I didn’t dislike Ridley Scott‘s Alien: Covenant — I hated it. And I’m not saying that out of some lazy-wrath instinct or pissy posturing or what-have-you. I’m talking about serious stomach-acid sensations here. Then again I mostly despised Prometheus so it didn’t take a great deal of effort to come to this.
If Prometheus rang your hate bell, you’re going to despise this one also. For Alien: Covenant, which runs 121 minutes but feels like 150, is truly a spawn of that awful 2012 film. Is it “better” than Prometheus? All right, yeah, I suppose it is. Is it therefore worth seeing? Maybe, but only if you like watching films that make you resent everything on the face of the planet including yourself.
I’m not going to tap out the usual story, character and actor rundown. All you need to know is that I didn’t give a damn about any of Alien: Covenant. Nothing. I was muttering “Fuckyoufuckyoufuckyoufuckyou” the whole time. Ten minutes in I was going “awww, Jesus…this already feels sloppy and reachy.” Of course it has a back-burster scene. Of course it was thrown in to compete with the John Hurt chest-fever scene in the original. All I could think was “the Hurt version was set up so much better, and delivered so much more…this is just Scott hanging wallpaper.”
I hit the bathroom during the the last ten minutes. You never do this if a movie has you in its grip, but I didn’t care.
Scott’s Alien (’79) had clarity, integrity — it was simple and managable, and it didn’t make you feel as if you had hornets in your brain. Best of all it didn’t explain anything in terms of backstory or motivation. The original Alien space jockey (I will love that elephant trunk and split-open ribcage for the rest of my life) was wonderful because there was no explanation about what had happened or why. It was delightful for what it didn’t explain.
Alien: Covenant is detestable for the exact opposite reason — for all the boring and tedious backstory gruel (i.e., all in service of explaining Michael Fassbender‘s malignant creationism) that it explains and clarifies, and then elaborates upon.
The Telegraph‘s Robbie Colin, who loves this fucking thing and cheers the fact that it’s “a million miles from the crowd-pleasing Alien retread 20th Century Fox [execs] have presumably been begging Scott to make,” calls it proof of Scott “operating at the peak of his powers.”
To me Alien: Covenant is a portrait of Scott as a giver of corporate neckrubs. And it grieves me to say this about the director of The Counselor, which I not only worshipped but which will probably turn out to be Scott’s last brilliant, hard-as-nails, close-to-flawless film.
The Alien: Covenant Scott seems to have no balls, no integrity in terms of the artistic confidence and integrity to hold back and make the concept of “less is more” an occasional reality. Scott seems to be pushing buttons, trying this and that, whatever works….no feeling of a grand designer or artful orchestrator.
Remember that horrible feeling when you were watching Exodus: Gods and Kings and thinking “my God, what has happened to poor Ridley Scott? This isn’t just bad — it’s awful.” I called it “a soulless, scene-to-scene, grab-baggy CG demonstration film.” I had roughly the same reaction to Alien: Covenant.
All I can figure is that Scott, 79, is white-knuckle terrified of appearing to be insufficiently attuned or otherwise out of synch with the demands of the big studios, with the movie culture of 2017, and particularly with what the megaplex idiots want when they pay to see one of these fucking films. And so he’s thrown everything slimy and gooey and pulsing that he can think of to make Alien: Covenant seem, by the aesthetic standards of your 2017 sensation monkey, intense and scary and mystifyingly cool.
I was silently screaming at Scott, “I don’t give a fuck about any of this shit…I just wanted some kind of reboot of Cameron’s Aliens, and instead you’re heaping on godawful fucking backstories involving species creation and engineers (those awful, AWFUL bald-headed, seven-foot-tall Mr. Clean-type guys from Prometheus) and all your xenomorph variations.”
I wanted to see both versions of the Fassbender droids (the creepy David vs. the ostensibly more rational-minded Walter) fed into a giant actor grinder and ground up into synthie mulch. And on top of everything else Scott doesn’t even kill Danny McBride?
The dense and labrynthian plotting virus that infected Prometheus (the work of the absolutely despised & demonic Damon Lindelof along with the skilled but opportunistic Jon Spaihts) has been inherited by A:C screenwriter John Logan, and obviously embraced by Scott. Last night this virus got into my system, and now I have an alien fetus growing inside me, right now, as I sit at my desk in Fairfield.
A European critic friend has called Katherine Waterston “sexy.” But she’s not even Waterston — she was one person in Inherent Vice, and now she’s literally become her own older, slightly doughy-faced, less attractive sister in Alien Covenant — call her Waterston 2. In every shot her eyes are awash in emotion, sadness, hurt, anxiety, emotional pleading…overacting like a motherfucker. And she looks pasty and doughy-faced to boot.
And then Scott…I won’t spoil but…uhm, how do I convey this? I guess I can’t say anything specific but if you’re anything like me you’ll feel waves of world-class nausea when you realize that the ending is about setting up yet another sequel.
Does any big-studio film ever actually “end” any more? Does every CG-driven film have to be a potential franchise? Or the equivalent of an ongoing series on HBO? The “always whoring, never really ending, always looking for a story-continuing sequel” mentality that has crept into screenwriting and the culture is really and truly sickening.
Nothing has changed in the realm. Alien and Aliens (’86) are still the only good ones in the bunch. The rest — Aliens 3, Alien: Resurrection, Prometheus, Alien: Covenant — are irksome.