I enjoyed Alien: Covenant, let me get that out of the way right off the bat. It was a fun, sci-fi horror gore fest with enough hand wringing introspection about the nature of life and the idea of creation to give it a unique flavour. Even taking it away from the Alien franchise, it would have been a good flick, wrestling with some interesting ideas while giving us plenty of action and messy death to keep us excited.
However, it’s hard to see past the idea that most of the characters in the film seem to have an IQ that roughly matches the amount of mines they’re going to last on screen before they die horribly. Covenant is set ten years after Prometheus, but both films were plagued by a cast of characters who have absolutely zero desire to survive until the end of the day.
It’s always weird to nitpick horror films for people making moronic decisions, because rational people don’t end up in horror films. While in Covenant, the crew decides to split up over and over again - with one of them leaving to literally freshen up when most of their crew have been slaughtered - in real life, you’d surely stay back to back in a well lit room with weapons facing every available entrance.
However, if the crew of the Covenant behaved like intelligent human beings, there would be no film. They would have ended up at their intended destination roughly on schedule, with a few casualties caused by a freak ion storm. It’s strange that Captain Oram seems to beat everyone over the head with the idea that just because he is religious does not make him irrational, yet he constantly reacts in irrational ways.
He ignores years of research to take a chance on a planet that they have literally been lured to. A planet that seems perfect for life. Doesn’t that seem at all suspicious to you? No, to this guy, it’s an act of divine providence, even though he tells us that his faith does not get in the way of rational decision making. His second even argues the fact with him, but he ignores it, saying essentially that I am the captain and you do what I say.
Oren is afraid from the start that he’ll be a terrible captain, that he won’t live up to the excellence that was the now extra crispy captain James Franco. He’s right, right from the off. Have some self awareness, Oren, if you’re getting mad at your crew for mourning their captain who died about five minutes ago, maybe you’re not all that great a guy.
He’s also stupid enough to trust an android explicitly, even though he sees the android making friends with an alien that just brutally slaughtered another member of his dwindling crew. He says a dramatic quote about knowing the devil when he sees it but then decides to follow the devil down some stone steps into the depths of hell without thinking for a second that he might want to let his crew know that one of the fucking monsters they were running from invaded the place that they were told was perfectly safe.
Even at that, let’s roll it right back to the armed meatheads who on two different occasions, decide to poke about at weird fungus spores on an alien world and then pretty much bury their faces in the black dust that drifts out. Or, let’s roll it back even further and wonder why land on this alien world and walk right out without any space helmets on. They don’t even stop to take a deep breath and say ah, nice fresh air, it must be safe. They just open the door and waltz out.
Sure, the sensors say it’s safe, but these are the same sensors that missed this entire goddamn planet over the course of seven years or so of scanning. Can they really trust them? Equally, they are the sensors that didn’t detect the catastrophic ion storm until it was about three feet away from the ship. None of these decisions make any sense, and it some point, it feels like lazy script writing rather than anything else. They could have lingered longer on concerns about the safety of the air. Or why didn’t they just have the original world they were heading for be the hellish planet they end up on? Would it really have made all that much difference? It would have explained why they thought it was safe, at least.
People in movies make dumb decisions to drive the plot forward, we know this is true, but the problem is, we’ve got a bunch of brave, space pioneers who are all experts at what they do. They’re highly trained, hand picked experts chosen to oversee a vessel transporting thousands of civilians to a brave new world, in an attempt to save a slowly dying human race. Despite that, they seem to be idiots.
Plus, it’s about eighty years in the future. We know now not to take our helmets off on strange worlds. Hell, even ten years before this film, in Prometheus, the crew kept their helmets on because the air was dangerous. Why would they do otherwise here? Oh, so they could easily get infected by the weird spores and get all messed up for the sake of the plot. Even so, in Prometheus the crew got messed up despite their helmets. The same could have been done here. Show the spores entering through a tiny crack in the suit, and voila. The infection wasn’t due to stupidity, just bad luck.
There’s a jarring moment when they first land on Covenant’s lush and godforsaken rock when they all throw space rifles to each other as they leave the lander, but they don’t think for a second that they should put helmets on. Here’s a human race who hasn’t met an alien yet, and likely this group don’t know about the Engineers or the specifics of the Prometheus mission. Still, inexplicably, they’re more worried about danger in the form of rampaging beasties rather than airborne pathogens, deadly alien bacteria, or even thinking that there might be pockets of radiation or low oxygen that the flawed scanner couldn’t detect.
No, you’re much more likely to meet a malignant creature, even though that has never happened in the history of the human race yet. Let’s worry about that. Let’s also ignore warnings about the planet being lush but devoid of all life. We can also ignore the crash landed alien spaceship that the missing Elizabeth Shaw inexplicably died on.
Let’s instead talk about how perfect it would be to life here. Here, on this ruin covered planet devoid of any organic life whatsoever. Someone needs to tell the crew that humans are organic life too and whatever destroyed everything on this planet is likely going to destroy them too.
That leads me onto my next point about how jarringly stupid they all are. The trailer perfect moment where someone tells someone to listen, and they say listen to what and then they say exactly. No birds, no animals, nothing.
Why would they assume this life would exist on the planet? They said the world they were heading for was barely hospitable and that this strange new world seemed better, but they had barely scanned it, why would there be life? Sure, you need insects of some sort to seed trees and plants and so on, but why do things have to work the same on this strange world? One of the team stops to survey soil samples but doesn’t seem to wonder how trees exist when there is no visible organic life left on the planet.
Why would you assume an alien world works the same as planet earth when you’ve never came across a hospitable human world before? Equally, if it was the case that they had been to other planets with strange alien species’ of bugs and birds and whatever the heck else, then wouldn’t the distinct lack of life right from the second they got off the ship make them realise that they have probably already been infected with some organic life destroying bacteria or disease? If there should have been regular old garden variety bugs and birds on the world, then where the hell did they go?
There’s a thousand sensible choices in the film that the crew largely ignored. It’s telling that one of the only survivors in the end seemed to be the only voice of reason in the entire bloody film. Alien: Covenant is a great film, but it’s also a cautionary tale of how you shouldn’t leave your 2,000 souls on board in the hands of a bunch of complete morons.