Alien Franchise (1979-?)

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jazzo
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Re: Alien Franchise (Scott/Cameron/Fincher/Jeunet, 1979-?)

#226 Post by jazzo » Tue Aug 08, 2017 12:34 pm

Just watched ALIEN: COVENANT last night and, like many above, absolutely hated it, at least as much as I hated PROMETHEUS (ALIEN: PROMETHEUS?). I don't want to heap onto the already large heap of criticism of both those films, which would be both repetitive and redundant, but I will add that, in general, I find modern Ridley Scott an ugly filmmaker.

For context, I’ve loved ALIEN and BLADE RUNNER since seeing them in the early ‘80's, (at probably far too young an age for either). But I do agree that he's never really been an auteur, though those two films have garnered him a great deal of caché as one over the years, especially from genre fans (who don’t have the best critical faculties). But examining the rest of his filmography, I am hard-pressed to find reasons why. Ridley Scott has an adoptive style that, at best, occasionally suits the material he's working with, but not a “voice”. And for those two films (a haunted house in outer space and melancholic sci-fi take on confronting one’s sense of self and mortality), there was stateliness to his compositions, editing and storytelling, where he wasn't concerned about changing the angle every three seconds, and trusted the audience to connect some of the tissue themselves so that things could be a little more implicit than explicit.

I also loved the sense of working-class camaraderie in ALIEN (and ALIENS, for that matter) that doesn’t seem to exist in any of his other films. All of the characters had a sense of connection and history, almost feeling like one of Barry Levinson’s “Baltimore films” in space for the first third of the picture.

Mostly, though, Ridley delivers drivel.

I still really like THE DUELLISTS and, oddly-enough, BLACKHAWK DOWN, which (politics of the film aside) captures, for me, a sense of chaos in combat that is second only to the opening sequence of SAVING PRIVATE RYAN. I find THE COUNSELOR a big-budget fusion of unchecked ego and outsider art, and almost breathtaking in its ineptitude. It really is a train wreck, but, admittedly, a fascinating one, unlike something like AMERICAN GANGSTER, which had a similar amount of talent and money behind it, but was so unambitious and by-the-numbers that it became, over the course of its excessive runtime, one of the dullest things I've ever sat through in a theatre, and just made me angrier and angrier as I was watching it.

I suppose I'm jumping all over the place here, but essentially, the guy's a hack with no discernable style except for "slick". He’s an ad man who got lucky and just seemed to have the right sensibilities for two genre films to hit at just the right time, and his career trajectory owes everything to timing. But somehow he now believes he has something important to say, too. David Fincher, who comes from a similar background, makes better Ridley Scott films than Ridley Scott, because at least he has a r self-aware, cynical sense of humour that pushes him to deconstruct things and create something new with the results.

Neither of the Scott brothers have ever been particularly emotional filmmakers, so when they attempt to connect with that element in a story, it often comes off as awkward and hollow. I despise most of Ridley's most "important" work (like THELMA & LOUISE and GLADIATOR [every time I hear that film's title, I can only think of THE DEER HUNTER joke about the happy Roman] and THE MARTIAN. I actually found it quite funny that Ridley took such umbrage at THE MARTIAN being categorized as a comedy/musical during awards season when, to me, with all its crowd-pleasing musical montages and comedy pratfalls, it was entirely those things when it wasn't being a schmaltzy mess that misses every emotional beat it should be hitting.

The things I did like about his filmmaking (like slowing the pace down than most genre pictures are ever allowed to, and having an appreciation and articulation of actual design and practical effects), have all but vanished from his work. Everything is green-screened now and, from what I can tell, lazily “fixed in post”. The digital effects have no weight, and even something as simple as a spaceship floating above a planet looks cheap to me in Ridley Scott films these days, which is the exact opposite of how I feel about BLADE RUNNER and ALIEN. Those films are both super fucking heavy with iron and rock and water. There's no rhyme or reason to most of Ridley’s shot selection. The camera never moves organically in scenes anymore, and simply does things because they can technically be done now. His new mantra for film design just seems to be regurgitation of his old design (but, with a twist!).

I don’t think I’m being hard on him - at least any harder than I am on James Cameron, who, (to tie this all back to the thread), also only has two films that I love (TERMINATOR and ALIENS), a couple of deeply-flawed ones that I probably admire more than I like (T2 and THE ABYSS), and then just a steady stream of garbage, no matter their individual technical achievements - but as long as he keeps putting his work out there to be consumed and keeps on blathering on like a bitter old asshole smoking his cigars in press junkets, I think it’s entirely fair for me to finish with this thought:

When Tony Scott committed suicide, my initial reaction was to dismiss him as the less-talented brother, and that it was no great loss. This was the director of TOP GUN and DAYS OF THUNDER for Chrissakes – two films I have always found unbearable to sit through, even though I have multiple times over the years. But going through the various career retrospectives that accompanied the news, I realized that I have enjoyed exactly the same number of Tony Scott films in my life as Ridley’s.

Four. (THE HUNGER, THE LAST BOY SCOUT, TRUE ROMANCE and CRIMSON TIDE, for those who care).

He may have been the less-respected brother, but I think it could be argued that Tony had a much stronger filmmaking voice than his brother. It evolved, and became more jittery/elliptical/annoying, but at least he could say that it was his, and that there was a consistency there that Ridley has never had, nor ever will have.

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Re: Alien Franchise (Scott/Cameron/Fincher/Jeunet, 1979-?)

#227 Post by calculus entrophy » Tue Aug 08, 2017 12:53 pm

Not to criticize the criticism here, but I too was disappointed in Prometheus, haven't seen Covenant. However, Ridley Scott is consistently inconsistent. I've respected him for what I thought he was TRYING to do within the confines of Hollywood, even when/if it failed.

Perhaps it makes him uneven, but I see Ridley as more of a transformational ( Blade Runner and Alien, Apple/1984) artist than a conservative dependable one, even if it comes across as incompetence at times (and certainly recently).

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Re: Alien Franchise (Scott/Cameron/Fincher/Jeunet, 1979-?)

#228 Post by colinr0380 » Sat Sep 23, 2017 8:13 pm

"It's wheat. And I know wheat"

Major spoilers:

OK, the following post is going to seem crazy given all the resoundingly (and understandable) negative reviews that Alien: Covenant is getting. I want you all to know that I sympathise to a large extent! And I may just be writing this post at the optimal possible time (as with Prometheus), that of immediately following my first viewing of the film. Unlike Prometheus though, which seemed smart at first then more and more silly on further viewings, Alien: Covenant doesn't even pretend to have profound characters who later on seem dumb. They're idiots from the very first impression they make!

God help me though, I think its kind of brilliantly subversive! Alien: Covenant (I keep wanting to call it Alien: Convent, which could also be appropriate! That or Alien: Genocide! Alien: Advent Children?) hates its human characters to the point that the film itself is actively showing them to be the biggest bunch of bumbling, incompetent, risk taking, rule flounting, egg peering, rope swinging idiots as possible. And while I think a lot of people have been (understandably!) infuriated by this to the point of wanting Ridley Scott to stop making films altogether, it really seems that this utter stupidity and incompetence on the part of the human characters is fully intended by the film. Probably to remove our engagement with any of the characters so much that we end up celebrating the uber-villain of the piece's horrific triumph! (And I'd really thought that the uber-villain would be Shaw, but it makes a wickedly twisted kind of sense that such an inhuman film wouldn't want a human being to be at the centre of the story)

As soon as the first major alien sequence of the film occurred in the landing ship with a character so dumb they (1) lock someone in a room with a monster to run off to the bridge to scream pointlessly into the coms link, then (2) break whatever 'quarantine' they might have been trying to maintain by opening the door only after the monster has killed the person, then (3) slips on a pool of blood and fires their weapon into the ceiling, then (4) injures themselves by trapping their foot in the door as they try to escape back out of the room again, then (5) indiscriminately fires a weapon around the interior of the ship until (6) the whole ship explodes, burning them alive (with the character shown tumbling out of the landing ramp on fire in the background of the scene as if in an ironic punchline! I half expected them to get up and start running through the wheat field, starting a huge fire, then explode in a shower of alien spores to just cap it all off!), then we're not talking about Mensa-level characters here!

But you (arguably) can't have a scene like that and not know what you are doing! This retrospectively makes the characters from Prometheus seem careful and cautious! And whilst no other characters reach quite that level of gob smacking hilarious slapstick, they all have their own individual moments of sublime stupidity! From an audience perspective we are kept distanced enough from the human characters to see just how expendable they are, either as fodder for aliens or unwitting facilitators for plans that are far beyond their comprehension. Or both! Just getting an inkling of the forbidden plans of 'the Creator', working on a different level of consciousness to the workaday one which the crew of the Covenant are on (that's also I think why the crew are so uninteresting as a whole with few defining or interesting characteristics beyond a couple seeming religious and one wearing a cowboy hat), is enough to mark one forever, or at least for death! Once David arrives on the scene its all about him, and we get a succession of repetitive scenes of him taking one character after another into a back room, describing how dastardly his plans are, and then watching the person he's unburdened himself on die! (That's David's tragedy in some senses, that he has nobody to share his achievements and knowledge with, as they're all dead! He just cannot help himself from using his potential disciples as research subjects/incubators!)

Daniels comes across here as a pale imitation of Shaw (in fact Daniels is worse as Shaw knew that preventing the virus/aliens from spreading was more important than the lives of anyone on the Prometheus, even hers. Whilst Daniels and the rest of the crew have no compunction at all about putting the entire colony ship in danger in order to be rescued. There is a point when there are just the two of you left where it might have been better, or at least nobler, to have told the ship to leave without you!), just as Walter is more obviously a somewhat degraded copy of David, and David knows it in the way that he talks of his 'love' for Shaw being equivalent of Walter's for Daniels (which is probably a projection more than anything, especially since we see Walter simply doing his job and checking the sleeping crew's vital statistics in the early scene of the film, compared to David invasively 'dream viewing' Shaw by intruding into her dreams in the equivalent early scene of Prometheus).

I kind of thought the action scenes only emphasised the contempt with which David, and the film itself, sees them. The action scenes are tied to the human characters and whether they live or die, succeed or fail, run down this corridor or the other one, any terrible fate or little victory is entirely pointless in the big scheme of things. Its probably why the whole final act is full of overblown to the point of ludicrously silly set pieces repurposed from Aliens: knocking the alien around with a big mechanical arm (the rope swinging bit, with Shaw almost swinging herself into the exhaust of the lander felt both like a homage to the ending of Alien and similar to that moment of the over confident guy in the Star Trek reboot getting himself ironically incinerated!) and then the final Alien3 style luring into a facsimile of the cargo bay decompression sequence from Aliens feel like they are Ridley Scott's brutally cruel riposte to James Cameron's action-film take on the universe (though Aliens elements show as early on as the landing ship detachment and trip to the planet's surface and the sideplot deaths of the crew in the lander to isolate the rest on the planet) by having the characters run about, mouth one liners when they should be getting the hell out of there, and instead of Ripley triumphantly pulling herself hand over hand out of the airlock, we get that hilariously undermining shot of Daniels popping her head up to show that she's OK, giving a goofy, wan smile! I love Aliens but I get the impression that Ridley Scott really doesn't!

(I kind of love that moment of Walter/David watching on the monitor when the alien is finally blown out of the airlock, which is hilarious in suggesting he's incredulous that they managed to survive being killed by his creation and that he's wondering just what exactly he has to do to get rid of Daniels!)

It is impossible to really take any of the action scenes seriously, and I really don't think that we are meant to. Which is probably why audiences come away from this film feeling angry and betrayed, as the spectacle is undermined so thoroughly that it feels pointless. None of it is about David, and he's the only important character here. His is the only important ongoing story element. And the film kind of needs him for the story to have had any point to it at all, as without that twist ending, that whole adventure on the planet would just have been a funny story to tell the colonists when they woke up on the new planet ("You'll never guess what happened! This guy's back exploded! And we blew up our only shuttle back to the main ship! But it was all OK in the end! By the way, we're all out of body bags") I found the final section of the film very amusing for the way that after all of their experiences on the planet, everything gets back to normal so quickly, Daniels is back making pancakes and there's a potential relationship with Tennessee there to compensate for both of their partners having been burnt to a crisp! (And I kind of love that the final realisation of David having taken Walter's place comes about because he doesn't react to Daniels recalling a previous conversation with Walter about building a log cabin on the new world! So in a way the slightly schmaltzy 'character building' stuff to flesh out Daniels's character is kind of only there to reveal the ultimate horror at the end of the film! All the human beings get ironically betrayed by the heavy handed character traits brought in to 'humanise' them, including the religious martyr/terrible middle manager figure (if only in his own mind) getting that literalised. Or guy wandering off for a smoke break being the first to get a particularly virulent form of internal disease)

Speaking of viewing the human characters with contempt, this is probably the reason for the hilariously cruel 'wandered in from a slasher film' sex scene in the shower turned gory death sequence in the final act, which feels like the ultimate meta-parody of a terrible horror film cliche! (It even has the alien extendable mouth smashing through the back of the guy's skull and out through his own mouth! The only thing missing here would have been for it to have been in 3D!) When I saw that moment in the trailer I was worried that Ridley Scott had lost the plot somewhat if he was turning to the hoariest old trick in the horror handbook, but in combination with everything else that occurred, that scene was just the cherry on top of the cake! And the other biggest flashing sign that nobody should be really caring about the human beings here, as they're certainly not doing anything new or interesting! (And also it makes some sense being there to tie into David's philosophy about humanity being doomed to extinction, as an amusingly blunt form of interrupting the (slower) human breeding cycle in mid-flow!)

Going into this film wanting to care about the crew of the Covenant seems to be entirely the wrong thing to do here. The worst thing about this film is that we have to spend so much Prometheus-like time re-covering old ground of meeting the new crew ("Now coming with new cowboy hat accessory!"), getting them to the planet and exploring, getting them infected and having them run around a bit. David is clearly the major character here, albeit entirely insane with a God complex (and a much more perfected set of Peter O'Toole mannerisms developed over the ten years since Prometheus!), and the film seems to take his perspective on events (a bit callously aloof like Dr Manhattan in Watchmen! Which of course has its own genocidal character self-aggrandisingly referring to themselves as a new Ozymandias in it). He's the only character with any particular interesting purpose - he's an artificial being who has artificially wiped out and then re-seeded life in his own image on a planet, then is 'gifted' an artificial colony to kickstart his new race from scratch with. Which only underlines his own hypocrisy in complaining about the arrogance of humans to think they deserve a second chance on another world after having ruined their original one!

I think what I really want from a sequel to this (and I really do want Ridley Scott to continue with these films, as I'm fascinated by what is happening here. Even if simultaneously a bit appalled too!) is to have it go entirely abstract and remove the human element altogether from the next film. Have it entirely from David's perspective experimenting on his colonists. Take big narrative leaps and be unafraid to go into really dark territory, even if it runs the risk of alienating audiences even more. Drop the action scenes and make it about something more internal, like David's relationship with the aliens. We know he has to meet his end some way, that he is just as cavalier about his ability to communicate with the aliens as he was in Prometheus (though he keeps his head somewhat here! But for someone with a lot of firsthand experience of aloof, seemingly all knowing yet fatally flawed father figures dying, it seems asking for trouble to become the father himself to the xenomorphs!) and his character has been built up into too big of a monster to be left without some really satisfying comeuppance at some point down the road. I guess what I'm saying is that I want the Voyage of Time to this film's Knight of Cups!

Its difficult to say that I'd casually recommend Alien: Covenant, as I only think that its appreciable on that kind of meta-level (approached 'normally' or without a sense of black humour its easy to write it off as just being atrociously written!), but I think this hatred of the human characters retroactively validates some of the stupidity on display in Prometheus too! It was all (I hope [-o< ) part of the master plan! Similarly I still love the morbid mythology being built up, which is by far the most successful and unique aspect of both these entries, even if its all continually backgrounded for far less interesting plots about interchangeable crews getting killed off by monsters and their own idiocy in equal parts! (Thinking of it, a really brilliant end for David would not be someone besting him but if the human beings continued to act just as head slappingly stupidly as they always have but it stopped working in his favour! That they'd blunder about and more by luck than judgement cause David some real trouble! Its slightly hinted at getting there in the final 'victory' (before the twist) in Covenant, but currently he's always enormously helped rather than hindered by extra people getting facehugged, or inadvisedly wandering off to have a wash at the worst possible time!)
Last edited by colinr0380 on Mon Oct 16, 2017 2:51 pm, edited 20 times in total.

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Re: Alien Franchise (Scott/Cameron/Fincher/Jeunet, 1979-?)

#229 Post by Big Ben » Sat Sep 23, 2017 9:47 pm

It's quite interesting that you mention spectacle Colin because that's really what Covenant felt like to me. I mean it looked nice but then again I've found Scott's films to at least look above average conistently. My personal problem is that they quite often doesn't match up in every other department.

Being born in 1991 pop culture had already absorbed the Xenomorph and disseminated countless parodies before I finally saw it my Junior year of High School. What sticks out to me and every time I've seen it since then is that when I think of it ALL of it works. The performances, the spectacles and the plot. I can only imagine what a shock it was for audiences in 1979 seeing the sexually charged imagery of the Xenomorph for the first time. And that's where a lot of where it begins to wear off for me. Studios just can't get enough and begin to saturate the market with more and more product and eventually said beastie is no longer upsetting but a well known image in culture. All my rambling leads me to my main point "I just don't think, personally that there's much to tell about the Aliens anymore. The story has become far too big and a lot of the novelty has worn off."

Covenant felt, to me, to be Ridley Scott saying "Yeah let's do another one." Scott made it because he could not because the mythos needed expanding.

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Re: Alien Franchise (Scott/Cameron/Fincher/Jeunet, 1979-?)

#230 Post by Cameron Swift » Sun Sep 24, 2017 12:39 am

colinr0380 wrote: As soon as the first major alien sequence of the film occurred in the landing ship with a character so dumb they (1) lock someone in a room with a monster to run off to the bridge to scream pointlessly into the coms link, then (2) break whatever 'quarantine' they might have been trying to maintain by opening the door only after the monster has killed the person, then (3) slips on a pool of blood and fires their weapon into the ceiling, then (4) injures themselves by trapping their foot in the door as they try to escape back out of the room again, then (5) indiscriminately fires a weapon around the interior of the ship until (6) the whole ship explodes, burning them alive (with the character shown tumbling out of the landing ramp on fire in the background of the scene as if in an ironic punchline! I half expected them to get up and start running through the wheat field, starting a huge fire, then explode in a shower of alien spores to just cap it all off!), then we're not talking about Mensa-level characters here!
I love this review Colin, but especially enjoyed the quoted paragraph. The bizarre thing is that's it not once but twice that characters slip in a puddle of blood at crucial moments in that scene! It played like Scott paying homage to the Keystone Kops.

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Re: Alien Franchise (Scott/Cameron/Fincher/Jeunet, 1979-?)

#231 Post by colinr0380 » Sun Sep 24, 2017 3:37 am

Thanks! What's worse is the first slip up works as a tiny, horrific and darkly funny yet real feeling moment of things going from bad to worse. Whilst the second one is just head slappingly dumb!

I think though that there is something fascinatingly larger going on with the doubling theme here. Of course Walter and David is the most obvious doubling element along with everyone else being in a relationship, but there are two spore-infected people, two facehugged characters, two slips on blood, two attacks by the creature on the doctor locked in the room (one where she briefly manages to fend it off and the follow up where the alien is successful), two washing scenes that end in a death, two cryotube horror moments, two facehugger embryos placed in storage, etc, etc. And in almost every case the first is impactful on your standard action-horror terms as a narrative or action element (but unsurprisingly, generically so) and then the second almost immediately 'ruins' it by being about an irrelevant death tossed away (see just how many times we return to different characters discovering that floating decapitated head in the aftermath of the first washing scene with the shot lingered on compared to how we barely even see the result of the carnage after the shower scene on the ship. The same with the two spore victims) or a victory undermined. The film itself is constantly setting up clichés and almost immediately underlining how degraded and ridiculous they are with an even cruder (or faster, or less clearly shown) copy.

(I was also amused at the idea that if This Is The End had been made post-Alien: Covenant that there would have to be a scene in there in which James Franco and Danny McBride would use their roles in Alien: Covenant in a one-upmanship argument that would end with: "Well at least I managed to get out of the bloody cryotube to even be in the film in the first place! You couldn't be bothered to wake up!")
Last edited by colinr0380 on Tue Sep 26, 2017 5:35 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Alien Franchise (Scott/Cameron/Fincher/Jeunet, 1979-?)

#232 Post by Murdoch » Tue Sep 26, 2017 4:26 pm

For me, the most egregious aspect of Alien: Covenant was that this group of scientists, responsible for transporting thousands of people, would decide not only is it a good idea to go into a completely unfamiliar world and ditch said thousands of people with Danny McBride, but also do so without any form of protective bodysuit! Even in Prometheus they're smart enough to not venture out into this unknown world without some form of protection. Maybe at this point in time, humanity has eradicated all diseases to the point that no one thinks of possible foreign pathogens.

I did rather enjoy how the film couldn't care less about giving us the names of half of its crew, basically throwing its hands up in the air and saying, "Who cares? You know what's going to happen to them!" I will, however, applaud its attempt to cram its poorly conceived creation mythos into what is essentially a bad horror movie (complete with sudden sex/shower murder scene!). It's such a mess of a film that I rather enjoyed how unremarkable it was.

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Re: Alien Franchise (Scott/Cameron/Fincher/Jeunet, 1979-?)

#233 Post by tenia » Tue Sep 26, 2017 4:30 pm

I always thought Prometheus was extremely dumb already, so reading Covenant is even way dumbed isn't really reassuring.
On the other hand, it also means I'll probably get quite a good amount of laughs out of it.

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Re: Alien Franchise (Scott/Cameron/Fincher/Jeunet, 1979-?)

#234 Post by colinr0380 » Tue Sep 26, 2017 5:17 pm

Murdoch wrote:For me, the most egregious aspect of Alien: Covenant was that this group of scientists, responsible for transporting thousands of people, would decide not only is it a good idea to go into a completely unfamiliar world and ditch said thousands of people with Danny McBride, but also do so without any form of protective bodysuit! Even in Prometheus they're smart enough to not venture out into this unknown world without some form of protection. Maybe at this point in time, humanity has eradicated all diseases to the point that no one thinks of possible foreign pathogens.
Though they make mention of it having only being ten years since the Prometheus 'disappeared' without trace (which also implies that nobody got Shaw's final message warning away from that previous LV planet!) and as you say they were very fond of keeping spacesuits on at all times there, at least until the husband recklessly took his helmet off (which sort of anticipated him being infected, albeit by different methods, later on). Its perhaps another example of the film having already 'dealt with' the stupidity of taking your spacesuit off on an alien planet issue in the earlier film, so they can just jump straight to wandering around unprotected without comment!

The strangest thing about the film is that it is consistently calling out its characters about doing the stupid things, then they do it anyway. The decision to go down to the surface gets a token scene of the heroine objecting to the new captain about diverting away from all of the careful preparations of the core mission (its becoming a standard trope in sci-fi films, as I think almost exactly the same type of debate scene occurred in Danny Boyle's Sunshine about going off on a tangent to explore what happened to the previous crew). Its enough to acknowledge how stupid they are being in the larger scheme of things, but still not enough to satisfyingly mitigate stopping off on an unknown planet that 'just appeared on the map', especially when the stakes are so high and there is a bigger obligation to the colonists that is getting ignored throughout (in some ways the crew of the Covenant are similar to the crew of the Betty in Alien: Resurrection, unwittingly transporting people to their meetings with alien eggs, just writ on an even larger scale).

That's what gives me a vain hope that its portrayal of the human characters is intentionally dumb in service of some greater point being made, although it might just be wishful thinking! I mean even the ship itself (with the voice of the 'Mother' computer from Alien) tries to stop the humans from doing stupid things like taking the entire colony ship containing thousands of people to a dangerously low level above the alien planet and below the level of a raging storm, only to get overruled by the cowboy chap! (And backed up with secondary confirmation just after another doubling scene of members of the flight crew briefly raising legitimate concerns about the plan, who get overruled themselves and then provide the necessary back up against the computer!) Just to rescue a dozen people, no ten... now its eight...oops, four (but two are twins)...two...

(By the way in the commentary Ridley Scott said that Danny McBride wears the cowboy hat to be a small tribute to Slim Pickens in Dr Strangelove! Which makes sense as he does end up riding that cargo loader all the way down to the planet!)

Its a very strange film and I can totally understand why fans of the earlier Alien films are worried in a Star Wars prequel kind of way about the effect that all of this is having on the reputation of the original film, but still at least Alien: Covenant is unsatisfying in a strangely fascinating way! (In Ridley Scott film comparison terms it feels more as if it is taking its cues, at least tonally, less from Alien than from the brutally black humoured The Counsellor!) It might just have been revisiting Tobe Hooper recently that accidentally prepared me for Alien: Covenant, but if Alien was the equivalent of "The Texas Chain Saw Massacre in space", Alien: Covenant is Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 in space!
Last edited by colinr0380 on Wed Oct 04, 2017 4:00 am, edited 2 times in total.

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Re: Alien Franchise (Scott/Cameron/Fincher/Jeunet, 1979-?)

#235 Post by J Adams » Sun Oct 01, 2017 11:43 pm

This far in the future spacecraft will not contain human beings.

We are 20ish years away from almost universally driverless cars; ditto pilotless planes.

I have no idea when the Star Wars movies purport to take place, but with that technology, human beings would not be in those spacecraft.

Extensive analysis of human behavior in 2xxx space travel is rather pointless.

Don't understand either the Prometheus or Covenant hate. If you are looking for rational human behavior, go watch some boring Richard Linklater movie. Except then you get arch dialogue that no human would utter IRL. Last time I checked, movies very rarely reflect how people actually behave. Thank God.

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Re: Alien Franchise (Scott/Cameron/Fincher/Jeunet, 1979-?)

#236 Post by Zot! » Mon Oct 02, 2017 3:19 am

J Adams wrote:This far in the future spacecraft will not contain human beings.

We are 20ish years away from almost universally driverless cars; ditto pilotless planes.

I have no idea when the Star Wars movies purport to take place, but with that technology, human beings would not be in those spacecraft.

Extensive analysis of human behavior in 2xxx space travel is rather pointless.

Don't understand either the Prometheus or Covenant hate. If you are looking for rational human behavior, go watch some boring Richard Linklater movie. Except then you get arch dialogue that no human would utter IRL. Last time I checked, movies very rarely reflect how people actually behave. Thank God.
Wow, in a few scant paragraphs you have utterly invalidated the entire scifi genre...and realistic dramaturgy in toto, while somehow dragging Linklater into it. Star Wars famously takes place a "long time ago", so luckily I can still enjoy Indiana Jones and a Sasquatch in deep space without worrying why they dont just take an Uber.

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Re: Alien Franchise (Scott/Cameron/Fincher/Jeunet, 1979-?)

#237 Post by colinr0380 » Mon Oct 02, 2017 3:30 am

That unimportance of the human element is why its a bit amusing to listen to Ridley Scott's (I'm hoping brilliantly straight faced) commentary on this, which seems to run contrary to any sensible reaction to the film! Such as the point where he talks a lot about how all of these characters represent the best and brightest, and that only the smartest people would have been picked to do these kinds of jobs (whilst they're doing silly things in the film running underneath the commentary) and has a bit of a discussion about the Elon Musk-style concerns about the issues presented by unaccountable A.I., even whilst the humans are the unstable elements! That unpredictability would seem to be the thing that defines human beings, slightly celebrated in the final scene between Shaw and David in Prometheus but only seen as a liability in Alien: Covenant as there seems like the unstated theme that A.I. probably do a better job than the humans do at this stage (at least at the basic tasks of maintaining life!), unless like David they've been made 'too human' with all the associated neuroses and ambitions, twisted by their upbringing into messianic megalomaniacs wanting to artificially breed a new form of life, as Daddy did! (The legacy of a classical education, I suppose!)
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Re: Alien Franchise (Scott/Cameron/Fincher/Jeunet, 1979-?)

#238 Post by willoneill » Mon Oct 02, 2017 8:16 am

J Adams wrote:I have no idea when the Star Wars movies purport to take place ...
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Re: Alien Franchise (Scott/Cameron/Fincher/Jeunet, 1979-?)

#239 Post by lacritfan » Mon Oct 02, 2017 10:43 am

J Adams wrote:This far in the future spacecraft will not contain human beings.
The gold people in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 got it right. :D

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Re: Alien Franchise (Scott/Cameron/Fincher/Jeunet, 1979-?)

#240 Post by J Adams » Mon Oct 02, 2017 12:34 pm

All sci-fi films, taking place in space, that purport to occur 100 or whatever years from now ARE inherently implausible if humans are flying that stuff. That may be why 2001:ASO continues to attract audiences and respect, because the existence of humans on the Jupiter Mission seems plausible at that time. Just think about Alien. Why are ANY of the characters homo sapiens. My basic point is that analyzing a sci-fi film OF THIS TYPE based on what people would really do seems somewhat pointless. Just accept the situation they are in and don't over-analyze the reality of it. It's just a fantasy or, in the hands of a better filmmaker, an allegory, metaphor or onomatopoeia.

The bad Alien movies are 2 (to a degree) and 4 (haven't seen 3). The prequels are fine. They look good and make some attempt to explain how we got to Alien.

Oh, and thanks for reminding me that Star Wars took place a long time ago, when there was no technology to fly spacecraft across galaxies or whatever. On further reflection, those films make Cassavetes look like Peter Jackson.

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Re: Alien Franchise (Scott/Cameron/Fincher/Jeunet, 1979-?)

#241 Post by cdnchris » Mon Oct 02, 2017 2:45 pm

Uh, it's in a different galaxy "far far away" meaning nowhere near Earth and meaning the galaxy is more than likely older and more advanced since they can travel in space.

I'm not a sci-fi nut but that still seemed pretty clear.

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Re: Alien Franchise (Scott/Cameron/Fincher/Jeunet, 1979-?)

#242 Post by Mr Sausage » Mon Oct 02, 2017 3:31 pm

J Adams wrote:It's just a fantasy or, in the hands of a better filmmaker, an [...] onomatopoeia.
Isn't this exclusively a linguistic phenomenon?

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Re: Alien Franchise (Scott/Cameron/Fincher/Jeunet, 1979-?)

#243 Post by Forrest Taft » Mon Oct 02, 2017 3:38 pm

Not in the not-so-distant-future of Alien: Covenant.

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Re: Alien Franchise (Scott/Cameron/Fincher/Jeunet, 1979-?)

#244 Post by matrixschmatrix » Mon Oct 02, 2017 8:54 pm

Wait if there are no humans in spacecraft in this theoretical future, like... how will we get to other places? We already have extensive unmanned space travel.

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Re: Alien Franchise (Scott/Cameron/Fincher/Jeunet, 1979-?)

#245 Post by J Adams » Tue Oct 03, 2017 1:05 am

Oops Alien: Covenant takes place in 2104 so I'm changing my 100-year rule to 80 give or take.

And we aren't going to other places. If Matt Damon can't deal with Mars long-term, no-one can. But even if we are, the Nostromo was not a colonization project and should have been manned by AI.

Semi-seriously, I do believe that Ridley Scott is one of the very few mega-commercial filmmakers that actually makes interesting films. He seems compelled to develop Alien prequels, although I'm not sure how many more will be financeable.

Alien is a perfect film. Alien 2 was a dumb action movie directed by one of the worst hacks in Hollywood history--his only useful contribution to cinema was writing Strange Days. But since the original Alien is the only film in the series I somewhat care about, I am interested in how we got there.

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Re: Alien Franchise (Scott/Cameron/Fincher/Jeunet, 1979-?)

#246 Post by colinr0380 » Tue Oct 03, 2017 3:25 am

The other thing that is going to force people to entrust their lives to A.I. is the sheer distances involved in space travel. It will be the only thing that could reliably sustain life over incredibly long distances. Its the one area that the Alien films (even Alien: Covenant. And its the central theme of that recent film Passengers) get right, in showing that even if there are concerns about leaving your safety entirely in the hands of technology it really is the only way to be able to make the bulk of such voyages even before the interim 'flight crew' team get woken up to do the finessing final parts of the journey.

Kim Stanley Robinson's Aurora dealt with this to some extent in the return trip back to Earth that some of the colonists have to take which involves everyone having to go into deep sleep for the more than a hundred year voyage, at least if any of them want to live to see Earth with their own eyes (as compared to the outward emigratory journey where it was intended that the original generations never see their destination of Aurora and instead new generations are born and brought up en route to keep the ship running to its final destination. Perhaps the real issue in that story is that they get to Aurora too soon, when there are still people with memories and a longing to return to Earth still alive and wanting to return!). Even then the stresses of cryosleep and even extremely slowed down aging process still mean some still don't make it. And that's all before we get into the Interstellar issue that you are the same age but the universe and everyone else in it has aged 100 years and moved on in the interim so now everything is alien, even your point of origin!

That's perhaps the most successful additional thing that Alien: Covenant, with its cryotube-horror bookends and thousands of faceless colonists hanging like racks of frozen meat in storage, brings to the franchise - that its fully recognising the inherent vulnerability of a cryopod and its occupant to being interfered with, and the high tech coffin-like nature of the tube itself. Though in some ways it has always been there under the surface with David tapping into Shaw's dreams in Prometheus, and particularly in the depressive opening of Alien3, which are kind of both about the same kind of nightmare of having been unconsciously violated (whilst the facehuggers are doing the conscious violating). The opening title sequence of Alien3 is particularly audaciously horrific because both Alien and Aliens end with the cryosleep being their final image, showing Ripley and her cat Jonesey, or Ripley and Newt in a kind of beatific state of a well earned 'sleep of the just', where the characters can finally rest after everything they have been through.
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In Alien: Covenant we get Tennessee already out (like Hicks) and Daniels about to settle down for her own untroubled 'sleep of the just' when she just has to talk about that farm again to Walter, which collapses the fantasy just at the moment she's sent into stasis, to be trapped in her realisation for the rest of her time there.

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Re: Alien Franchise (Scott/Cameron/Fincher/Jeunet, 1979-?)

#247 Post by tenia » Tue Oct 03, 2017 9:42 am

There's an issue in how Covenant handles that somehow, though.
In a way, there is NO problem with the AI used in Covenant, except when the movie decides there is, but Walter is very much fine, and Mother can be bypassed in just 10 seconds of suspense (the worst kind, obviously). If the human crew wasn't so conveniently stupid, they would have reached their new planet without hassle.

More generally speaking, one of the issue with Prometheus, and then Covenant, is that they have nothing new or interesting to offer. They're mediocre movies that aren't only mediocre but are also 30 years late on their take on robotics and AI.
But that alone isn't so much the only issue : it's also that Scott himself doesn't seem to know where he's going exactly : it seems like it's a simplistic take on creation, robots and life, but then, it seems a discussion over predators and what happens when humans used to be at the top of the food chain aren't there anymore.
Yet, in the end, all this doesn't matter because we're thrown the stupidest scientists (the kind which throws away a whole well-planned mission just on a hunch) and a robot on robot battle which would feel better at home in a Matrix sequel.
Oh, and the movie can't even get a new beast right and can't give it twice in a row the same exit path from its host, because who cares, right ?

It just feels like Scott went mad, managed to secure a huge budget, and then took all the wrong decision, putting monsters in the light for no reason except showing how poor CGIs can be even in a $170M blockbuster, having the most awful kind of digital photography, all that for what ?

Doing the same thing Rob Zombie tried to do with Michael Myers : "Nobody asked me, but I'm still going to take away all the mystery that was most of the fun, and explain to you through 3 stupid overlong movies some origins you never really wanted to know."
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I'm also particularly surprised by how Scott thought somehow it would emotionally efficient to throw a random "dead lover" scene, 5 minutes in Covenant, in a very heavy-handed way, before presenting us the woman whose emotions we're suppose to care about. None of this is working, and it's actually quite the opposite becaue it all feels extremely superficial, and manipulative, and poorly written overall.

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Re: Alien Franchise (Scott/Cameron/Fincher/Jeunet, 1979-?)

#248 Post by J Adams » Wed Oct 04, 2017 1:11 am

I'd be interested to hear what people think are successful movies about AI.

And sorry to repeat, but AI will be running our cars and planes by 2050 if not earlier. So the only reason to have humans in a radiation bombarded spacecraft traveling for many years to their destination is because something is wrong with Earth. For example, if okra can no longer be grown, I would expect the entire planet to board the next ship to planet X237.

And, again, there is no reason for humans to be in warships/warplanes at any time post 2050ish.

Hibernation has been used too many times. Not sure if it is scientifically plausible.

The reason that humans are shipped en masse to other planets is rarely plausibly explained. E.g. the Chris Pratt movie. It seems to be a device to get us to care, because we don't care about AI.

And don't bring up Interstellar, a film I loved, but is so nonsensical as to be almost deranged. In that film, AI, not Matt Damon & co., obviously should have been sent to the designated planets.

The Alien prequels at least introduce the malevolence and possible ambiguity of AI that is usually ignored by mainstream sic-fi.

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Re: Alien Franchise (Scott/Cameron/Fincher/Jeunet, 1979-?)

#249 Post by matrixschmatrix » Wed Oct 04, 2017 1:38 am

You're conflating two meanings of 'AI'- one, the idea of just increasingly sophisticated computers and robots that control things, is inevitable, while the other, sentient machines which can meaningfully be said to think or to be alive, is more or less a science fictional metaphor whose existence I see no evidence for.

I also don't really know why you think it's an inescapable truism that interplanetary/interstellar travel would not be incredibly attractive for humans for the same reasons we do most things- space to expand, new horizons, all that sort of things. We generally don't count anything as having been explored until a person does it. It's true enough that the idea of manned spacecraft which are analogous to fighter jets is probably silly- that wouldn't really make sense now- but space colonizers and space freighters, and space troop transportation, which are what we see in the Alien movies, are all simply using space as a means to achieve terrestrial goals on other terras.

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Re: Alien Franchise (Scott/Cameron/Fincher/Jeunet, 1979-?)

#250 Post by Lost Highway » Wed Oct 04, 2017 2:39 am

J Adams wrote:I'd be interested to hear what people think are successful movies about AI.

And sorry to repeat, but AI will be running our cars and planes by 2050 if not earlier. So the only reason to have humans in a radiation bombarded spacecraft traveling for many years to their destination is because something is wrong with Earth. For example, if okra can no longer be grown, I would expect the entire planet to board the next ship to planet X237.

And, again, there is no reason for humans to be in warships/warplanes at any time post 2050ish.

Hibernation has been used too many times. Not sure if it is scientifically plausible.

The reason that humans are shipped en masse to other planets is rarely plausibly explained. E.g. the Chris Pratt movie. It seems to be a device to get us to care, because we don't care about AI.

And don't bring up Interstellar, a film I loved, but is so nonsensical as to be almost deranged. In that film, AI, not Matt Damon & co., obviously should have been sent to the designated planets.

The Alien prequels at least introduce the malevolence and possible ambiguity of AI that is usually ignored by mainstream sic-fi.
There are lots of examples of malevolent or ambiguous AI characters in mainstream science fiction films: 2001, Blade Runner, I Robot, Battlestar Galactica, Demon Seed, Westworld, Colossus: The Forbin Project, Tron, the Terminator and Matrix franchises to name just a few.
Last edited by Lost Highway on Thu Oct 05, 2017 2:04 am, edited 1 time in total.

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