Alien: Covenant

By Nat Master

Mailed on May 23, 2017

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Dear David and Walter

Dear David and Walter,

I feel like I was ill-prepared for my introduction to you, and to the Alien franchise, and it’s my own fault. I’ve never seen any of the other Alien films, and after my initial cowardly hesitation (I hate monster movies) when asked to review Alien: Covenant, I had a decision to make; to catch up, or not to catch up. My companion informed me there were four films to watch if I wanted to roll up at the screening all clued in like a boss, and I was totally going to, but then I spent the weekend binge-watching Call the Midwife (again) instead. Sorry.

So I went in blind, and told myself it was actually better this way; I wouldn’t be weighed down by any expectations, nor would I spend the entire screening inwardly grumbling about all things missed or ruined. I was right, to an extent. However, being part of a much-loved franchise, the film was, of course, peppered with references to the other films, and inside jokes I didn’t get. My useless companion thought, “Shush, just watch” was a helpful response to all of my very important questions, so it was like showing up to write an exam without having studied, and the nerd sitting next to you won’t let you copy off him.

As it turns out, my totally objective, baggage-free opinion of Alien: _Covenant is a lot more positive than I thought it would be. Show me a film where large things bite people and I tend to become the octopus in that gif where it scurries away and the caption reads, “NOPE NOPE NOPE.” I didn’t get too attached to any of the characters, as I had a feeling most of them would be meat pulp by the halfway mark. Nor did I get too worked up over things such as the often atrocious dialogue, like when one of the colonial marines watches a crewmate get torn apart by a very large, scary creature of indeterminate origin and then asks the remaining members of her team, “But are you sure it’s safe here?!” Normally, that would have bugged the hell out of me, but I just laughed and inwardly referred to her as Dead Becky Walking for the tragically brief remainder of her screen time.

While I may have cottoned on to references to Byron and Shelley, all the references to previous Alien films went straight over my head. There was the one part, David, when you showed the captain of the Covenant a bunch of weird looking pods, and assured him it was safe to take a closer look. The audience thought that was hilarious but I didn’t really get it, especially given what happened next.

With all that carnage unfolding on screen, it seemed pointless to care too much about any of the characters, but I was totally into you two. Your scenes with each other draw together all of the film’s major thematic concerns; creation versus destruction, nature versus nurture, the difference between being human and being humane, and a delightfully vicious ideological opposition to colonialism are all examined during the sole opportunity you two really have to sit down and chat without the Covenant crew whining and demanding, like, help against the monstrous space bug trying to eat them or whatever. You don’t have a lot of screen time together, but your chemistry was amazing. Judging from the awed, “Whoa!”s in the theatre during your little music lesson, the audience agreed with me. With all the human characters getting snacked on, knocked up, and torn apart, it makes sense that you synthetics are the safest bets to anchor the narrative and provide continuity from the prequel and, I’m assuming, into a sequel.

My first Alien experience was as harrowing as I expected, but I think I will catch myself up in time for the next film. There are still so many things I need explained, like, “How can you tell the girl aliens apart from the boy aliens?” and, “...did that thing just impregnate his face?!” I tried asking my companion these questions at the time, but being frantically shushed to death by sci-fi nerds was not how I wanted to go out, so I will do my homework, and go all the way back to the beginning to see what happens next.



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