The Alien Legacy Has Been Eroded By Alien: Covenant
It breathes, It Hunts…It Kills…and is replaced in its own movie by Michael Fassbender!
“You still don’t understand what you’re dealing with, do you? Perfect organism. Its structural perfection is matched only by its hostility” Ash: Alien.
When legendary director Ridley Scott returned to the dark and hostile world of the Alien universe, our excitement was dialed to eleven in anticipation of a return to the format that brought us to the dance. The sublime plotline of the original Alien, despite being borrowed from IT! The Terror From Beyond Space (as revealed in my previous article below) was an enthralling and distressing journey of claustrophobia and terror.
It breathes, It Hunts…It Kills!! Returning to the formula derived from the iconic IT! The Terror From Beyond Spacemedium.com
The unsettling Alien Xenomorph creature, planted within a human host by the spider-like face hugger which was spawned by the strange looking Alien eggs, was enough to terrify a generation of fans and haunt their nightmares for a lifetime. The confinement aboard the cramped and confined hallways and air ducts of the Nostromo proved to be the perfect environment for Ridley Scott to share his horrific tale before visionary director James Cameron arrived to take the franchise to the next level.
Cameron’s Aliens, was the film that broke the mould and went on to be regarded as one of the only movies in Hollywood history to arguably surpass its predecessor. Fresh from his directorial duties on The Terminator, Cameron jumped into the Alien franchise with a vision that would see the Xenomorph creatures reproduce in vast quantities to face off against Sigourney Weaver’s Ripley and her team of Colonial Marines. With the subtitle “This Time It’s War” we were thrust into a conflict filled with pulse rifles and explosions aplenty which ultimately translated into a pulse pounding roller coaster ride unlike any other.
Every sequel since has paled in comparison and despite Ridley Scott returning to the franchise with his thought provoking prequel Prometheus, a return to the form the franchise was once famous for seems a long way off. This brings us up to date and in eager anticipation of the Ridley Scott fronted Alien: Covenant, his Prometheus follow-up that arrives on our screens this weekend. The title has excited the fans with the promise of returning to the formula that started it all, but when the credits roll at the end of the movie, one thing becomes very clear…the Alien Xenomorph is no longer the terrorising threat it once was.
The reason for this is a simple one.
The talented actor, famous for his roles in the X-Men franchise as well as performances in movies like Assassins Creed and Macbeth, has proven his mettle in recent memory and in taking on the role as David in Prometheus, went on to cement his position as a top performer amongst Hollywood’s top talent. Being cast as David, the synthetic humanoid robot of Prometheus, Fassbender assumed a role that was designed to mimic the impact made by his predecessor Ash from the original Alien, and in doing so, played a pivotal role in the unfolding story of the movie itself. With the intrepid crew of the vessel searching the stars for the engineers, a race of humanoid aliens suspected of having engineered the human species on a genetic level, we were thrust into an origin story that included the engineers desire to commit genocide and wipe out the race of humans it had created in eons past.
The pathogen that they had genetically engineered to wipe out every living thing on earth had been released into their environment by chance and had systematically exterminated all but one of their number stationed within the planet wide laboratory. Once awakened, the last remaining “Space Jockey” engineer set off to complete his directive and navigate the stars to bring the plague of death to earth until the crew of the Prometheus thwarted his plans. However, set against the backdrop of the story was David’s quest to identify the pathogen’s unfathomable potential and followed him as he set about infecting members of the crew with small doses of the “living bacteria”.
This culminated with the birth of the first Alien Xenomorph creature. The crude but alarming abomination was born at the very climax of the movie whilst David and the surviving Doctor Shaw (Noomi Rapace) went off in search of the engineers’ home world and set the tone for things to come. In Alien: Covenant we are treated to more of the same. The tone of the movie has been tailor made to match that of the original Alien, but has adopted the same styled structure of Prometheus in order to explain every intricate detail of the Alien’s evolution. Ordinarily this would be a welcome plotline, however as the movie progresses, the history of the entire Alien franchise unravels into a disappointing anti-climax that at its heart has Michael Fassbender’s David.
The timeless tale of man creating life in his own image only to have it turn and destroy that which created it plays out in the most unworthy of fashions and takes with it the mysticism that the Alien franchise is built upon. Once isolated on a lush wasteland of an earth-like planet and custodian of a vessel that carries the deadly organic pathogen within its cargo hold, David continues the research of the engineers and facilitates the bacteria’s transformation into a symbiotic organism designed to prey upon humanoid species. His fascination with their experiments leads him to create the first Alien egg which houses the traditional gestating Face Hugger.
Luring the captain of the Covenant into his lair, David unleashes his creation and facilitates the birth of the first genuine Xenomorph which makes its long-awaited return to the screen. The creature’s resurrection should have been a triumphant return to the series, but with it receiving little more than several minutes of screen time it fades into the background of the movie, replaced by Michael Fassbender’s character dissection of the Alien mythology. What role the Xenomorph plays in the grander narrative of the movie aside, the mystery of the Alien mythos has finally been revealed, and disappointingly it all boils down to a human creation engineering an organism designed to wipe out its maker.
God creates man, man creates life and that life destroys man.
For his part, Michael Fassbender performs his role with unswerving ability and leads the cast with his usual brilliance but that cannot hide the fact that Alien: Covenant swiftly establishes itself as a story detailing David’s quest to create the perfect organism, with the conception of the Xenomorph being a fortuitous by-product. As a result, Covenant is an Alien film in the loosest sense of the term and has over simplified the origins of the Alien species to a point where the mysticism crumbles away with disappointing results.
The mystery of the Alien franchise has been the bedrock of its mythology for almost forty-years but has been irreparably eroded by the revelations in Covenant which results in the film being somewhat disappointing. For years, the fans have dreamt of a fantastical origin for the Xenomorph species and now…when all is said and done it all comes down to them being a pawn in the breakthrough of human creation.
Despite this disappointment, Alien: Covenant is a good solid entry into the franchise. But, if this is the state of things to come, we should all fear for the content of final chapter in the Alien prequel saga which should detail the arrival of the alien craft on the planet LV-426. Unfortunately, if the plot of Alien: Covenant is any basis to go by, then Michael Fassbender’s David probably engineered the entire planet as part of his master plan to facilitate his ultimate revenge on humanity.
All sarcasm aside, only time will tell if this tree of doubt bears any fruit.
Until then, enjoy your cryo-sleep and remember…in space nobody can hear you scream!
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