Alien: Covenant (Review)

DISCLAIMER: This review will contain SPOILERS. If you have not seen Alien: Covenant yet, do not read this.

Alien: Covenant (2017) is the third Alien film to be directed by Ridley Scott, and is the sequel to Prometheus (2012) and the prequel to Alien (1979). It follows the story of a crew of colonists who, after their ship is damaged by a phenomenological shockwave, land on a nearby, uncharted planet to investigate a rogue transmission.

I’ll preface this review by saying that I am a huge Alien fan. I was 6 years old when I watched the original chestburster scene, and even to this day, I am perturbed by this gory introduction of the notorious Xenomorph creature. Additionally, Aliens (1986) is one of my favorite action movies, with Bill Paxton’s Private William Hudson earning the #2 spot on my list of Top 10 All-Time Favorite Movie Characters. He truly is The Ultimate Badass.

You can imagine that based upon by love for the Alien franchise (as well as my love for the Xenomorph itself), I was a little bit biased going into Covenant. The trailers had marketed this film to be yet another horror trope-fest littered with clichés, logical inconsistencies, and weak, disposable characters. Moreover, I was worried that Covenant would ignore that story arc set up between Elizabeth Shaw and David at the end of Prometheus. But as it turns out, when you set your expectations low enough for a movie that you know you will be disappointed by, you will not be disappointed by it at all. At least I wasn’t.

With all of that said, I was pleasantly surprised by Alien: Covenant. I enjoyed it so much that I would rank it just barely below Aliens and Prometheus. Therefore, my final rankings are as follows: (1) Aliens, (2) Prometheus, (3) Alien: Covenant, and (4) Alien, not accounting for Alien 3, Resurrection or either of the two AVP movies.

A lot of people seem to hate this movie, and I cannot fathom why. It might be, like I said, a horror trope-fest littered with clichés, logical inconsistencies, and weak, disposable characters, but why should that matter? If the movie entertained me, then it did its job. Also, if people wanted the Xenomorph to make a return so badly yet still hate on Covenant for retreading old ground, then they should have let Ridley Scott tell the story that he set up in Prometheus. Rather than further explore the mythology of the Engineers, fan backlash pressured him into reworking the script into oblivion. This is what we ended up with, so take it or leave it.

In my opinion, Alien: Covenant’s biggest strengths are its soundtrack, approaches to blood and gore, and Michael Fassbender’s performance as David.

The leitmotif (a special word describing any musical piece that is associated with people, places, or things) for the Xenomorph needs to be commended. It added a dark, eerie atmosphere to the scenes, tensely keeping the audience on the edge of their seats and characterizing the Alien as something abominable. In addition, the gore effects were viscerally graphic and disturbing, with Scott recreating the horror of the original chestburster scene by depicting a Neomorph bursting through the spine of a Covenant crewmember. Lastly, Michael Fassbender’s villainous portrayal of David was gripping and undoubtedly the best part of the movie. As a matter of fact, my favorite scene was when, in a flashback sequence, he dropped the Black Goo on the Engineers’ civilization and watched them all die. It will be interesting to learn in the prequel film Alien: Awakening what his motivations for doing so were and how far his God complex could possibly stretch.

Despite these strengths, a minor complaint that I have with Covenant is that it is tonally ambiguous. Halfway through the film, it cannot decide if it wants to be a sequel to Prometheus or its own movie. Nonetheless, I’m excited to see where Scott takes the story from here and whether or not the next installment will be seen as an improvement in the eyes of the objectors to his vision. I for one am optimistic.

Alien: Covenant gets an 8/10. How do you feel about the movie? Do you love it, hate it, or just think that it’s “okay”?

Why Are Dogs So Amazing?

I have an enormous soft spot for dogs. When a dog dies in a movie, I will start crying like a baby. And when a dog is in pain, then I, too, will be in pain. Simply put, I look upon dogs with a unique fondness that I cannot liken to humans.

The fact that dogs are so compassionate is not an accident. As much as I condemn humans for their remarkable capacity for evil and wrongdoing, humans were the ones who have made dogs into what they are today. Humans were the ones who, for the past 10,000 years, selectively bred dogs into domestication, transforming these animals from vicious predators into lovable (and quite loyal) idiots. But what makes dogs special enough to warrant this title of “man’s best friend’?

First, dogs are unconditionally accepting of all our flaws. They do not debate, argue, or contend with us. They care more about receiving love and affection from us than undermining our self-interests to advance their own. For example, when you come home from a long and strenuous day at work, your dog isn’t going to pester you about why dinner hasn’t been cooked yet. Your dog isn’t going to steal your credit card in the middle of the night and spend hundreds of dollars on clothes. And your dog isn’t going to wake up one morning and tell you that it doesn’t love you anymore. Your dog will always be there for you, no matter what.

Second, dogs sustain good physical and mental health. One study that was published in the American Journal of Cardiology found that of 400 patients who suffered a heart attack, the patients who owned pets had a significantly higher survival rate than patients who did not own pets. Multiple studies have also found that dogs reduce negative feelings such as boredom, depression, anxiety, and most importantly, loneliness.

At the end of the day, dogs do not extend from or substitute our humanity. Rather, they reflect our humanity, reminding us that despite all our moral shortcomings, there exists good in each of us. However, as delightful as dogs can be, their deaths are emotionally unfathomable. My mother told me that after our dog Charlotte passed away almost three years ago now, the grief she suffered was actually more intense than the grief she felt over her parents. There are two explanations I can offer as to why this happens. The first explanation is that because dogs have been around for such a large portion of our evolutionary history, our brains have been rewired to think of them as babies. The second explanation is that we have been conditioned to think of dogs as symbols of innocence, and thus when a dog dies, innocence dies with them.

The best things that we can do for ourselves (and for our dogs) is to enjoy the time that we do have with them, and cherish the happy memories that they help us create.

Depression Is Your Friend

It’s crazy, right? How can something as unpleasant as depression, the leading precursor to suicide, actually be thought of as a good buddy?

First off, I would like to emphasize that I am in no way praising deep, debilitating depression. Instead, this article is aimed at discussing depression as a form of motivation, not a psychological disorder.

When you think of a friend, what is the first thing that comes to mind? A friend might be someone who you watch a ballgame with. They might even be someone who drives you home when you’re too drunk to drive yourself. For me, a friend is someone so much more than that; someone much different than a family member or spouse.

For me, a friend is someone who attends that ballgame not because they want to get out of the house for a few hours, but because they genuinely enjoy your company. A friend is someone who drives you home when you’re drunk not out of obligation, but out of concern for your safety. Really, a friend is someone who accepts you without question, sees the value that you bring to the world, and looks out for you during hard times.

So how does depression look out for you? Well, for starters I’m writing this post with my fingers. I have a brain that thinks and reasons in order to produce the language that is responsible for the post in the first place. I have a stomach to digest the food I ate two hours ago and a heart that pumps blood to keep me alive. The truth is, depression wouldn’t exist if, along with every organ in my body, it didn’t serve some kind of a survival function. The theory of evolution suggests that our predecessors who did not experience depression were selected against and died off, while those who experienced depression lived on to spread their genes and ultimately create you and me. With that said, depression is as much a part of us as our fingers, stomachs, brains, and hearts are. It is an instrument of survival.

Then again, depression doesn’t get enough credit. We condemn it, scrutinize it, and in many cases medicate it when it doesn’t need medicating. How do you even define depression in a positive light when it is this widely stigmatized and condemnable “sickness of the mind” or worse, character flaw? Well, it’s not an impossible task.

Normal depression, and by extension grief, can be defined as a self-regulatory mechanism in which a problem is continually reflected on and analyzed with the intent of preventing it from reoccurring. It’s almost like trying to solve a math equation that you’ve been stuck on for hours in that you’ll rework the problem over and over until a correct solution becomes evident. The only time the mind-boggling math equation that is depression becomes debilitating is when episodes are prolonged, lasting for weeks and months at a time, and disrupt personal and professional relationships. At that point, you never solve the problem, you just keep staring at it and expecting something to change.

I can tell you with certainty that for every mistake I’ve made and problem that I’ve created, I never would have improved as a human being if I didn’t feel depressed afterward. There were times when I failed a test or said something extremely hurtful to another person, and afterward that was all I thought about for the rest of the day and even the rest of the week. I’d think to myself, “How could I let this happen?” and “What went wrong, and what can I do to fix this mess?”

Don’t get me wrong, depressive rumination isn’t fun. Some of the worst moments in my life were where I would become so emotionally drained, so dispirited, and so, well… depressed, that I couldn’t even move. I couldn’t eat, I couldn’t play video games, and I generally couldn’t function normally. Why would anybody want to suffer through such an experience? The answer is that it can be used as motivational fuel when it is channeled into something more meaningful. I look at it this way: you could achieve every major success in the book, but by the time that one failure comes around it’s suddenly the worst thing in the world because you haven’t acquainted yourself with what it’s like to truly lose. To truly face defeat. In this manner, the low points in life help us appreciate the high points and remind us of the progress (or lack thereof) we’re making.

Occasional, not chronic, depression is your friend because it’s got your back. It PUSHES you toward improvement by notifying you that you need to make some much needed corrections in your life. And trust me, you’re better off with than without it.