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Alien: Covenant, Ridley Scott between philosophy and horror


- Ridley Scott's film, being released in theatres, narratively dovetails into the 1979 original. Action and splatter scenes may satisfy the tastes of young enthusiasts of the genre

Alien: Covenant, Ridley Scott between philosophy and horror
Michael Fassbender and Carmen Ejogo in Alien: Covenant

The good news is that Alien: Covenant [+see also:
film profile
is a lot better than the disaster that was Prometheus back in 2012. Ridley Scott’s film, which hits theatres in most European countries between this week and next one, is the first sequel to Prometheus. It will be followed by two more films, making up a trilogy dedicated to the origins of Alien, Scott’s 1979 masterpiece. In Covenant we see what happened to David (Michael Fassbender) and Dr. Elizabeth Shaw (Noomi Rapace) after the events of Prometheus, when the quest for the creators of humanity ended fatally. But the most important point is that narratively-speaking, Covenant ends at the precise moment that the original Alien begins, constituting its prequel, and pays tribute to it in a number of scenes. In this instalment of a franchise that has unfurled in a rather messy way (the words of James Cameron, the director of Aliens back in 1986), the crew of colony ship Covenant, making its way in 2041 towards a remote planet to be colonised on the other side of the galaxy, is caught up in a neutronic storm and attracted by a “musical” message (Take Me Home, Country Roads by John Denver!). They decide to take a diversion to visit what seems to be a hospitable planet, but is actually a rather threatening place. The planet’s only inhabitant is the droid David, a survivor of the Prometheus expedition. He is a less-perfect twin (with more impulses and human awareness) of Walter, who is part of the expedition. 

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Covenant is a notable mix of philosophy and horror. “The first thing Ridley said was ‘Let’s make a no-nonsense film off limits to minors, with a load of red, which is our way of saying ‘blood’”, said the Irish producer of the film, Mark Huffam. When the film speeds up, Scott doesn’t stint on action and splatter scenes, which should satisfy the palate of young enthusiasts. Lovers of a more contemplative form of sci-fi will instead perhaps not be satisfied at first by the combination of refined Italian aesthetics (the Carlo Bugatti armchair, the David di Donatello award, Piero della Francesca’s Nativity), the teutonic Wagnerian strength of the Entry of the Gods into Valhalla from Ring of the Nibelung, and biological-existential reflections of the type “where do we come from, where are we going?” in the meeting between the biomechanical Freudian meme (definition by Cameron) and his human creator Peter Wayland, played by Guy Pearce. The robotic Fassbender (David/Walter) resolves the dilemma with unhuman puckishness: “You’ll die, I won’t”. The screenplay is by John Logan (Gladiator, Hugo Cabret).

In the film, the rest of the cast lives up to the forefather to the film, which is about to turn 40. James Franco dies in the first 20 seconds, Billy Cudrup has just the right sort of ambiguous face, and female protagonist Katherine Waterson has all the charisma of a park bench on which Sigourney Weaver might one day sit.

Ridley Scott has announced that a screenplay for the sequel to Alien: Covenant, currently entitled Alien: Awakening, is ready, and that the film should go into pre-production in 2018. He also stated that Alien 5, written by South African director Neill Blomkamp (District 9) will never see the light of day. The reboot of the saga by Ellen Ripley, once again starring Sigourney Weaver as the lead, would have essentially cancelled out the events of Alien 3 and Alien: Resurrection, and would have ended the story differently.

The film is produced by British outfit Scott Free Productions (owned Ridley Scott) with US' Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation, Brandywine Productions and TSG Entertainment.

(Translated from Italian)

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