June 3rd 2017


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Articles from this issue:

COVER STORY Left poisons Trump's real achievements

EUTHANASIA It must be war, as truth has been the first casualty

SAME-SEX MARRIAGE Dr David van Gend criticises AMA statement

GENDER POLITICS U.S. Target goes gender neutral; pays the price

GENDER POLITICS Where have all the transgenders gone?

NATIONAL AFFAIRS Graceless new book takes hatchet to Cardinal Pell

CULTURAL HISTORY The prophets of eco-doom: a perfect record of failure

LAW AND SOCIETY Religion in the balance in Australia

MUSIC What's it all about?: when no amount of ado will do

CINEMA Alien: Covenant: Creature seeks Creator

BOOK REVIEW Insights for the euthanasia debate

BOOK REVIEW Assistance is an Australian strength

LETTERS

CANBERRA OBSERVED Abbott strives not to join the forgotten people

NATIONAL AFFAIRS Is Cardinal Pell just the tallest poppy of them all?

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CINEMA
Alien: Covenant: Creature seeks Creator


by Symeon J. Thompson

News Weekly, June 3, 2017

Where do we come from? Are we an accident or the result of design? And what would happen if we met our creator?

But what if our origin is of another world? What if we are the result of the actions of a higher, but still not divine, life form? And what would be the result if we chose to challenge our creators? These are the questions that haunt Alien: Covenant, as they did its predecessor Prometheus.

The colonisation spaceship Covenant is on its way to the remote planet Origae-6, with the intention of terraforming it and making it fit for human habitation. On board is a small crew, and thousands of colonists, all in hyper-sleep. The day-to-day management of the spaceship is undertaken by synthetic android Walter (Michael Fassbender) and MOTHER, the ship’s artificial intelligence.

All is going well, until a freak neutrino burst damages the ship, leading to the emergency awakening of the crew. In the mayhem, the Captain, Jacob Branson (James Franco, in what is almost a cameo), is killed and the First Officer, Christopher Oram (Billy Crudup), assumes command. The crew manages to stabilise and repair the ship, and in the process pick up a radio transmission coming from a nearby unknown planet.

Oram decides to investigate, against the advice of Daniels Branson (Katherine Waterston), a terraforming expert, second-in-command, and wife of the deceased captain. To get to the surface of the planet they have to descend through a mega-storm that makes communication and landing difficult, but when they reach it they find a place very much like Earth, so much so that they find wheat growing – but no animal life. As they explore they find the source of the radio transmission in a cave, along with artifacts from the Prometheus, the exploration ship that went missing 15 years earlier.

Meanwhile, some of the crew end up sick, infected with an alien bug, a condition that turns very nasty very quickly. In the midst of trying to deal with it, their landing ship is destroyed. As night falls they are attacked by something fast moving and savage, and are rescued just in time by a mysterious hooded figure – David (Michael Fassbender), the android who served on the Prometheus.

David leads them to an abandoned city, full of the corpses of Engineers, the alien master race from the previous film, mummified like the citizens of Pompeii. He explains that he and Elizabeth Shaw (Noomi Rapace) gained control of an Engineer ship and made their way to their home world to seek answers. He claims that the death of the Engineers was an accident, and encourages the surviving explorers to rest and recuperate, as they try to contact the Covenant so they can be rescued. But all is not as it seems.

It is here that the link is made clear between Prometheus and the Alien movies. Ridley Scott’s original 1979 film was a critical and box-office success. It took the “locked in a house with a killer” plot and put it in space, to devastating effect. With 2012’s Prometheus, Scott started to provide an origin story for the Alien, by depicting the search for humanity’s “creators”, an alien super race referred to as the Engineers.

With Covenant Scott shows that the alien monsters are the result of “intelligent design” by an unhinged designer who believes that humanity is unworthy.

Covenant opens with a conversation between David and his “creator”, Peter Weyland (Guy Pearce). Weyland seeks his own “creators”, but when David asks what he will do when he finds them, he has no answer. Throughout the movie, David is shown to be cultured and creative, with a love for Wagner, Shelley’s Ozymandias and Milton’s Paradise Lost – which was the working subtitle for the film. But David also makes basic mistakes, like claiming Ozymandias was by Byron, leading Walter to remark that one off-note ruins the entire symphony.

David was the first “creation” of Peter Weyland, his “perfect son”, but treated like a slave. David, in turn, sees himself as a “creator”, one striving for “perfection”, but his take on “perfection”, like that of the android Ash (Ian Holm) in the original Alien, is a perverse one, much like Lucifer’s decision that it is better to reign in Hell than to serve in Heaven. David is a classical protagonist, a flawed being unaware of his flaws, and convinced he is right. Much like his creator Weyland, he is an overreacher; but, unlike Weyland, whose story has come to an end, his has only just begun.

Symeon J. Thompson is a member of the Film Critics’ Circle of Australia (FCCA).




























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