Alien Covenant begins with a shot of David,looking at Michelangelo’s David sculpture and surmising the irony of his creation while playing softly, Wagner’s Das Rheingold: Entry Of The Gods into Valhalla. ‘If you created me,then who created you?’ ‘You created me but you will eventually die. And I won’t’. Then, as David pours Weyland his cup of tea, you can see the wheels beginning to turn,quickly and precociously,inside a synthetic being ready to replace his decaying creators. So he believes.
Alien Covenant is not going to appeal to everyone. For die-hard Alien fans and aficionados of the stylistic elements, this one isn’t shocking like it’s predecessors. The characters are washed over (I agree on this one). And of course for the first time, the aliens are not the main event. But it has the courage to explore a quintessentially modern science fiction idea of artificial intelligence,it’s consequences and the provocative questions that involve creation and identity. I respect that some fans want to maintain the gritty action and contained thriller that has served so well before. But for me, Alien Covenant took a risk that paid off. I’m an advocate of psychological and philosophical science fiction explored by films like Ex Machina and 2001: A Space Odyssey. Ridley Scott has delved,albeit not too deeply, into a vast space of thought that questions our origins and challenges morality. With this,he begins his search for new meaning yet unexplored in his Alien world.
Not everyone’s loving it and he didn’t exactly make it a centrepiece here, but it’s was still a worthy attempt that piqued my interest. Veering away into riskier territory, Ridley Scott’s Alien franchise has made David,possibly the most interesting and complex character, the tool to engineer Alien into something more than it can be. It’s a big mega franchise but it’s evolving. David, the AI who has his own idiosyncracies,desires and will provides immense complexity not just in terms of his acts and words but also in what he represents. In a small cave lit by a giant crystal, David teaches Walter (an updated version of the AI) a simple flute tune. In this prolonged and weirdly entrancing scene between two robots, it is the lyrical artistry that Ridley Scott nails. In one scene, he foreshadows the beauty of creation and it’s potential to go awry. David revels in the beauty of autonomy and creation with his tunes, while Walter is skeptical of the dangers they pose. As you watch till the end, this juxtaposition is never more prescient and intriguing.
I was also thoroughly fascinated by the xenomorphs and the neomorphs. The black spore scene was the coolest one for me. Parasitic insects and fungus that mind-control, manipulate, feed and breed off other host species already roam our planet. Who’s to say they won’t last a long time into the future, slowly edging towards the next evolutionary gestation. The effects were pretty cool and scary, but it’s after-thoughts like these which made it a very enjoyable experience. I liked Katherine Waterston’s Daniels who was rational when she needed to be but it’s her idealism which kept her hoping and dreaming.
With references to literature, philosophy and modern ideas of creationism and artificial intelligence, I absolutely love the new direction of this franchise. There’s an interesting dialogue where David and Walter exchange lines from the poem Ozymandius by Percy Shelley, a foreboding and cynical truth that civilizations decay from the ravages of time. There’s talk of gods and creation and of faith, belief and autonomy. It’s like a parable,except it’s not one for the ages but one for the future. With Prometheus and Alien Covenant, Ridley Scott’s cerebral and haunting mythological monolith is on the precipice of defining it’s identity as Origae-6 has yet to chart it’s course.
A great poster by Eileen over at SGposters 🙂