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Tyler

Alien: Covenant (Was Alien: Paradise Lost / Prometheus 2)

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6 hours ago, morgan1098 said:

SPOILER QUESTION:

If David at the end of the film wants to wipe out humanity, why mess around with planting the alien embryos in the cryo chamber? Why not just kill everyone on board the ship while they're sleeping and destroy all the human embryos? I'm sure there's something that explains all of this in the copious dialogue that came before.

I had this same question. When you have an airborne pathogen weapon that kills its host almost instantly, like David does with the Engineer genocide, why go to so much trouble creating the facehugger eggs which have to implant within a human host? I wonder if the answer (at least the one David would give) is "creativity." David doesn't want to do what's efficient; he wants to do something more experimental and innovative and uniquely him, even if it's unnecessarily complicated. Perhaps the final xenomorph is meant to be David's eikon or poema, his living work of art.

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I guested on the InSession podcast, where we discussed Alien: Covenant and (around the 85 minute mark) "movies as prayers" in response to an interview they did with Josh Larsen.

Feel free to give a listen here: http://hwcdn.libsyn.com/p/2/3/0/230dff7caa390584/Episode_222.mp3?c_id=15386049&expiration=1495601847&hwt=5ba88661746b14fd54533c06b633a599

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Joel Mayward wrote:
: The film itself *never* mentions that the Covenant crew is made up of couples, nor does it clearly delineate who those couples actually are.

True. You arguably get a better sense of that from the short-film prologue that Ridley Scott's son directed:

: . . . was there a gay couple on the ship's crew?

Yep, and they're kind of highlighted in the video above. I'm not entirely sure what sense it would make to include a same-sex couple (especially a *male* same-sex couple) on a colonization mission, where breeding is going to be one of the main activities. (It's not like either of those guys can host any of the embryos on the ship.) But anyhoo.

: Prometheus is David; Alien: Covenant is Walter. The former is an ambitious, philosophical, terrifying mess. The latter, in an attempt to "improve" upon its predecessor, essentially trades in its creative ambition for stodginess and familiarity.

Well put.

: When you have an airborne pathogen weapon that kills its host almost instantly . . .

This is another problem with the film: how *rapidly* the xenomorphic lifeforms develop. The original Alien allowed for *some* gestation time. Here you go from facehugger to adult xenomorph in a matter of, like, minutes.

: David doesn't want to do what's efficient; he wants to do something more experimental and innovative and uniquely him, even if it's unnecessarily complicated. Perhaps the final xenomorph is meant to be David's eikon or poema, his living work of art.

And yet he says the xenomorph he has created is the "perfect organism", or some such thing. Which just reminds me of how much I really didn't care for the android's use of that phrase in the original Alien. It is one of those things that has always held back Alien for me -- made it seem like a cliched sci-fi B-movie, albeit one with a lot of style -- in contrast to the more recognizably human dialogue and behaviour of the second film, Aliens (even on the android's part!).

Anyway. When David says the xenomorph is "perfect", I find myself wanting to know just what he means by that word.

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6 hours ago, Peter T Chattaway said:

This is another problem with the film: how *rapidly* the xenomorphic lifeforms develop. The original Alien allowed for *some* gestation time. Here you go from facehugger to adult xenomorph in a matter of, like, minutes.

Absolutely. This is going to sound kinda nerdy, but another not-very-scientific aspect of Alien: Covenant is this rapid growth without any evidence of consuming food or other fuel in order to grow so quickly. I recognize that some species of bugs are born/emerge essentially as fully adults and die within hours or days, but this was near-instantaneous growth from cat-sized to human-sized in moments. Muscles, brain development, coordination, etc.--all need some time and fuel to mature properly.

7 hours ago, Peter T Chattaway said:

Yep, and they're kind of highlighted in the video above. I'm not entirely sure what sense it would make to include a same-sex couple (especially a *male* same-sex couple) on a colonization mission, where breeding is going to be one of the main activities. (It's not like either of those guys can host any of the embryos on the ship.)

Yes, I suppose this was my question behind the original question--why include a male same-sex couple on a colonization crew?

Related: a lot of reviews on Letterboxd are highlighting the not-too-subtle gay subtext of David and Walter's recorder scene and kiss, especially the line, "You blow; I'll do the fingering."

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In the original Alien, the xenomorph grew super rapidly as well--its a plot point, right?  They hunt for it with a cattle prod and a net, expecting to find something chestburster size.  But then they encounter the shed skin and a seven foot tall xenomorph. I was curious and read what I could find online as the final shooting script, which also includes a scene where the creature raids the larder (scene 142, or page 20 at the link) and its growth is further explained when they question the head of Ash (oxygen rich environment).  So its still fast but explained a little.

2 hours ago, Joel Mayward said:

Absolutely. This is going to sound kinda nerdy, but another not-very-scientific aspect of Alien: Covenant is this rapid growth without any evidence of consuming food or other fuel in order to grow so quickly. I recognize that some species of bugs are born/emerge essentially as fully adults and die within hours or days, but this was near-instantaneous growth from cat-sized to human-sized in moments. Muscles, brain development, coordination, etc.--all need some time and fuel to mature properly.

 

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2 hours ago, Buckeye Jones said:

In the original Alien, the xenomorph grew super rapidly as well--its a plot point, right?  They hunt for it with a cattle prod and a net, expecting to find something chestburster size.  But then they encounter the shed skin and a seven foot tall xenomorph. I was curious and read what I could find online as the final shooting script, which also includes a scene where the creature raids the larder (scene 142, or page 20 at the link) and its growth is further explained when they question the head of Ash (oxygen rich environment).  So its still fast but explained a little.

 

Yeah, I recall this being a significant surprise and part of the horror of Alien--they're chasing what they perceive to be a cat-sized creature, only to find that it's grown significantly and is even bigger than a human. What Alien: Covenant shows is that the growth is almost immediate, and has little to do with food or oxygen. It just...grows. This further reduces the scare factor (something A:C is really lacking is the dread of the original) because the audience sees everything, and our imaginations aren't allowed to fill in the gaps.

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14 hours ago, Peter T Chattaway said:

Joel Mayward wrote:
: The film itself *never* mentions that the Covenant crew is made up of couples, nor does it clearly delineate who those couples actually are.

True. You arguably get a better sense of that from the short-film prologue that Ridley Scott's son directed:

I thought Tennessee (aka "One Night") asks if he can talk to "my wife" when communicating with those on the planet, right before whatever the main character's name is tells him to go on a private channel. Or words to that effect.

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47 minutes ago, kenmorefield said:

I thought Tennessee (aka "One Night") asks if he can talk to "my wife" when communicating with those on the planet, right before whatever the main character's name is tells him to go on a private channel. Or words to that effect.

Yeah, he does. Oram makes a similar remark to the nameless soldier (the guy who goes off for a smoke) about not messing with his wife when she leaves the main group to do some sort of research/study. It's not that the couples aren't revealed or "discovered" by the audience over the course of the film, but that the premise itself--that this entire crew is made up of couples--is not stated or truly explored. There were all sorts of interesting ideas the filmmakers could explore about a large group of couples trying to navigate a dangerous encounter with an alien life form (questions about group ethics and norms, roles one plays as both a leader and a spouse, etc.). I actually expected Tennessee to break protocols and fly the Covenant ship onto the planet despite the weather warnings because he knew his wife was in danger. But the film never really went there.

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David doesn't kill all the embryos for the same reason he didn't just not follow orders when Daniels had him help her with the alien on the ship. He's experimenting. He's using the humans to test whether his "creations" are as good as he thinks. You see his pleased face when they go after the alien on the ship and his disappointment when they kill the alien. He sees himself as better than humans and wants to create something that is better than him and he needs them to test his creations

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Joel Mayward wrote:
: Yeah, I recall this being a significant surprise and part of the horror of Alien--they're chasing what they perceive to be a cat-sized creature, only to find that it's grown significantly and is even bigger than a human.

SDG mentioned a few years ago that one of his children had asked where the Xenomorph was getting its "mass" from in the original film.

 

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I re-watched Alien this past weekend, with the director's commentary on. Three observations relevant to A:C:

1) Scott explicitly describes Ash as "basically a replicant," which is interesting to consider re: David in Prometheus and A:C as a precursor to Ash.

2) Scott repeatedly spoke of being uninterested in sci-fi or horror and how much of it was unoriginal, and how he would only revisit that world if there was a really great script. I think the commentary was recorded in 2003, so it feels like a time capsule capturing his sentiments at that particular moment--in a post-Tony Scott world, Ridley has made Prometheus, The Martian, and A:C, the only sci-fi he's done since Blade Runner.

3) It's difficult to discern just how long time elapses on the Nostromo from the crew awakening to Ripley's escape, but perhaps my recollection of the xenomorph's growth would, in fact, be in mere minutes even back then. The pacing (and thus the dread) of the original film is much slower, and we don't see the actual growth like we do in A:C, but I'm now wondering if my previous comments here were too quick, that the gestation period within Kane could have been an hour or two, which is admittedly much shorter than what happens in A:C, but it's not like it's happening over the course of a week--the events in Alien seem confined to a day, even hours.

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Joel Mayward wrote:
: . . .  in a post-Tony Scott world, Ridley has made Prometheus, The Martian, and A:C, the only sci-fi he's done since Blade Runner.

Prometheus came out a few months *before* Tony Scott died; Ridley Scott's next two films, The Counselor and Exodus: Gods and Kings, were both dedicated to Tony.

: It's difficult to discern just how long time elapses on the Nostromo from the crew awakening to Ripley's escape . . .

Hmmm. Now I want to rewatch it with this in mind, taking notes.

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4 minutes ago, Peter T Chattaway said:

Prometheus came out a few months *before* Tony Scott died; Ridley Scott's next two films, The Counselor and Exodus: Gods and Kings, were both dedicated to Tony.

Ah, I didn't look at those exact dates. I don't know much of the relationship between the two Scotts, or how Tony's death affected Ridley, but the latter's most recent films seem to wrestle with philosophical and theological questions or ideas with an openness and some ambition.

4 minutes ago, Peter T Chattaway said:

Hmmm. Now I want to rewatch it with this in mind, taking notes.

In my previous comment about how much time elapses in Alien, I almost wrote, "This seems like something Peter would know." Made me wonder about Aliens and Alien3 as well, figuring out the lifecycle of a xenomorph and how long those events last within the context of each film.

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5 hours ago, Joel Mayward said:

3) It's difficult to discern just how long time elapses on the Nostromo from the crew awakening to Ripley's escape...

 

There's a moment in ALIENS where Ripley is briefing the marines aboard the Sulaco, Ripley informs Vasquez that in less than 24 hours only one of those things killed off her entire crew.  I'm guessing that's from chestburster sequence to the end, but not sure if she includes awaking from hibernation to returning with Kane to the orbiting refinery.

Edited by John Drew

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Joel Mayward wrote:
: I don't know much of the relationship between the two Scotts, or how Tony's death affected Ridley, but the latter's most recent films seem to wrestle with philosophical and theological questions or ideas with an openness and some ambition.

Definitely. For what it's worth, the Scott brothers owned a production company together -- Scott Free -- so I assume they were somewhat close, though I can't think of many direct collaborations between them. (It was also not uncommon for them to share actors, e.g. Tom Cruise went straight from Ridley's Legend to Tony's Top Gun, and Denzel Washington starred in a number of Tony's films before starring in Ridley's American Gangster.)

John Drew wrote:
: There's a moment in ALIENS where Ripley is briefing the marines aboard the Sulaco, Ripley informs Vasquez that in less than 24 hours only one of those things killed off her entire crew.  I'm guessing that's from chestburster sequence to the end, but not sure if she includes awaking from hibernation to returning with Kane to the orbiting refinery.

In the (early draft of the?) screenplay here, Ripley says "just one of those things managed to kill my entire crew within twelve hours of hatching," and "the embryo, the second form, hosts in the victim's body for several hours." But if those lines didn't make it into the film, then I guess they aren't canonical.

Within the original Alien *itself*, we are told that the Space Jockey's ship is a 2-kilometre walk (over rugged terrain) from where the Nostromo crew landed, so we have to assume that the embryo was gestating inside Kane for the entire walk back to the lander (which would have been at least an hour, right?). And it seems like quite some time passes after *that* before the facehugger falls off his face. And of course the chestburster doesn't pop out until quite some time after *that*, once they're back in space.

So how long did they spend on the planet surface? We do know that, after the crew landed, Brett said it would take 17 hours to repair the ship, and Parker bumped this estimate up to 25 hours. Later, Brett grumbles that it feels like they've been working on the repairs for a month. However, Dallas says they can take off before they've finished repairing certain decks, so it's possible that they didn't stay on the planet surface for the entire estimated repair time.

But I'm inclined to think that Kane was hosting the alien embryo for roughly half of the repair time (i.e. half of the time that they were on the planet surface), and that several more hours passed in space before the chestburster emerged from Kane's torso.

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Just finished listening to the audio commentary. It turns out the transmission that draws the Covenant to the Engineers' planet was originally going to be a prayer, but then Ridley Scott decided to go with the John Denver song instead. Which is a shame, since faith was kind of a defining characteristic of the Elizabeth Shaw character (the one who sends the transmission) in Prometheus. Call it just one more way Covenant disses the earlier film's protagonist.

The deleted scenes also reveal that Rosenthal (the crew member who gets beheaded by the fountain) originally said the Shema just before she is killed.

And, while I haven't re-watched the film itself yet (I was mostly listening to the audio commentary while doing other internet-y things), Scott seems to say at one point that it doesn't matter what kind of religious believer the Billy Crudup character is; all that matters is that he's a man of faith and other people lump him in with fundamentalists as a result. So... the character was *deliberately* underwritten? (Next time I watch the actual film, I'll pay attention to whether the film actually reveals any *details* of Crudup's character's faith.)

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20 hours ago, Peter T Chattaway said:

The deleted scenes also reveal that Rosenthal (the crew member who gets beheaded by the fountain)

That sure must be some fountain! :P

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