If you’re a fan of the Alien film series, this will all make some kind of sense, although Prometheus did muddy the waters somewhat with an ambitious, hard-to-follow plot. It sounds like an over-complicated plot won’t be such an issue in Alien: Covenant, however, with generally favourable reviews indicating that those brave enough to watch are in for a thrill-fest of horror and action that strives for the heights of the superlative Alien (1979) and Aliens (1986).
Although I’m not a huge fan of horror in general, particularly not slasher movies or the “torture-porn” dreck of recent years, there are a few classics of the genre that I’ve thoroughly enjoyed, such as Psycho (1960), The Shining (1980), The Silence of the Lambs (1991), and, of course, Alien.
Alien, in particular, has stuck with me ever since I first saw it nearly 40 years ago. Already a huge fan of sci-fi—Star Wars had been released just 2 years prior—I was fascinated by this far darker take on other-worldly adventure. Every manner of primordial fear was excruciatingly ripped, kicking and screaming from my nightmares and given form as I watched between rigid fingers.
Alien Killing Machine
Just imagine a parasitic crab-like creature gripping itself tightly over your face while it sticks a long appendage down your throat to implant an alien egg inside you. Then this “facehugger” drops off and scuttles away to die, while you seem all fine and dandy again. But no, of course you’ve got the alien fetus inside you gestating, so it’s gonna have to come out of you at some point. No such thing as an easy “birth,” however, as this baby alien delivers itself straight through your chest wall to emerge amidst a mess of blood and viscera. This “chestburster” too then scuttles off, while its host human is most definitely quite dead at this point.
The final stage in the alien’s metamorphosis comprises a rapid growth into a two-metre tall “xenomorph,” the now-familiar bipedal creature with a segmented tail and an elongated, cylindrical skull with double jaws. A creature uniquely capable of killing humans in ever more gruesome ways. As Ash (Ian Holm), the android science officer, states admiringly of it: “Perfect organism. Its structural perfection is matched only by its hostility.”
Androids have played an integral theme throughout the entire Alien movie franchise. After Ash in the first movie, there was the altruistic Bishop (Lance Henriksen) in Aliens and Alien 3 (1992), the compassionate Annalee Call (Winona Ryder) in Alien: Resurrection (1997), and the sinister David (Michael Fassbender) in Prometheus. David also has a prominent role in Alien: Covenant, along with his upgraded “twin,” Walter (also played by Michael Fassbender). Critics have described their (his?) scenes as particularly fascinating, and it is this artificial intelligence aspect of the story that holds the most fascination for me now.
A few years ago, I was enthralled by Ex Machina (2014), the highly acclaimed indie sci-fi thriller that essentially updates Frankenstein for the computer age. The movie also explores the notion of whether an artificial humanoid robot can be truly capable of independent thought and how a human interacts with such an entity. More than 30 years earlier, the seminal Blade Runner (1982), covered some of the same ground. Which of course brings us full circle to Alien: Covenant, also directed by Ridley Scott. And, for the real geek fans, listen out for David saying “That’s the sprit” to a human he’s fighting. You’ll recall replicant Batty (Rutger Hauer) saying the same thing to Deckard (Harrison Ford) as they are too are fighting to the death.
Iain Pardoe is an online university instructor who enjoys the movies of Hayao Miyazaki even more than the kids and loves rewatching favourites from his youth with his family when he’s not playing soccer or skiing.