Spoiler Alert: This item avoids discussing major plot twists in “Alien: Covenant,” but wait until after you see the movie to read it if you want to stay totally in the dark.
We’ve seen enough “Alien” movies by now that we pretty much know what should be coming, and “Alien: Covenant,” the latest installment in the space-horror franchise, turns the dial up to 11.
There are new ways to pick up alien infections, new ways for incubating monsters to pop out of their hosts, and new ways for the crew members of the colony spaceship Covenant to fall for alien set-ups they totally should have seen coming.
If only they had watched the first “Alien” movie from the year 1979, they could have saved themselves a lot of grief in the year 2104.
But if you look beyond the gore and the surprise twists (which we promise to avoid like the alien plague), the biggest revelation is an explanation for how the movie saga bridges the gap between the seemingly baffling “Prometheus” prequel and the original “Alien” movie.
“This is the most sense ‘Prometheus’ has made since I saw it,” my colleague at GeekWire, Kurt Schlosser, observed after last week’s advance screening.
Erudite film buffs may want to bone up on Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley’s “Frankenstein,” Richard Wagner’s “Rheingold” and John Milton’s “Paradise Lost” to catch the literary references that director Ridley Scott and the writers worked into the script. That’ll give you a head start when you and your moviegoing friends discuss whether 22nd-century androids will be serving in heaven or reigning in hell.
In the meantime, here are a few observations that “popped out” when Schlosser, GeekWire chief business officer Daniel Rossi and I sat down for a post-movie chat:
Kurt Schlosser: It’s interesting that in a movie that’s basically trying to create the perfect species, they still can find a way to demonstrate how humans are far from that – the idiocy of all the people who got killed, essentially.
Alan Boyle: Right, as I was watching it, there were a lot of questions that came to mind. For example, why don’t those spacewalkers tether up? And the planetary protection measures were just terrible.
Daniel Rossi: They stick their faces over plants they know nothing about.
AB: They deserve what they got, almost.
DR: Well, it was entertaining. Those aliens are amazing killers. Even little baby ones. The blood in this movie, the explosions of blood, were pretty impressive. The gross factor was excellent.
KS: They came out every which way but loose. … For something that makes such short work of its victims once it’s out, it sure does make a dramatic entry.
AB: Any thoughts on the technology? I was thinking that surely by 2104, the crew should have better guns.
DR: Something that shoots a flash of energy?
KS: Or a force that just turns something to particles. Instead, they’re still just essentially firing bullets. They should have a complete exoskeleton or something, so they can curl up into a ball and that thing would just bounce around. …
DR: You know what I was impressed with? The amount of booze and tobacco they had up there.
KS: They’re always such a motley crew. They’re like a version of washed-up soldiers, slash, the smartest people you’ve ever met.
DS: It’s like the tech community here. Yeah, they’re the smartest people, but they’re wearing hoodies all the time. They had Jack Daniels, they had drinks. Tennessee [played by Danny McBride] had a chew in every once in a while, plus one of the guys had a cigar.
KS: But they’re always repeatedly, and thankfully, rescued by a strong female character. … I do think that after all these years of watching these movies, there’s really no way for these people to die at the hands of those aliens that will surprise me or scare me anymore. It’s part of the storyline, and they have to die, but it doesn’t scare me anymore. You know it’s coming. And you know who it’s going to be.
DR: That’s why I was focused on the gore. OK, you know it’s coming, but how well do they pull it off?
KS: It doesn’t lessen the entertainment for me, because I think Ridley Scott is doing a good job of weaving in this fantastical notion of who gets to live, and who gets to die.
AB: So we have to come up with a grade for this movie. …
DR: I’m going to go with a B to a B-minus. I was entertained. I wasn’t surprised. There were some delightful parts, there were some parts that dragged on. I won’t see it again. I don’t think it was as good as “Rogue One.” I’d say it was better than “Prometheus,” or on par with it at least.
KS: I’m going to give it a B also. We’ve gotten to this point where there are boxes to check on these big sequels to keep the audience happy and keep them coming back. Ridley Scott checked a few that surprised me with a couple of characters. I thought Tennessee was kinda fun. I liked Daniels [played by Katherine Waterston]. And Michael Fassbender was more human than human. He was a great AI.
For me, a lot of these movies are about the believability of that point in time: Is this what 2104 is going to look like? Ridley Scott is the king. He did it with “Blade Runner” 30 years ago, with what was supposed to be 2019, and now he’s going to do it again with “Blade Runner 2049.” I like to get a really crazy idea of what space exploration should look like, and his movies do it.
AB: I’m going to go with B. I like the idea of trying to put it on the scale with other movies. Definitely not as good as “Rogue One,” maybe a little bit better than “Prometheus.” Better than “Passengers,” better than “Life.” You know what you’re going to get, though. I’m not sure how memorable it’s going to be compared with the first two “Alien” movies. To me, that says it’s not an A, and it’s not a C.
KS: Maybe the distance between movies makes us complacent. I think Ridley Scott needs to go somewhere else other than having the thing springing out of the pod and landing on your face. … But at least there’s no Jar Jar Binks in a Ridley Scott movie. Not yet.
Want more “Alien”? Besides the latest movie, you can watch a video clip that helps bridge the gap between “Prometheus” and “Alien: Covenant,” from the android David’s point of view; another clip that sets the stage for the action in “Alien: Covenant”; and a 360-degree virtual-reality video chronicling an alien’s gory birth … from the alien’s point of view.