There is perhaps a certain utility to the frustration Alien: Covenant can instill, a sort of form fits function meta-narrative that exemplifies the film’s themes more effectively than the narrative itself.
This is director Ridley Scott’s third Alien film, the eighth film overall to feature H.R. Giger’s walking psychosexual nightmare and the direct follow-up to 2008’s Prometheus, a film the quality of which is still contested. It follows the voyage of 22nd century pioneers on the titular ship Covenant, who are on a mission to colonize a new world when they run into some trouble of the double-mouthed, phallic-headed variety.
But there’s also a pesky, malevolent articulated intelligence at play in Alien: Covenant that bisects the film and ultimately steals the show, for better or worse, from one of cinemas most iconic monsters as if two of Scott’s most revered film’s, Alien and Blade Runner, are battling for the soul of Covenant.
It’s no coincidence that the movie opens with said A.I. and it’s creator, as the driving force of the movie concerns the pursuit to comprehend one’s creator, and one’s response upon finding that comprehension either elusive or utterly disappointing.
Much like it’s predecessor Prometheus, Covenant finds this pursuit to be at once essential, futile and disappointing, which manifests in Michael Fassbender’s performance as the android in question, who is as fascinated by his progenitor, humanity, as he is disgusted by them.
If it can be said that a film or a director creates an audience, by conjuring one into theater seats via film, then we as that audience get to feel some facsimile of the conflicting fascination and disgust with out maker while watching Alien: Covenant.
One does not have to knit pick to point out the flaws.
The film boasts variation after variation of the xenomorph, the sums of highly questionable math. Some come from spores, some come from the traditional egg but then aren’t the traditional xenomorphs but then are. It sometimes feels like anything plus anything equals whatever.
There are enough antagonists in the film that on a first viewing it feels like you are slowly being taught that any given threat isn’t really that threatening, which I can only imagine leads a viewer to not feel threatened by anything on a second viewing. Couple that with what feels like dozens of protagonists, of which four are characters with highly questionable faculties for basic rationale and logic, and you have threats that aren’t quite threats not quite threatening interchangeable people whose purpose for existence seems to be to die in glorious R-rated fashion.
That examination of one’s drive to know where it came from and why is inherently relatable and Covenant can, at times, wax philosophical in grand fashion. There are scenes, designs and one-off lines that will stick with you, if not just straight up haunt you. And the ending of Alien: Covenant is, if nothing else, definitely something.
Thus, two weeks after seeing it, I feel myself reflecting upon Alien: Covenant like Fassbender’s android considering humanity, manipulating this damnable thing in my mind and catching stray glimpses of brilliance every time I am prepared to condemn it.
So there I was. An audience. Staring up at the screen, at the how and why of my very existence, thinking to myself, not without malevolence, “What am I supposed to do with all of this?”
I simply do not know.