Pensive Prowler #8 by Dmetri Kakmi
Alienating the Alien
Let’s not mistake this for a review of Ridley Scott’s Alien Covenant. It’s more of a free-wheeling jazz improvisation on what went through my benumbed brain as I watched the vaudevillian pantomime. It’s also full of spoilers. So I recommend you read it and save your pretty pennies for a rainy day.
I am obliged to add that I love Alien (1979) and I’m a hesitant admirer of James Cameron’s overlong and over-militarised Aliens (1986). The subsequent sequels are whipping a dead clotheshorse, particularly the prequel Prometheus (2012), Scott’s poncey incursion into the wrung-out franchise.
The first thing that must be said about Alien Covenant is that it’s supremely boring. It’s so dull and un-engaging, I felt as if the life was being sucked out of me by a paucity of ideas as I sat in a half daze, barely able to comprehend or care about what was happening on screen.
The words flatulent and pompous drifted around my head like the moons of Uranus during the opening scene. You know you’re in for a slog when a film opens with what appears to be an outtake from Prometheus.
‘Get on with it,’ I mumbled as Guy Pearce and Michael Fassbender had a chinwag about creation and god and music and mortality and tea in minimalist space adorned with great works of art. Prominent among them is Michelangelo’s David, his butt cheeks dangling before our eyes in the foreground of one shot as if he’s about to sit on Michael Fassbender’s face. Better than copping a face-hugger any day.
In the next scene we meet a bunch of starry-eyed colonists going off to ruin another planet. The problem with them is they’re so generic you don’t remember them seconds after they’re shredded by CGI monsters. The usually reliable Billy Cruddup in particular is so like-yeah-whatever he can barely articulate his lines, let alone bring some oomph to his chest-buster scene. Though the lead up to his big moment is genuinely funny.
I fell asleep at one stage and woke up during the best bit: Michael Fassbender performs a kind of G-rated self-suck by kissing himself. Or rather he kisses his android double, before pronouncing the film’s best line:
‘They don’t deserve to start again and I’m not going to let them.’
He’s talking about humans and he succeeds, thankfully.
Actually, that’s not the best part. The best part is James Franco’s early demise. This irritating man-child doesn’t even get a chance to step out of his cryogenic crib before he’s vaporised and jettisoned into outer space. The only time we see his smug mug is when his wife, a second-rate Sigourney Weaver tough-girl type, blubbers to hubby’s video messages. She dodged a bullet is all I can say.
From there on Alien Covenant announces its major theme. Turns out it’s not about something as lowly as slavering monsters munching on people. It’s about male procreation, free of women.
Très très homosexuelle, no, monsieur et madame?
I’m serious. Think about it: Ageing man (Guy Pearce) creates buff male android (Michael Fassbender) in pleasingly tight body suit that shows off perfectly sculpted glutes and pecs. Android bases himself on the homo par excellence, Lawrence of Arabia, turns against big daddy, regurgitates alien eggs and promises to be mother to a loathed and despised species.
If that’s not a queer parable, I don’t know what is. We’ve gone back to sky god Zeus giving birth to Athena by projecting her fully formed from his brow.
In space, it seems, no one can hear women become redundant.
The men in this film reminded me of self-fertilising worms. Or the ouroboros snake that swallows its own tail. No wonder the aliens resemble globular white slugs. There’s even two gay men in the crew. Living up to Hollywood tradition one is mangled early on and his partner gets acid blood sprayed over his face, as if he’s encountered an Islamist in deep space.
So much for diversity and inclusion.
As for the much-talked-about twist ending … well, it’s so lame only Ridley Scott won’t see it coming. The android Walter masquerades as the android David. Too spooky for film school. Oooh, the shiver that didn’t run down my spine. What I want to know is where did Fassbender find a barber and hair dye on that Vidal Sassoon forsaken planet?
I forgot to mention that I laughed aloud when a hooded figure appears out of nowhere to rescue the stranded journeymen. It was as if Alien had suddenly glommed onto Lard of the Rings and Legolas had come to save the film from itself.
You can tell I hated this, can’t you? The first Alien works because of the simplicity of the idea and the purity of execution. Covenant is so busy it forgets it’s a shriek-fest. Scott occasionally remembers and goes, ‘Oh, fuck, we better show the creature before the audience falls asleep.’ Too late!
An early teaser poster showed the alien with the word RUN under it. YAWN would have been more appropriate.
Anyway, I wrote to Ridley Scott and offered some suggestions for improvement.
Alien Covenant would be a better film if you consulted me.
My version is called Alien Convent. Instead of being about planetary settlers fighting hostile aliens (as if we haven’t seen that before), it’s about nuns versus aliens.
You heard right. The reboot needs naked nuns with guns.
Picture it: Ripley is Mother Superior in a convent for the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence. She’s trying to put the past behind her by settling down with Sister Bertrille from the The Flying Nun TV series. Things are going well until a new devotee arrives. But she is not what she appears. Turns out she’s Sister Ruth, the hot-pants nun from Black Narcissus (look it up) and she carries inside her a xenomorph bambino from a close encounter of the fourth kind in the Himalayan jungle. All hell breaks loose when the alien bursts out of Sister Ruth’s nether lips during a Sadean flagellation session in the basement and it’s on for young and old.
Tarantino could make a good fist of it, in more ways than one.
Dmetri Kakmi (Episode 158) is a writer and editor based in Melbourne, Australia. The memoir Mother Land was shortlisted for the New South Wales Premier’s Literary Awards in Australia; and is published in England and Turkey. His essays and short stories appear in anthologies and journals. You can find out more about him here.