By Nick Milligan
20th Century Fox has granted Alien fans a taste of their impending instalment, Covenant (due May 2017) overnight with a clip entitled ‘Last Supper’. The scene introduces a range of characters, including Michael Fassbender’s return as a fully functioning David android.
Described as a “prologue”, the clip features a range of the movie’s principal stars, including Billy Crudup, Danny McBride, Katherine Waterson and James Franco. They’re having a final party before each is induced into a cryosleep – a technology well-established in the franchise.
The couples seen in ‘Last Supper’ are en route to a new planet (or ‘paradise’), which they have been assigned to repopulate (kind of makes you wish it was Russ Meyer in the director’s chair). One can assume that some nasty xenomorphs rudely interrupt this honourable carnal endeavour.
The ‘Last Supper’ clip serves to reaffirm most suspicions that the team behind Covenant have turned their backs on the conceptual direction that Prometheus appeared to be taking the franchise, and shift back towards a more familiar reboot scenario. Prometheus‘ finale implied that the next flick would be going to a new world – a clean slate and endless possibilities. But now we’re back on board a bog-standard interplanetary vessel, not dissimilar from Nostromo, with another relatable crew. Familiar territory. You suspect that we’ll see face-huggers>chest bursters>xenomorphs slowly cull our cast with the horror-thriller tension of Ridley Scott’s original movie or James Cameron’s beloved sequel.
A major concern is that Covenant will be as muddled in its ideas and delivery as Prometheus. The latter certainly had bold ambitions, and a clear desire to be an intellectual science fiction film, but was unable to find balance and rhythm. The moments of violence were shoe-horned in and without consequence. We didn’t warm to the characters. We weren’t invested. Prometheus was a series of odd creative decisions that felt dislocated from each other – not something we’ve come to expect from a director as traditionally sturdy as Scott (at his best he’s a master, at his worst he’s reliable).
One would hope that those same mistakes won’t be repeated, but Covenant has passed through a lot of hands on its way to the screen. And it’s shape-shifted a lot too. Scott promised us a descent into the Engineers’ home world – a continuation of Prometheus and a further deviation from the original movies. He said the xenomorphs would not return (“The beast is done. Cooked.”). The movie was called Alien: Paradise Lost. But then Jack Paglen’s original script was rewritten by Michael Green. The name changed to Alien: Covenant. Scott soon confirmed that all our favourite beasties were not dead, announcing face huggers, chest bursters and the dual-jawed stars of the show were back in all their phallic-head glory. What are we to make of this? The lack of consistent direction with the project does not bode well.
What could save it, however, is that the screenplay eventually fell to acclaimed writer John Logan, who has penned many “classic” style Hollywood movies, from Gladiator, to The Aviator, Hugo and Skyfall. He may be the man to iron out the creases.
Will the film attempt to be as lofty in theme as its predecessor? Prometheus nodded toward Greek mythology, taking its name from the Titan that was punished for sharing the gift of fire with the mortal race. The follow-up now delves into Christian symbolism, presumably named after the Ark of the Covenant which, as we learned from Indiana Jones, was a special box that housed The Ten Commandments. Open the box and the faces of you and your soldiers will swiftly melt or explode. Serious gear. This prologue, ‘Last Supper’, continues the theme. So which of this crew is Jesus Christ? Probably Franco, I guess. Who’s Judas Iscariot? It’ll be that bloody Danny McBride, no doubt.
The plot itself has that “Adam and Eve” vibe. Will there be a giant xenomorph snake in this garden? Don’t discount it. Also keep your ear out for the musical score. Its been penned by Australia’s very own Jed Kurzel, former frontman of The Mess Hall. Kudos.
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