SPOILERS ahead. If you haven’t seen Alien: Covenant, stop reading this column now. Actually, if you haven’t seen Alien: Covenant yet consider yourself fortunate…
I don’t know if anything could have saved Alien: Covenant, the absolutely wretched latest attempt at reviving the very dead franchise from the foulest bowels of creative limbo. It was spawned from the incoherent seed of Prometheus and watered down with the laziest franchise formula.
However, I recently found myself reconsidering the movie and wondering if any tinkering could have salvaged it from the bottom of the cinematic chum bucket. Much of this thought came from the discussion about the strangely savaged Passengers, a harmless confection of a movie that was brutally beaten down by critics and film fans. There were interesting conversations about rearranging the structure of the film to make it more interesting.
A thought crossed my mind; could this kind of armchair creative hypothesizing yield any interesting results. One thought came to mind.
Daniels (Katherine Waterston) should have died.
I know, I know. It’s an Alien movie. It has to have a female protagonist. Because the first Alien movie had a female protagonist. “You can’t kill the female protagonist in an Alien film, Anghus. Then it wouldn’t be an Alien movie!”
Ever since Ridley Scott brought the Alien franchise back to life, he’s been playing by the Alien franchise rule book to a fault. In all the marketing for the movie Katherine Waterston’s Daniels was presented as the hero of the piece. And the movie delivered on that promise with every boring move and predictable choice she met. The smartest person on a crew of absolute idiots. Daniels makes her way through the film with barely a scratch on her before she does the thing you do to kill Xenomorphs: launch it out of an airlock. Because ALIEN MOVIE.
But what if Daniels had been killed in the second act? What if the marketing had been a ruse and Daniels ends up stupidly staring into an egg, getting violated by a facehugger, and having the Xenomorph burst out her chest forcing Billy Crudup’s Oram had to try and survive the film’s final act? That could have been interesting. Something Alien: Covenant is most decidedly not.
We had something of this moment in Prometheus when Shaw (Noomi Rapace) ends up having to surgically remove a squid creature from her abdomen. However, a stitched up Shaw still ends up working her way to survival through the third act in standard Alien franchise fashion. This is rendered meaningless in her off-screen murder between the two terrible assembled prequels.
What if in a moment of risk taking, Ridley Scott had the character we most expected to survive end up dying and birthing the Xenomorph that terrorizes the final remaining crew members. It’s not a move that would salvage this wreck, but it’s certainly one that would have defied expectations. Something Alien: Covenant never achieves.
Based on the first two prequels, it feels like Daniels is going to die anyway in the ether between installments. So why not make her death something of a shock to audiences instead of working the same tired plot points over and over and over again?
Daniels should have died. Scott should have flipped the script. It wouldn’t have cured every ill of the Alien prequels, but it would have shown us that there’s still the potential for surprise in a series desperately in need for innovation.