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Exit Survey: Where Should the ‘Alien’ Franchise Go From Here?

After taking a lot of Aleve for back pain, the Ringer staff breaks down Ridley Scott’s latest extraterrestrial murder-fest

(20th Century Fox)
(20th Century Fox)

There’s a new space blockbuster in town, and it’s way gorier than Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2. That’s right — Ridley Scott returned this weekend with the newest installation in the Alien franchise, promising once again an equal amount of gross deaths and philosophical pondering. After getting out of the theater (and maybe recovering from one death in particular), some members of The Ringer staff broke down the movie, from its best moments to where the franchise should go now.

1. What is your tweet-length review of ‘Alien: Covenant’?

Sean Fennessey: We didn’t need Alien: Covenant, but then, we don’t need much of anything in this world.

Chris Ryan: I, Robot.

Sam Schube: Michael Fassbender just pulled even with Ridley Scott in the U.K. National Treasure Power Rankings.

K. Austin Collins: I miss Prometheus. (Wow.)

2. What was the best moment of the film?

Ryan: The quarantine scene, which was scary and gross (those two don’t always correspond), and featured really good performances in a really ridiculous scene (that doesn’t often happen). It was probably my favorite "I have to lock you in here" movie moment since Denzel Washington made Rick Schroder seal the bilge bay in Crimson Tide.

This was the only thing in Covenant that matched the Prometheus C-section scene for intensity. For whatever it’s worth, my favorite "is this bad" Alien scenes are Dallas’s death …

And the tracker scene in Aliens

Amy Seimetz is so excellent in Covenant. She has so little to do, but in her limited screen time she manages to wear flip-flops, fly a dropship, and die like a legend. I loved how she telegraphed how nervous she was about Carmen Ejogo bringing the security guard back on the ship in the first place, and how she was totally grossed out by having to lug the equipment back to the ship. It’s hard to do so much physical work while also broadcasting some kind of emotional reality. So basically, Amy Seimetz > Keanu Reeves.

Schube: Fassbender’s David singing "The Man Who Broke the Bank at Monte Carlo." Fassbender’s David considering his Iggy Pop–in-space haircut. Fassbender’s David teaching his android twin erotic flute. Fassbender’s David puking up an alien embryo. Would it be weird to suggest Michael Fassbender be nominated for an Oscar for his performance in Alien: Covenant?

Zach Mack: Daniels: "Walter, when we land will you help me build my log cabin that we talked about a bunch at the beginning of the film?"

Not Walter: "Errrrrr, what? Log cabin? OK, time for bed."

Collins:

Fennessey: David teaching Walter how to play a recorder, uttering the now-immortal line, "I’ll do the fingering," which was teleported in from a far funnier, more fun movie.

3. What was your least favorite part of the movie?

Fennessey: Anytime anyone went to investigate something. The very premise of the Alien franchise is "Dumb people from spaceship investigate soon-to-be-body-inhabiting space creature disturbance." But six films deep, we need less dumb leads.

Ryan: The plot. Or rather, what Ridley Scott chose to explicate and what he chose to toss out and leave in the air. Speaking of leaving things in the air, I know I can answer this question for myself by looking online, and the fan scholarship surrounding Prometheus and Covenant has been excellent, but what the hell was going on with David releasing a plague of locusts on the Engineers?

Mack: The prolonged shots of the various alien morphs. The longer we get a look at them the less scary they become, especially when small, white, and slimy.

Schube: The casual genocide. Also, since when do the baby aliens stand up and dance like Groot? That was dumb.

Collins: Must shower sex end in tragedy?

4. Who is your ‘Covenant’ dream couple?

Mack: David and Walter. This is hands down the ripest pick for some intense fan-fiction titled, "Do androids dream of electric sheep … and other androids who look just like them?"

Collins: Weren’t they all better off single? The aliens were doing them a favor.

Ryan: Semietz and Danny McBride. This movie would have been 18 percent better if it was about them, instead of Billy Crudup and Katherine Waterston’s widowers.

Schube: I’m retroactively casting Amy Seimetz in every season of Eastbound & Down.

Fennessey: There is no other answer than Danny McBride and Amy Seimetz. They should be together in real life, on Season 2 of Vice Principals, and in a rebooted Upstream Color minus Shane Carruth.

5. Who died too early? Too late?

Collins: Amy Seimetz dying at all is a crime, no one dies too late, and James Franco dies just on time.

Ryan: Seimetz and Ejogo died way too early. I like Jussie Smollett, but he basically stuck around for the whole movie to have the most ill-timed shower sex in the history of multiple galaxies. He could have gone way earlier.

Schube: I wish they’d let Seimetz stick around longer, or at least given her the dignity of being murdered by a xenomorph. And I would have offed Billy "religious freedom" Crudup earlier.

Fennessey: To not give us "Xenomorph impales James Franco with its burning-blood second throat-mouth" is an error. I’m not sure any character died too late, but to have Demián Bichir, Katherine Waterston, and Jussie Smollett in your cast and fail to attribute even one compelling detail about their characters is a strange failure.

Mack: This has to have been the easiest check James Franco ever cashed.

6. How’s your back feeling? (No seriously — how did that scene make you feel?)

(20th Century Fox)
(20th Century Fox)

Schube: Yo that was so gross.

Fennessey: I work on the internet. My back always hurts.

Ryan: Anyone got any Aleve? That was sincerely nauseating. Kudos.

7. Are you a Walter or a David?

Schube: I don’t play the recorder.

Mack: I like my synthetic humans to be loyal at all times and routinely held in check. That being said, the accent choice Fassbender makes for Walter is distractingly bad.

Ryan: Do androids dream of electric sheep? I love the idea of a robot as powerful and unstable as David becoming a Robinson Crusoe figure. Positing him as a fallen angel/Lucifer figure is the best wrinkle of the most recent pair of movies, but you can feel the unease, perhaps on the part of the studio, to fully commit to the bit. So his motivations, such as they are, are confusing. A human made him and then abandoned him (sort of). Engineers made humans and then turned on them (almost). And David killed the Engineers, but has way worse plans for their viral creation (I think?). It’s fascinating and it’s nonsense. (I am a Walter.)

Collins: A David who’s pretending to be a Walter, in true scammer fashion.

Fennessey: This is a Turing test for psychopaths.

8. Should someone besides Ridley Scott be making these movies?

Schube: No! They are foolish and pompous and interested in asking questions that they don’t know how to answer compellingly. But by gosh are they a great argument for "late style": the idea that as artists get older, a mastery of their craft allows them to get well and truly weird. I like that Ridley Scott is sorting out his late-in-life concerns about mortality by making gigantic movies about godlike androids and monsters who love a couples’ shower.

Fennessey: Yes — Kathryn Bigelow.

Ryan: No, but also Shane Carruth should make these movies.

Mack: Yes. It’s time. Someone please call Jordan Peele and convince him that the Weyland Corp. is perfect fodder for his next "social thriller" about the horrors of big business.

Collins: Yes. I wanna see one by Ryan Coogler: a guy who knows how to give stale franchises new life. If he can give the Rocky franchise a boost, god only knows what his Alien would do. He’d never come to mind — and that’s exactly why I picked him.

9. Do there need to be any more prequels? Where should the ‘Alien’ movies go from here?

Ryan: Yes. There should be one more. Covenant takes place in 2104. Alien takes place in 2122. So a lot could happen, but I feel like this is calling out for some closure. They have really boxed themselves in, though. Unless another band of dipshits is thrown into the mix, I’m not sure what can happen. David’s ship should be flying to LV-426, where Ellen Ripley and the Nostromo will find the sea of eggs in 18 years. Where does that leave the characters? Does Daniels wake up? Does Scott kill off another heroine? What is really to be done on another planet before Alien begins? My dream movie would be a total left turn that takes place on Earth and shows us what the Weyland-Yutani side of the story is, but I find it highly unlikely that Scott will deviate from this relatively successful formula.

Collins: How about Alien: Coven? I’d rather see Ryan Murphy turn them into a den of bitchy alien witches than have Ridley Scott lure another unsuspecting crew into the same danger only to muck their lives up slightly more than last time with more mythology. Alien: Covenant wasn’t really bad, or even bad, but maybe someone like Murphy needs to really botch the job in order for someone else to make them good again.

Schube: This movie was basically the same movie as Prometheus: Some idiots go to the moon and get extremely killed. And I happily bought a ticket. I don’t need to see another one, but that doesn’t mean I won’t.

Mack: In just over a year, David Benioff and D.B. Weiss will be done with Game of Thrones and looking for more IP to spin into gold. What would happen if they took hold of this franchise, scrapped all of the awful albino-Engineer lore established in Prometheus and hit the restart button by adapting the overall theme and tone of the franchise into an eight-part miniseries? Essentially, doing with the Alien franchise what Noah Hawley did with Fargo. Who says no?

Fennessey: Newt origin story. Kidding!