Alien Covenant; Seeing the film

leading from

a) Off to see Alien Covenant
I went to see Alien: Covenant on the day of it's public release in England, 12th May 2017, then the 23rd and 31st of May . I went in wondering why it wasn't a 3D screening, when I realised that it wasn't being presented in 3D anywhere.

One odd thing I noticed though was that while we see the Covenant ship as a speck flying across the stars,  to the right there's another light that appears to be movie although slowly and I wasn't quite sure what to say about that other than perhaps someone else was flying out in the depths of space that no one noticed. When they discover the planet on their way to Origae-6, we never find out why they hadn't noticed it before in their earlier scans, but perhaps there might be a reason that a Star Trek writer could come up with to explain that. 

The thing that began to charm me was the transmission received with Elizabeth Shaw singing, and this leads them to land on the planet and journey through a silent leafy landscape with no sounds of animals, birds or insects, they discover the crash landed vessel that Shaw and David travelled to the planet with, this time around known behind the scenes as The Dreadnought rather than The Juggernaut. Pod like life forms grow within that when touched unleash their minute spore like contents acting like some sort of nanorobots on the unsuspecting victim. Water runs through the vessel, and perhaps the remaining contents of its cargo have leaked across the landscape leading to the whole planet being dead but with the remains of curiously mutated lifeforms

I have to say that it doesn't interest me that much sitting through films where people are erupting with blood and taking them seriously.

In the trailers, there was the shot of the backburster scene with the curious ribbing effect on the back. Was this all down to paying homage to a Giger painting with similar ribbing along the back in a bad way or would this be what would be expected to be seen if something was trying to push itself out of the back. The ribbing effect didn't make its way into the final film but this cut footage,  I thought,  might look good if put to Aphex Twin's music track "Come To Daddy" as if the victim is shaking his head to the music in some way. The neomorph that burst out of the back really didn't interest me that much, I looked at it and I just thought of CGI.

A lot of excitement about it was trying to look to see if there were Giger connections anywhere, and perhaps there were and perhaps not. There was the Arnold Böcklin's Isle of the Dead homage to point out in the movie in the form of a terrace garden at the sides of the huge building. Althought Giger payed homage to the painter and his Isle of the Dead series, so did many other painters, and Ridley's film could too without Giger's painting.

We discover the creature vaguely similar to Giger's Alien but looking as if it had been merged with a skinless Gunther von Hagens plasticised body and elements from the alien on the cover of the the Aliens edition of Mad. David has somehow created large ovoid spores that various members of the audience might feel can only be layed as an egg by an Alien Queen, but since I was not that happy about this egg layer idea, it didn't matter where they had come from to me other than as a mixture of things infected by the black stuff. A human becomes a victim to the spore's facehugger and oddly gives birth to a chestburster in a very oddly short amount of time as if the new creature was just the product of a virus that had been injected rather than something that was taking its time to gestate. Another human would later be facehugged and despite the fact that the facehugger hardly had any time to implant something into the victim, an alien life form would emerge in the last part of the film killing multiple victims. When they managed to get rid of it, I felt rather sore about the way they had to let go of a couple of large vehicles and the creature itself looked like a piece of CGI to me inspired by a computer game creation.

Perhaps this movie it's been a little like tramping through someone's fever dream, although the film mostly works as an interesting adventure horror. Seeing people's various reactions because they wanted to see perhaps one sort of film or another, perhaps a returns to Alien or Aliens or whatever was quite bizarre, and seeing it three times, I might have got to a point where I was free of all these other perceptions and was seeing the movie for what it was.

There is a lot in the movie, Ridley certainly doesn't keep things simple which is what I liked about his work,  and  trying to say what was going on in the story might even be a bit complicated especially in this article that's a sort of review and exploration. Perhaps I might add more to this review later or rewrite the whole thing, but below are some other things that have been part of my thoughts during the movie. The mental voyage continues while still I'm unpacking my bags.

b)JRR Tolkin associations?
Thinking about the Tolkien film connections with New Zealand because of the mountainous landscapes there were part of the film was made, I began to wonder if the lead character Daniels was a very tall Hobbit borrowing her hairstyle from Frodo in Ralph Bakshi's animated version of Lord of the Rings, while Danny McBride was perhaps a Dwarf, and I hadn't quite figured out which.

Katherine Waterston as Daniels, and Frodo the hobbit from Ralph Bakshi's Lord of the Rings

When David the robot reappears, he's obviously supposed to be Legolas on a bad hair day. The Neomorphs appeared like the pale skinned goblins from The Hobbit or even Gollum. Well, if one goes back and watches The Hobbit directed by Steve Jackson, we find a scene where the dwarves are surrounded by a hoard of pale skinned goblins in a cave and Gandalf comes to rescue out of nowhere, he creates a big flash of light and the goblins can't bare this. It's rather weird that Ridley seems to find himself filming such a scene as if he's been misled into doing it by someone else with a bright idea that had already been done in the country. Perhaps we might as well decide that David might as well be a bit of a Saruman breeding orcs at Isengard. 

A goblin about to kill Thorin Oakenshield
The goblin crowds
a blast of light

Gandalf appears rescuing the dwarfs from goblin doom

Gandalf

A goblin like Neomorph

The Neomorph attacks a member of the party of humans

David arrives with a flare gun that frightens the Neomorphs off for a while. but saves the remaining party of humans

I suppose that giant circular area with the hole in the centre at the Engineers city in the Alien movie is another ring.  Looking for a place that might equate with the Engineers city in Lord of the Rings, I settled on the idea of Isengard which was a tower in the centre of a vast circular area which reminded me of the huge circular area in Alien: Covenant where the ship was perhaps expected to land in the central hole that opened up.


c) Lord of the Rings bleeding into a King Arthur movie released around the same time
A king Arthur movie came the weekend after Alien Covenant did in England. It was a movie that starred Charlie Hunnam, that oddly had echoes of Lord of the Rings in it with its giant elephants and
oddly a building like Isengard turned up in the movie and just as this Hall of Heads in Alien Covenant had a giant ceremonial stone table in the centre of the chamber, the ceremonial room at the top of the tower used by the evil magician in King Arthur did too. Don't ask me what that was about, but I suppose that's one of those slightly synchronistic things.  Indeed it can be said that there were numerous stone tables around the engineers city. Whatever round tables there were to be found in the Covenant, thankfully it had nothing to do with the King Arthur legend


d) The Ring associations?
In Koji Suzuki's novel Rasen (which translates as Spiral), something that's known as the Ring virus either kills its victims outright, uses them to transmit its virus in other ways or it might even use the victim to birth a copy of Sadako who transmitted the virus to be recorded on video.

The holographic transmission from Elizabeth Shaw singing the John Denver song picked up by the crew of the Covenant was enjoyable ghostly and perhaps abstract, and when they managed to get to the derelict ship which was the source of this transmission, it was a wonderful scene for me to see.

I often had the idea of trying to develop Alien/The Ring fan fiction with the ghostly transmission reaching people in their spaceships and somehow they become infected with chestbursters, but, I must say that I wasn't happy about this really

I thought about how the black stuff in Prometheus had an element of the Ring Virus and so did its effect on its victims in Alien Covenant where it was uncertain what was happening, and it seemed as if this pathogen was capable of making decisions by its own about what to do with the victims. The Engineers on the planet in Alien Covenant looked as if they were simply killed and left as mummified forms rather than unleashing thousands of Deacons or whatever.




e) Arrival ?
When  it's revealed, the story about how when David arrived on the planet in his ship, he dropped the cargo of the juggernaut vessel on the crowds of Engineers in the city below. These Engineers didn't seem to have much of a clue about what was coming at all, and it might be painful to consider the fact that they didn't appear to have any security measures at all about receiving spacecrafts, especially ones perhaps thousands of years old.

The moment that David released the ampules on the Engineers, it seems rather like the black mist coming from the ETs fingers in Arrival, it's also curious to see it coming down in a spiral formation, reminding me of a helix.. Perhaps if the lead character from Arrival was there to see it, she might have translated all the black liquid from the ampules turning to mist as a message. 

Black goo from the ampules form a ring in the air in Alien Covenant
f) Ring-a-Ring-Arrival
Possibly wondering if the Arrival film's story has some sort of underling connections with the movie The Ring because strange entities sending visual messages showing rings, from the other end of shafts, you can't see their faces for one reason or another and their messages take a long time to work out and cause strange other dimensional and hallucinatory effects on those effected by it. The Arrival is based on a story written by a man of Chinese descent and Ring based on a novel by a Japanese writer.



Floating black rings as messages from the ET visitors in Arrival

g) Death of Elizabeth Shaw
I was not very happy about Elizabeth Shaw having been killed off but it doesn't appear that when Newt was killed off for Alien 3, it was only a character with no place in that film. Here, her plasticised remains are to be found briefly in one scene. Perhaps she died by other means not being immune to the black substance. But it looks as if David the android went on a Gunther von Hagens kick plasticizing all the dead bodies that he had been exploring by way of HR Giger's painting Li.

h)  Data and Lore from Star Trek? 
Walter the android and David the android have a discussion together, but it appears that David is trying to have a discussion with Walter as if he wasn't just a machine. Is Walter merging with the idea of Data from Star Trek: The Next Generation and David is Lore, another android, but one who turns out to be evil, created by Data's creator from that series as well.

i) David takes over Walter's place
David and Walter fight it out later in the film, perhaps they should have brought Jean-Claude Van Damme to do the fight sequence, playing both roles. This leads to an end where it seems that David has "killed" Walter and in a quick space of time suddenly taken on his appearance in terms of hairstyle and lack of left hand within a short space of time, and taken his place amongst the surviving crew of the Covenant, only to reveal his identity as Daniels goes into cryosleep. Perhaps here I would rather prefer that David has knocked Walter out, uploaded himself as a program into Walter and takes over, and so there's a battle between the two programs.

Perhaps I wasn't too keen on David becoming this overcomplicated murderer character, I didn't mind him being the victim of Peter Weyland's harsh programming , leading him to killing off Holloway in Prometheus because it's as if Holloway gave his consent for purpose of scientific discovery, and seing the prologue to this film showing David and Elizabeth Shaw, I hoped she might have directed him out of this severe form of behavious.

After three viewings one starts to look at ways of seeing around this whole thing of Walter being replaced by David, playing with the idea of it as curious merger in the way there were all these exciting ways to look at in Alien how the pyramid and the derelict ship due to budget and time constraints merged into one entity that didn't make much sense in itself but this was the universe of Alien and there was always a way to debate that there was something more to it all.

j) Pulling together various Ring associations
I bought the Blu-ray of Rings on May 29th 2017. I had mixed feelings about the film but having that in my hand started to set off ideas about how the idea of Rings seemed to converge in this movie as if Alien Covenant has bits in it that slightly mashed up elements of Lord of the Rings and The Ring with a bit of Wagner's Ring Cycle thrown in. This is almost one of those suppositions that has to be extracted from his brain through my nostrils with a brain removing tool. I took a look at how John Denver might have fitted into this Ring connection and it turns out that he used to fantasise about having lived in the ring nebula in Lyra. 


k) Blade Runner connection
It might seem unfortunate that the script writer was probably reaching out for those who wanted to hear the Blade Runner quote and go all gaga about whether the two films took place in the same universe. After a third viewing, the idea comes through that everyone has the right to say "That's the Spirit" in a fight, even if the film director had directed Blade Runner with the character Roy Batty saying it when fighting Deckard.

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