Alien Covenant is Just Really Good, Okay?

Alien: Covenant.

Of all the movies this month, the one I most wanted to see. Those of you who know me know I have an unreasoning love of the obtuse, flawed Prometheus. It’s a philosophical tour-de-force masquerading as a horror movie, and while this second outing in what is the best prequel trilogy ever made is more horror than philosophy, it continues in its predecessor’s tradition with aplomb, though it also continues Prometheus’s wonky pacing and questionable plot decisions (why don’t they wear environment suits PERIOD? Why?)

Yes, the characters do dumb things. Yes, the film’s plotting makes it supremely obvious just who is going to die (although to be fair, that’s kind of a horror staple, is it not?) It’s not perfect, and the crew doesn’t behave like a team of scientists/soldiers/trained professionals should (though this IS temporized by the fact that said crew is composed of married couples, for colonization purposes).

But it’s stunning despite that. Horrifying despite that. The set work is astounding (that city, though. Guys, I have dreams that Ridley Scott would be the one to direct my stuff. His visual language informed so much of my own imagination. It won’t ever happen, but when I visualize things, it’s in his style. I just need to explain how much of a crush I have on his filmmaking). The meticulous attention to design and worldbuilding is peerless. There are these hand drawn zoological sketches done beside alien samples pinned up like butterflies. That Gothic stuff speaks to me. That said, some of the CGI was a little wonky in places. It’s not a deal-breaker, but some of it I was all “why didn’t you guys use muppets? Muppets are cool!”

The performances are all really strong, most especially Fassbender’s two performances as Walter, the robot who correctly ascertains that duty is a kind of love (a value our day and age has forgotten, and one which is of desperate importance to me), and as David, the robot-incarnation-of-Milton’s-Satan (complete with melodramatic quotations! <3) Surprisingly, Danny McBride is really affecting, of all people, and Katherine Waterston is awesome as well, though I wish she had a little more to do. They treated her a little bit like Ripley in that she only emerges as a lone protagonist in the final act. (Brief mention should be made of Billy Crudup, who I always like–and who happened to play the devoutly religious captain, Christopher. I mention this because there are SO FEW Christophers in fiction. We're a marginalized class and I demand greater representation. I didn't know I could be a hero/hapless victim until I saw it acted out on screen because I'm incapable of identifying with anyone different than me!)

But Jesus, was it bleak. GETTING A LITTLE INTO SPOILER TERRITORY HERE SO BE WARNED, BENNETT. It's clearly Part 2 of a saga that demands a part 3, so it feels a little incomplete, and like so many part 2sΒ it leaves us in a dark, DARK place, rife with the horror and profanation one expects of anything touched by Giger's designs.

All in all, this is another excellent movie but with some medium-sized flaws. I'm gonna give it Three Thinking-Face emoji, a Teeth-Gritting emoji, and one Scared Emoji out of Why-Didn't-They-Follow-Containment-Protocol?

πŸ€”πŸ€”πŸ€”πŸ˜¬πŸ˜± / 😷😑

OKAY BUT LET ME TALK ABOUT THE ARCHETYPAL STUFF. MINOR SPOILERS NOW FOR REAL. STOP READING, BENNETT.

…Is he gone?

There is a moment wherein the two Fassbender-bots are talking, and David (the spooky one) quotes Shelley's "Ozymandias" and says Byron wrote it. I about lost my shit and William was laughing at me because I thought they'd messed up hard. How do you not Google that shit?

I should have learned from Captain Christopher. He had faith.

The two robots talk later about how David is going to wipe the humans out with his new creation: the Xenomorphs, because they had their time and they are flawed and weak and dying on Earth (presumably due to environmental degradation, but that's not explicit). He will not allow us out into space. That's why he extinguished the Engineers on this planet, to further ensure our destruction. Here he is Milton's Satan (and he indeed quotes Satan, saying that it is better to reign in hell than to serve in heaven). He is the spirit of pre-eminent rationality, of immoral logic–because you cannot found a moral philosophy on logic (because you can rationalize ANYTHING, ask the Nazis, ask the Soviets, as Marx and Derrida and other devils). Here Walter, the good robot, points out that David misattributed the Shelley quote earlier, claiming it was Byron who wrote Ozymandias. THIS IS FUCKING ACTUAL GENIUS. HOLD ME. What this says is that any rational philosophy of good and evil is only as good as its facts. Get a fact wrong, and you could end up rationalizing genocide. This is echoed earlier in the film when Waterston's character turns to Christopher, who is having a breakdown over the death of his wife, and says "We need your faith." Because we do need something to ground moral systems, like Nietzsche said. Without an a priori moral structure, such as those faith provides (and we've not got a better foundation example. Science/rationality, again, does not work for the above reasons. Believe me, this is hard for me too, given that I can't bring myself to believe in any sort of god. I have a series of thoughts about this, but not now). But they wrapped that whole idea up in like 2 lines of dialogue AND IT WAS A REFERENCE TO THE ROMANTICS MY GOD COULD THEY HAVE PLANNED ANYTHING MORE PERFECT FOR ME OH MY GOODNESS.

And there was a huge Bocklin reference just SLAPPED up all across the screen. They literally tableau'd his Isle of the Dead, which is my favorite painting of his. Weird thing is I found that painting on my own and worked it very, very subtly into Empire of Silence. It's a weird thing that Scott and I are on the same page here.

I loved it so much. I need the next one like…tomorrow.

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