Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Alien: Covenant as a Weyland-Yutani Investment Prospectus

The corporate logo as it appears in the era of
Alien: Covenant, showing the influence of
Ancient Egyptian mythology.
Every Alien movie is another chapter in the long history of the Weyland-Yutani Corporation, a powerful British-Japanese conglomerate specializing in advanced technology, mostly space exploration, extraterrestrial colonization and robotics. In terms of sheer size and scope of operations, W-YC is a formidable, well-funded corporate entity.

The corporate logo as it as it appears later in the Alien
fictional universe, around the time of Aliens.
But with the evidence of all the Alien movies— the four main sequence films, the AVP prequels and the two newer prequels— one would come to the inevitable conclusion that Weyland-Yutani is not that successful at basic core competency. Colonization Division has a number of outstanding failures (Aliens, Covenant). The loss of large, expensive spacecraft (The Nostromo, Auriga and Prometheus) is constant and horrendous. And Robotics Division’s track record of creating helpful, useful, trustworthy cyborgs is not stellar. For every helpful synthetic (Call from Resurrection and Bishop from Aliens) there is a deceitful, untrustworthy model (Ash from Alien and, as it turns out, David from Covenant).

So I need advise all that Weyland-Yutani may not be a good long-term investment.

On to Alien: Covenant, the second Ridley Scott prequel. this latest prequel franchise installment-- occurring after the events of Prometheus but before Alien-- involves the crew of the colony ship Covenant being awoken by an interstellar storm and, during repairs, they catch a faint signal from a nearby planet. Bound by Weyland-Yutani’s rules about such things, they change course and investigate the signal. Yes, this exact same thing happened in Alien, but this world is much prettier, with big redwood trees and shimmering lakes. However, again like the first film that big horse-shoe Alien vessel is there, and the well-armed but non-space-suited crew of the Covenant are in for an unpleasant surprise…

Danny McBride's character is called "Tennessee."
Gee, I wonder why.
As far as the story goes, Covenant hits nearly identical notes as the first Alien film: the crew is picked off one by one by various manifestations of the Alien life-form, sometimes in pairs. The cast is great: Katherine Waterston (Shasta from Inherent Vice) is the Ripley analogue, Billy Crudup is the feckless, fundamentalist captain, and Danny McBride probably turns in the best, least self-aware performance of his career so far. Michael Fassbender is sublime in a dual role as David, the cyborg from Prometheus, and Walter, a slightly updated model.

The thing Ridley Scott is interested in— aside from fascination over David and Walter— is explaining the origin of the Alien life-form. It is indeed compelling, the effort that goes into outlining and detailing this drawn-out exegesis. it's like watching a steel rail being heated and bent into a circle: a lot of effort, serves no real purpose, but it is still interesting to watch the process.

Covenant puts out a strong Aliens vibe in places.
The Alien life-form does not need a backstory. It is, like Ash called it in the 1979 original, a perfect organism. It is pure aggression, unknowable and mysterious and always deadly. We do not need know how it came to be: it represents the danger of the unknown, the fact that if we reach out into the dark universe and look hard and long enough we will eventually discover something that will kill us.

Nonetheless get a more-or less whole Alien creation story out of Alien: Covenant, which is much more than the plot gives us in terms of interest. Like the movie Alien, we start with a good dozen or so humans who manage to blunder or become enticed to planet where they meet their untimely ends in various violent ways. After a while the film devolves into a pastiche of haunted house/ teen slasher film tropes. The Alien is Mike Meyers, the crew are dumb teenagers who are killed off randomly, and we even have a nice Crystal Lake that they get murdered on. Actually, it’s the saving grace of Alien: Covenant and the original Alien that the grisly body count does not respect gender: men and women are killed off randomly. The ending is depressingly predictable, with a dull twist that will fool nobody: unlike Prometheus, which was weird enough to be mysterious, Covenant is too conventional to be all that surprising.

Like I said, it might be time to liquidate those Weyland-Yutani stocks. Yoyodyne Propulsion Systems, however, is still a blue-chip stock— or it would be if they ever went public.

1 comment:

  1. Agree! The xenomorphs were scarier when their origin was creepy and mysterious - the incredibly convoluted (and nonsensical) backstory only detracts from this. Like Lucas with his midichlorians, Scott is providing answers to questions nobody is asking.