immorally – that we want some evil, so we like them, but no so much that we can’t pretend that we aren’t actually like that, even if we are.

We can read whatever we want into the future of humanity, but this type of writing has always been with us, and it always sucks. In the case of Alien: Covenant they are on a rather uncompelling mission to colonize a planet (2), and therefore the small crew, unlike the crew of the first and second film, have the lives of thousands in their hands.

As they increasingly endanger the lives of these people (12, 14, 38), we like them less and less. Having been both exposed to unknown pathogen and an alien that bleeds acid, they risk thousands on the ship, first to rescue three people on the planet, and then, by coming back to the ship, to put them in even more danger. You can bring aliens and a virus onto a spaceship, and I can’t bring peanuts to a school?

I get that when Sir Ridley Scott saw Alien (he obviously doesn’t remember making it) he thought that the ship that wasn’t the origin of the Alien was the origin of the Alien. This is something that gets even muddier in this one, when the species that gave birth to humanity never actually met humanity (33). That is, until Fassy (52) brings the alien to them from another planet where they had never been but also were, with a ship that crashed (18) by not crashing (48).

Anyway, the takeaway from Alien to Prometheus seemed to be ‘Donut ship! That’s what people remember! Let’s make it about that!’ When it turns out that the idea of a hibernating colony ship was a setup so that Evil Fassy can infect the colonists, you realize that their takeaway from the superior sequel (Aliens): ‘Let’s make all the characters Burke. He put all the colonists in danger. That’s a go-getter we can all relate to!’

I can’t believe it took me until the end to tell you the end. I’m getting old (57).

The Take

There’s also a few pretentious art films (1, 43) in here, with much discussion of art and music and expensive chairs that rich people worry about.
— Whoops, let’s take off
— Anyway After Mr. Billy Crudup wakes up from his facehugger coma – having trusted Mad Scientist Fassy say, look in there, you’ll be amazed, I’m not kidding by the way – his first line is what we all would say after having been put into a coma by an alien species that bleeds acid: ‘What do you believe in, David?’ I laughed out loud.
Ms. Katherine Waterston is quite good, one of those things where you really see why they pay actors to do stuff.
There are many moments saying, this could really go somewhere…
Total Profits
…until it does. I think I’d rather have one bad idea followed all the way through, then some good, okay, bad and campy ones smushed together
Danny McBride. At least he’s not trying to be funny?
Total Losses


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