Saturday, 20 May 2017

Alien Covenant: Knowing Your Creator.

'Alien: Covenant' is the second prequel to the 'Alien' franchise.  The sequel to 'Prometheus', Ridley Scott's flirtation with big philosophical ideas, which seemed to alienate quite a few viewers (please forgive the intentional pun).

This instalment opens with a fascinating dialogue between David, the synthetic and his creator, Peter Weyland in a minimalist space that just happens to contain several cultural artifacts, most notably, a Steinway piano and Michaelangelo's 'David', which the synthetic calls himself after the sculptural masterpiece.  David views himself as perfect and indeed, on one level he is.  Tellingly, the most significant and potent idea that thematically holds the film structure together is the fact that David knows who his creator is, his inventor doesn't (okay, Peter Weyland knows who his parents are but ultimately, where did the human race come from?).  Philosophically, this puts the human race at a disadvantage.  If we do not know where we come from originally, how can we know where we are going and if the decisions we are making are reasonable or even necessary?

David is the perfect creation, he learns can create and sees a bigger picture.  The only problem is the fact that he is the only one who understands how perfect he is.  He makes mistakes (at one point in the film, he mistakes the author of 'Ozymandias', believing it to have been written by Byron.  The poem was written by Shelley) but cannot perceive his mistakes.

Later in the film, Walter who is one of the series of synthetics who succeeded David's model describes how he cannot create.  The later models are less self-aware, more compliant.  In one particularly moving scene, David helps Walter to learn to play the recorder.  He holds down the notes and gets Walter to blow.

Truly, the most engaging aspects of the film are the characters of David and Walter and the philosophical explorations of creation, survival and reproduction.

I am sure that somewhere within the film's narrative, I lost my way because from a Darwinist perspective, I am certain that the pathogen based method of reproduction  i.e. entering the host, gestating and then materialising as an alien form is far more effective than David's later efforts as scientist or midwife when he uses the egg/Facehugger to host method which leads to the alien form (pretty much the Giger designed Xenomorph, we are used to from the original 'Alien').  Indeed, when we examine this reproductive model, it is as fundamentally flawed as human sexual intercourse, subject as it is to the risk of infection and moments of vulnerability.  Admittedly, the end alien form from this process seems stronger and more perfectly formed than the slightly insipid forms that are the result of the pathogen method of reproduction.

The human beings in the film are suitably naive, blindly following the synthetics when they would be wiser to let them alone.  But being led is a necessary side effect of the human condition when your existence is driven by ill defined goals and science has supplanted the need for God, all that the human race can do is follow binary instructions in the hope that salvation can be located somewhere else.  The fact that the ship is called 'Covenant' with its Biblical allusions could be coincidental within the context of the film.  Who is the covenant with?  The Covenant as a ship is clearly an Ark designed to help the human race begin again elsewhere, full of a number of embryos as well as adult passengers.  What has the human race done to the Earth to necessitate the need to escape and start again or else is this simply another case of blatant expansionism?  Imperialism masked as survivalism?

If 'Alien: Covenant' tells us anything, it isn't solely do not mess with nature; its lessons are more tightly immersed in notions of belief and love.  Aliens do not seem to love, but they do prolifically reproduce.  Once they exhaust their supply of host bodies, the species remains somewhat dormant. The human race can only survive if they do not exhaust their resources through reproduction.  If ever there were a film that graphically depicts the dangers of over population amidst diminishing resources, this is it.

                                                                          Barry Watt - 14th May 2017.


'Alien: Covenant' is currently still doing the rounds of many cinemas.  I recommend it.  Hopefully, Ridley Scott won't release a 'Director's Cut' in six months.  All characters and plot elements are mentioned to illustrate my feelings and arguments.  The characters and plot elements are copyright to the film companies and filmmakers involved with the film.

'Prometheus' is available on DVD (20th Century Fox Home Entertainment) and should probably be viewed before seeing 'Alien: Covenant'.

Steinway & Sons make amazing pianos that are most regularly seen in concert halls owing to their cost.

Michaelangelo's 'David' seriously blows your mind if you get to see it outside of a postcard.  It's enormous and visually astounding.

'Ozymandias' was a sonnet written by Percy Bysshe Shelley in around 1817:

Lord Byron was a poet and very interesting gentlemen with many appetites:

H.R. Giger was an artist and he played an important role in the special effects team on 'Alien' and essentially designed the Xenomorph and other alien forms including the Facehuggers, we know and love from the film.

The 'Alien' films are all worth seeing and they are all available on DVD.



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