On Alien: Covenant’s Criticisms and “The Other Gods”
Alien: Covenant was good. Go see it with an open mind and because we need more good movies doing well or else they’ll get dumber than they are. I’m just going to quickly tackle people’s criticisms first in no particular order, based on the general ones I’ve heard/read. Spoiler Alert!
“Why didn’t the crew wear biosuits on the planet?”
Because “Mother,” the AI on the ship, said the planet was totes fine to walk around on, and because we know they’d just wear biosuits, the black goo would find a way to penetrate them somehow, or someone would walk by a rose bush and have a thorn poke a hole in the suit, and allow the black goo in or something. Who cares.
“The people are so stupid. No one would act like that.” (related to above)
Let’s really think about this: you’re in the middle of space, your ship gets messed up by a random neutrino burst, people die inside of their hibernation chambers, and you have 7 more years left until you arrive on your destined planet. Not only are you going to be questioning everything because of your own fears, but you also have to consider the lives of 2000 colonists. You’d probably just go with the ostensibly hospitable planet Mother has just picked up on that’s only two weeks away, too. Clearly someone from Earth was there as they picked up the song being transmitted. Or maybe you wouldn’t because you are logical and would rather take the trip planned for you, but after much deliberation. But movie goers pretending they’d just hop back into their hibernation pods without a doubt is a bit much.
Also of note, the crew were a bunch of married folks and almost died (and the ship’s captain died, with the new Captain being a shit leader, hence not the original leader). So the best person in terms of decision-making died with the original captain, I assume. And let’s not forget how stupid people have been in the other Alien movies for crying out loud. As stupid as wanting to kiss the snake alien thing in Prometheus? No, but plenty of illogical behavior took place in Alien and Aliens (Regarding Alien, who the hell even goes onto a weird alien ship without weapons of some kind? Why not turn around and go back? I don’t care, just showing you could torture every movie).
I won’t completely stick up for the writing of the cast in this movie, though. They are a bit overzealous and unthinking (like in Prometheus), but I think that’s by design. David feels superior to humans (and the Engineers) and we see this as his rationale for his various experiments on humans and that weird Engineer-like (were those actually Engineers? I doubt it) colony he wiped out.
“But the protomorphs/xenomorphs grew so quickly!”
In the first Alien movie, the xenomorph bursts out of Kane’s chest, and proceeds to be fully grown 11 (movie) minutes later, killing Brett. So, this is a weak criticism. Also, these aren’t the same xenomorphs yet. Perhaps because they aren’t as intelligent/developed, they grow more quickly. I’m being charitable here. More on that now..
“The aliens weren’t that scary.”
These aren’t the xenomorphs of the original movies, though getting close. David is still experimenting, so they are not the biomechanical looking ones that are more frightening, and furthermore, much smarter. They eventually learn to hunt at night, cut the power of facilities, and operate elevators. This is why David is disappointed at the end when his xenomorph is killed (we at first think it’s Walter being relieved Daniels survived). This current iteration of the xenomorph just wasn’t clever enough, etc. The movie would have been scarier if more action took place in the dark, because even in the old movies, the alien is a bit goofy no matter what when it’s light out.
“It’s not an alien movie, just a stupid AI movie.” (or something to this effect)
Look: Alien 3 and Resurrection were pretty terrible. AVP and AVP:R were also a bit lame (though AVP is a bit better than one might think; AVP:R would have been better if it weren’t so low-budget and dark as hell). We’d go see Alien 5, maybe get scared and deem it a worthy successor, but it would be highly forgettable as it wasn’t Alien, or Aliens, for that matter. Prometheus and Covenant are thinking movies, (though I still felt a bit creeped out at night after watching them).
We SHOULD be worried about the things we create and the things we go looking for. And when you go back and watch the Alien movies, there are lots of sub-stories to be teased out regarding the quest for knowledge, once you have memorized the order of deaths already. Prometheus and Covenant reminded me of reading about H.P. Lovecraft’s “The Other Gods” in Scott Alexander’s masterpiece “Meditations on Moloch.” Barzai figures out how to track the gods in the mountains, climbs up there, finds them, but then finds out about the “Other Gods” and is sucked away into the void, or something like that.
“The other gods! The other gods! The gods of the outer hells that guard the feeble gods of earth! . . . Look away! . . . Go back! . . . Do not see! . . . Do not see! . . . The vengeance of the infinite abysses . . . That cursed, that damnable pit . . . Merciful gods of earth, I am falling into the sky!”
I’m not sure how much this maps onto the Alien universe, but it certainly seems the crew went to meet the gods they tracked (The Engineers), only to encounter something far more powerful, and far worse than they could have ever imagined, a la the Other Gods (the black goo the Engineers either created, or found and experimented with). That’s why I enjoyed this movie so much; there are so many ways to think about where this is headed, and what it all means for the Alien universe (and us/AI).