With Prometheus and now Alien: Covenant, Ridley Scott is pursuing three goals, none of them well.
First, he’s out to restake his own claim to his great 1979 classic, salvaging it from the diminishing returns of various sequels and crossovers, not to mention spoofs, comic books, video games and who knows what all else.
To succumb to a regrettable but practically inevitable coinage, Scott wants to make the world of Alien great again — to remind us all what was so terrifying nearly four decades ago about being in space where no one can hear you scream.
Second, he’s out to explore the cosmos and the mythology of Alien, biologically and philosophically. Where does such a fearsome predator come from and why? Why and how is it so suited to exploit human biology?
Third, Scott seeks to expand the sphere of inquiry to the biggest questions of all: What does it all mean? Not just the Xenomorph, but existence itself? Art, imagination, morality, religion — does any of it have any meaning if life is just a random accident?
Is there a plan, a design? Is there a God? What if life on Earth was designed by extraterrestrial engineers, much as we ourselves design artificial entities? Does an android’s purpose come from its human makers? If not, does that have implications for human purpose? What is faith? What is the soul? Where do we go when we die?
Prometheus, which disappointed franchise fans with its cerebral tone and relatively low incidence of alien horror, was mostly about the third thing. Alien: Covenant is more about the first.
I see in my review of Prometheus I observed that at some point “the movie starts with the gooey and bloody and running and screaming, and existential questions generally fall by the wayside.” Alien: Covenant follows a similar pattern, but it’s a shorter arc. Fans of the gooey and bloody and running and screaming will find more to enjoy in Alien: Covenant than they did in Prometheus.
Copyright © 2000– Steven D. Greydanus. All rights reserved.