Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Thoughts on Alien: Covenant


I recently saw Alien: Covenant.

I didn't expect much. I got even less.

To be fair, the Alien series has not been a favorite of mine. I appreciate the place the first two films have in science fiction film history (and I did enjoy the second movie in particular, as a shoot 'em up from a period when that kind of thing was still fresh), but my interest in it was limited all the same, and it soon came to seem yet another instance of a series dragging on way, way too long mostly because Hollywood studios are so adamant about keeping every single established IP going for as long as possible.

Besides, I was dubious about the film's predecessor, Prometheus, for reasons John McCalmont described fairly well at the time of release. It raised fairly commonplace, trite (to me, silly) questions, and then didn't try to answer them, instead giving us a plot that "is really nothing more than a series of doors slammed in characters' faces by a cruelly indifferent universe."1

Rather than "playful," it was hateful.

I grant that this sort of thing might--might--have meant something, once. But after three generations of smug postmodernist "subversion" (itself, really just a recycling of a tradition of misanthropy elites have promulgated for self-serving reasons going back to the ancients), do we really need more of this?

I say that we don't.

But I got a vague idea from some of the discussion of the movie that it had something to say about the mysteries--what the deal was with those alien "Engineers." So I gave it a chance.

Instead we got a typically pretentious opening in a huge white room with a grand piano in it (does no one else notice this cliche?), Billy Crudup's character whining about people of faith being discriminated against in an atheist world (that must be that "liberal Hollywood" at it again), and more Frankenstein complex inanity as yet another robot created in our image decides to turn on us, and once again actors look terrified as pieces of rubber (or were they CGI?) jumped on them and members of the crew splashed blood all over the set, because instead of dropping the xenomorphs from the film, like was apparently discussed at one point (and like I would have preferred), the movie pretty was mostly xenomorphs attacking people, all on the way to a final "twist" that even the dumbest viewer of such movies must have seen coming prior to a pretentious close where David has to declare to us his own choice of soundtrack as he heads off to wreak interplanetary havoc.

After seeing this film I wasn't terribly surprised to see that Transcendence's Jack Paglen had been involved (Frankenstein, Frankenstein, Frankenstein, groan), and that John Logan had his hand in this too (groan again).

Allegedly the moviemakers involved with the next installment (this film wasn't such a moneymaker that such an installment could be taken for granted, but, hey, sequel) are again thinking about not spending so much time on the xenomorphs, but I wouldn't hold my breath for that. Simply recycling the stuff of a forty year old movie is a lot easier than actually doing anything seriously interesting. And I expect that when that movie inevitably comes out, having learned my lesson, I will take a pass on it.

1. I'd link back to McCalmont's original piece on the film, which is well worth a read, but apparently the trolls have driven him to turn Ruthless Culture "private." Yes, what you asswipes do does have consequences.

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