In 2012 I walked out of a film called Prometheus. It was a movie that seemed confused, like two different movies smooshed together. The characters may have made dumb decisions, but damn if it didn’t have beautiful visuals and a great Michael Fassbender performance hidden within. It was not a great movie, I didn’t love it but I enjoyed it nonetheless, and I certainly didn’t hate it like a lot of people did.
Cut to 2017, I walk out of a film called Alien Covenant. It was a movie that seemed confused, like two different movies smooshed together. The characters made dumb decisions, but damn if it didn’t have beautiful visuals and a great Michael Fassbender performance hidden within. Only this time I was PISSED.
This movie completely boggles my mind. It is a completely different movie from Prometheus in so many ways, and yet it still managed to make all of the same mistakes. Exactly like Prometheus, it doesn’t know whether it wants to be a meditation on creation and the human condition, or an Alien movie where people die horribly. The result is an awkward mash up between the two, guaranteed to piss off fans of Alien and Prometheus alike. If you’re an Alien fan then you’ll hate Prometheus’ pseudo-intelligent-creation-of-mankind stuff and wonder why the hell it’s in your alien movie. If you go into the movie on the basis of ‘oh I vaguely recognize those aliens from pop culture, cool they made another horror movie’ then you’ll be confused by the movie constantly referencing events you haven’t seen and don’t care about. If you’re a Prometheus fan you’ll hate both the fact that they jettisoned half the plot of Prometheus, and the amount of time they devote to killing underdeveloped characters instead of getting to the Prometheus 2 stuff.
A second problem is that the human characters don’t really matter. If they can chuck protagonists as quickly as they did Shaw, why are our protagonists important? Why should we care about any of the humans, when we know they’ll probably just meet a horrible fate and be replaced in the next movie? I’ll talk about this at length at another time, as this is a problem with a lot of ‘brand’ franchises.
This movie will only work for two kinds of Prometheus fans; the kind that liked Prometheus but didn’t care for those giant albino Engineers and wanted the protagonist to die a horrible offscreen death, and those who were only interested in Michael Fassbender’s David. If you fall into either category then good news, you are the only person I would recommend this movie to. Even then, you might just end up as annoyed as me, frustrated that Michael Fassbender’s David isn’t in a much better movie where he makes sense. Tragically, once you look past ‘megalomaniacal robot is megalomaniacal’, the character really doesn’t make sense.
And now I reveal my true colours: Full disclosure: I am a David fan. I really, really liked Michael Fassbender’s performance in Prometheus. David wasn’t the only thing I liked about Prometheus, (I am probably in the extremely small group of people who are mad they killed Shaw, and that they killed her for a movie that managed not to be any better than Prometheus) but David was the best. I may or may not have brought the DVD and basically just fast-forwarded through everything that wasn’t a beautiful landscape shot or Fassbender’s performance, and this movie reminded me of why I did that. However, David’s excellence was 100% the performance, never the script.
Everything you could wave away in Prometheus as ‘moral ambiguity’ has gone full on cookoo here. When David pins down our lead, forces a kiss on her (after already kissing his robot doppelganger) and asks her ‘Did I do it right?’, I threw up my hands in frustration. (This is not an expression, I actually did this in the cinema and my friend laughed at me). When he’s supposed to be creepy he nonsensically says ‘night night, don’t let the bedbugs bite’ (What. What. You are in SPACE. I get that it’s creepy but it makes NO sense). After the movie, my friend asked why they didn’t just have him sing that song they were all singing throughout the movie, (which would have 100% worked with the creepy putting to bed theme because lullaby), and I got even more frustrated.
Because as soon as you think about it, this movie makes no sense. Again, David is the best part, but he makes NO SENSE. This movie left me with so many questions, including but not limited to:
- Why did no one on this colonization mission wear an F-ing helmet when going down to a strange planet?
- Why was the screaming lady the only one who seemed to realize that infection could be an issue?
- If that woman was a biologist why did she not immediately suspect that her crew member’s illness could be an infection and call everyone else back to the ship?
- Why did David bomb the Engineers?
- Why were all of the Engineers gathered together celebrating the return of a ship that in the first movie was implied to be a biological warfare lab? Is Engineer culture just really pro-science, or were they just so happy that the ship had wiped out humanity? (There’s also a whole host of questions left over from Prometheus that aren’t even worth asking because these movies will never answer them like – why did the Engineers want to kill all humans?).
- Was David really in love with Shaw? The first movie kind of hints at some kind of feelings, but he claims to have full on loved her?
- Did David kill Shaw?
- If so why?
- Did David rape Shaw? He tells Daniels he’s going to do to her what he did to Shaw before he pins her down and kisses her.
- Why did David try to kiss everybody?
- Why did David make Shaw an empty grave if he really dissected her?
- How is Shaw not completely unrecognizably decomposed at this point?
- When did David decide he wanted to wipe out all humanity?
- Why do they give away the ‘twist’ by having ‘Walter’ smile at the alien about 15 minutes before the twist actually went down?
And my biggest question:
- If David always wanted to wipe out humanity why did he take the LITERALLY-IT’S-ENTIRE-PURPOSE-WAS-TO-BE-A-LAB-FOR-A-WEAPON-TO-WIPE-OUT-HUMANS-SHIP to EARTH instead of to the FREAKING ENGINEER’S PLANET?
Alien Covenant frustrated me so much because there were parts of it that belonged to much better movies, but those movies all get sucked into one mess of a not-that-good movie. There is presumably a better movie out there somewhere in which this amazing villain makes sense, or where a good alien movie is not tangled up in these philosophical ideas of creation. I think on some level this franchise will always be confused, because I don’t think anyone was asking for an ALIEN franchise that ties the aliens up with bizarre ideas like humanity was created from black goo by giant albinos .
Again, what really frustrates me the most is this franchise’s wasted potential. Make an Alien movie. Make a movie about creation and crazy robots. Make a movie about giant albino creators of humanity. But despite Covenant’s best efforts, these probably shouldn’t all be the same movie.