Headed off to the latest Alien offering last night having heard the reviews and asking why I keep doing this to myself. But having low expectations did, I think, help in my overall enjoyment of the film. Because, on several levels I did enjoy it. In fact, if it had been "just" a sci-fi film, I may well have come out of the flicks feeling pretty satisfied: lots of fight sequences, gore, pretty pictures of space, space agey drawers of cute embryos, and a very nice crane... (the last two prob my fave moments in the film in fact).
But this isn't "just" a sci-fi film, as Ridley Scott in interviews keeps telling me. And here in lies the problem, maybe. In both Prometheus and Covenant Scott seems to have got very caught up in the mythology of the Alien, and to want to stretch this somehow into some pseudo-philosophical examination on the apparent incongruity of creation's beauty and cruelty. Hence the aliens, and the crews' survival against them, becomes a side issue in the film, not even a means of delivery for the debate. Which is disappointing for people who like tension and jump scares (there are neither), but also disappointing for anyone who might be interested in the philosophy, because it is so shallow.
Listening to Ridley Scott last night in an interview he was declaring (in his customary humble manner!) that Bladerunner and Alien are his masterpieces, which no other director has been able to get anywhere close to improving on. I have no argument at the superbness of both these films. But, in Covenant, it's like he has somehow begun to attempt to merge these two films. The allusions to Bladerunner are frequent and of varying degrees of subtley. (Ones we spotted: the nail Daniels ties round her neck is the same as that that pierces Roy's palm in BR; direct quote "That's the spirit"; the kiss between Walter/David and between Roy/Tyrell) But what is , I find at least, dealt with so poignantly and painfully in BR - the paradox of creation exceeding creator, and the complexity of "the good man" and the villain, the conflict of servant and master - becomes somehow an inharmonious splicing of slow scenes of cheap references to well known cultural paragons through overly pronunciated dialogue, with quick-editing scenes of a series of easily defeated versions of xenomorphs that are semi-familiar, but inconsistent with the original film. It is the easily defeated nature of them that perhaps most irked. Where is the combat of will and instinct of the original? That is the real answer, I believe, that Scott is missing. Where does music and art and literature and war and cheating come from...? From our genetic desire to survive. Exactly what the alien in the first film (and those of Aliens also) are doing. We are SHOWN that in those films, we don't have to be told it through dull dialogue and unnecessary repeated reference to Wagner's Entry of the Gods into Valhalla. This point, in fact, makes me think about how in so much of the film we the audience are leaps ahead of where the characters are, and yet Scott seems to do us a dis-service in not allowing us to piece the subtext together for ourselves. After all, the ship is a colonising vessel, peopled with mating pairs and embryos desseminating themselves across the universe ffs!
Which brings me, you may be pleased to hear, to my final point. Females. Always something close to my heart, what with being one and everything. Arguably (I won't say "undeniably" as in the feminist world I have discovered very few things are undeniable!!) one of the greatest achievements of Alien is the imagining and creation of a genuinely strong female lead, demonstrating that survival instincts, wit, fear, courage, perseverance, are applicable to both human (and indeed alien) sexes! Hoorah! And in both Prometheus and Covenant Scott has attempted to recreate this strong female lead through Shaw and Daniels who both, to be fair, do pretty well at the surviving the aliens bit, though both only to end up getting abused in their cryogenetic sleep like some kind of 22nd century rohypnol victims. Did their mothers never teach them about being careful about who they let tuck them into their supersleep tubes?
So, am I pleased I put myself through it? Yes. Would I watch it again? Even after all I've said, yes! I still love the distinct look and sound of the films, which continues to draw on Jed Kurzel's original score. And if for nothing else I still need to spot more of the Bladerunner allusions I might have missed the first time round :-)
Score: 4.25 /10