Alien: Covenant (2017)

Viewed May 18th

A crew transporting colonists to a distant planet runs into a trouble with aliens and a familiar android. 

Following the dense but ultimately uninteresting mythology explored in Prometheus, its follow-up Alien: Covenant returns to the franchise's origins. Like the original Alien, it features a motley working class space crew facing-off against the existential horror of pure otherness in a series of suspenseful action sequences. And all of that circles around a quasi-philosophical theme. In the original film (the original four films really), you might label that theme "motherhood." Here the theme is the biblical struggle experienced by an advanced AI between duty and domination of humans, which it regards as inferior but oddly compelling. In the process, Covenant tries to keep what was interesting in Prometheus--the AI David played by Michael Fassbender--but ditch or at least minimize the whole thing about the creators of human beings beings other aliens (which I still can't wrap my head around). These all seem like the right moves, but the film still never quite comes together. It's oddly un-funny, even when it tries to be. I feel like when Ridley Scott was younger, he could pull off this kind of gritty, dick-swinging humor pretty well in a lot of his films including Alien, but as an older man, he seems to have lost touch with how human beings can be funny with each other. It's almost like an AI approximating humor. The most infuriating result is that they have this comedic talent in Danny McBride, but his performance comes across as awkwardly trapped between his comedic persona and something generically action-film-y. Furthermore, the more general humanness of all the connections are gestured at, but never feel authentic. Even a terrifically empathy-generating actor like Billy Crudup who has been killing every performance he's been in recently can't quite shape his character into a recognizable human personality. If the film just went full-on action craziness that would be one thing, but it doesn't--it is an idea-driven sci-fi film with philosophical pretensions about big topics like what it is to be human--but it never creates a compelling, reasonably realistic human world. Oh well. And as with McBride and Crudup, the talent of Michael Fassbender as the conflicted AI is never given enough strong material to shape the iconic character that he clearly could make.