“Blade Runner 2049”: The 30-year reset; can synthetic people attract souls?

The original “Blade Runner” (1982), directed by Ridley Scott, based on Philip K. Dick’s novel “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sleep?”, had an interesting premise, that ranged far and due to happen soon, om 2019;  a blade runner would track down slave replicants who had stolen a space ship and “illegally” (Trump-like) returned to Earth to look for their creator.  I saw the original film at Northpark in Dallas.

The newer film “Blade Runner 2049”, directed by French Canadian Denis Villeneuve, was necessary to reset the calendar.  It starts out by showing up an eyeball, and then a huge array of solar panels in a very smoggy California desert, before a vigorous young LAPD detective named “K” (Ryan Gosling) tracks down rogue replicant Sapper Morton (Dave Bautista) and winds the hand-to-hand battle, tearing out walls in a remote desert house, before finding human remains.

The movie seem sets up is premise, which is geographically limiting. The older replicants were to be retired and eliminated, and the newer ones are integrated into society.  But soon K gets information on a missing veteran replicant Rick Deckard (Harrison Ford), and discovers that replicants can actually reproduce.  K’s adventures lead him to a particular ogre, Nilander Wallace (Jared Leto), who sets up a demonstration of a holographic pregnancy surrounded by disembodied black crawling eyes as if they were partial creature remnants themselves.  (There was a horror film “The Crawling Eye” on “Chiller” in the early 60.s).  There is curious terminology that calls the new replicants “angels”.

K moves between the city, modern LA, and a work farm out in the Mojave Desert, where kids (“proles”) are trained in a massive work farm, to burned out Las Vegas (“Cibola” from Stephen King’s “The Stand”). There is a critical scene with the Luxor (where I stayed in 1997) in the distance), which is ironically across the street from the rampage on Oct. 1.  Coincidence?

Some of the scenes, with bizarre alien structures laid across the desert, are impressive, but most of the time in this film, you don’t really know where you are going. But it is the psychological composition of the people that gets interesting.  First of all, K has gradually come to realize that he is a replicant himself. He is told he has no soul by a supervisor (Robin Wright), and that some of his childhood memories were implanted digitally.

Yet, K seems psychologically intact.  He may have mild Asperger’s, but he is really quite likeable and self-aware, and seems to have a certain intellectual integrity that doesn’t require close involvement with other people. It’s almost like he is a kind of Alan Turning, or maybe “The Good Doctor”. He could be fine as your best friend.  Relationships with women turn out to be fantasy pieces with holograms, but why not.  He doesn’t seem inclined to reproduce, but has discovered that maybe he is supposed to. It’s not hard to imagine how this kind of film could have used a gay subplot.

The movie would beg the question, what really gives someone an identity?  If your memories could be transferred (like by a virus) to someone else’s brain, could you wake up perceiving yourself in that person’s body.  It would be a good way for a 70 year old to become 21 again.  With a finite list of souls, no one dies, and there is no need for reproduction.  But then you don’t do your part dealing with the entropy of the universe.  Inevitability of death is tied to life.

I saw the film at Tyson’s AMC in 3-D, having left Friday’s just before the Washington Nationals came up with their winning home run rally in the game I was watching on a plasma screen during dinner.

The film was produced by Columbia Pictures (and Alcon, and Scott-Free) and has plenty of references to Sony products. It is distributed by Warner Brothers.  The introduction dispensed with the trademark music and went right into the Hans Zimmer’s bizarre musical world of sliding scales (more dissonant than the 1982 score by Vangelis).   The music score often quotes Prokofiev’s March from “The Love of Three Oranges”

Previewers of the film were required to sign unusual non-disclosure agreements of certain spoilers, but they probably don’t matter much now.

Name:  “Blade Runner 2049
Director, writer:  Denis Villeneuve, DGC
Released:  2017
Format:  2.35:1, Imax, 3D
When and how viewed:  AMC Tysons 2017-10-7, evening, ample crowd
Length:  165
Rating:  R
Companies:  Warner Brothers, Columbia Pictures, Alcon, Scott-Free
Link:  WB

(Posted: Sunday, Oct. 8, 2017 at 4:30 PM EDT)

“Mother!”: Darren’s chamber piece on radical hospitality turning into chaos and communism

Mother!” is another dream-like supernatural set piece from Darren Aronofsky (and cinematographer Matthew Libatique). And this time there is a bit of a political warning.

The entire film is set in an octagonal symmetrical house somewhere in Quebec. Javier Bardem plays a poet and writer who has displayed “writer’s block” since he and his wife, Jennifer Lawrence, “lost everything” in a fire.  Well, everything except a remelted glass obelisk that represents all his creative output.  The house has apparently been restored, but it is still creaky and mysterious with supernatural trinkets (and blobs derived from living things) inside.  The couple still has no children, and it’s unclear if they want to.

One night, a stranger (Ed Harris) appears.  He says he is a doctor, despite cigarette smoking. He acts like the house were listed on Airbnb (or maybe Emergency BNB), although there are no computers in the film that I recall.  I think there was cell.  Immediately, he goes into coughing and vomiting spells, and the couple “hosts” him – an example of radical hospitality (and maybe scruffy hospitality, too)  The next morning, “Mother” (Michelle Pfeiffer) shows up, with all the presence of a Hitchcock villain.

In time the rest of the family appears, including two younger adult sons, who fight over arcane provisions in a trust.  It seems as if maybe the poet doesn’t own the house at all.  The film starts turning violent, and one of the sons is severely injured.  Then others show up, as if from a Bolshevist revolution.

The guests recede, and the poet and his wife have the house to themselves once again, and this time the woman gets quickly and obviously pregnant.  Then the hordes return, this time with a lot of ideology that sounds like it comes from Marx and Lenin.  A full bacchanale ensues;  one room becomes a disco, some of the floors leak and collapse, and eventually everything gets set on fire and it seems like the baby is to be sacrificed.

All of this, in the end, seems to be a circular, reoccurring plot.  Maybe this is a corner of the afterlife.

The house seems to be able to fix itself, as in the 1976 film “Burnt Offerings”, based on Robert Marasco’s novel.

The soundtrack, in Dolby 7.1, makes a lot of imagined voices and haunting sounds, making the wife especially seem a bit schizophrenic.

Name:  “Mother!”
Director, writer:  Darren Aronofsky
Released:  2017
Format:  2.35:1
When and how viewed:  Angelika Mosaic, Fairfax VA, 2017/9/18, day, small audience
Length:  118
Rating:  R
Companies:  Protozoa Films, Paramount
Link:  official

(Posted: Monday, September 18, 2017 at 6:45 PM EDT)

“Unacknowledged: An Expose of the World’s Greatest Secret”: UFO’s, aliens, and false flags

Unacknowledged: An Expose of the World’s Greatest Secret” (2017), directed by Michael Mazzola, gives an account of the Disclosure Project which traces the evidences of UFO’s and alien visitation since Roswell in 1947.

The descriptions of the crashed saucers and of the aliens is rather explicit:  three feet tall, wearing tight fitting skin suits, egg-shaped craft without mechanical parts inside.

The film moves on to showing many presidents (Bill Clinton, Gerald Ford) and candidates (Hillary) on talk shows admitting their interest in aliens.

But the film also presents a major industrial conspiracy to hide information about UFO’s even from the government, in order to protect their market for a fossil fuels industry.  Nick Tesla is depicted as having wanted to move beyond AC current to energy in space-time already in possession of aliens.  There are claims that the government knows of at least two or three other advanced civilizations within a reasonable distance (maybe 100 light years) in the Milky Way (let alone the Dyson’s Sphere that might live around Tabby’s Star 1400  light years away). The setup sounds like Clive Barker’s “Imajica“.

The film goes into the subject of psychological warfare and particularly “false flag” attacks.  In this kind of operation a government creates an incident in order to blame an unpopular enemy, like the Nazi Broken Glass operation. The film claims that a false flag operation was set up in 1980 to blame Cuban refugees from the Mariel Boatlift in order to justify Guantanamo later. The film present George W. Bush’s war in Iraq as a false flag by claiming that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction. It also says that Werner von Brahn supported a false flag operation to protect the world from aliens.

No question, the day that alien contact was proven would indeed be “The Event” (like the NBC series).  Then you have the “Smallville-Clark Kent” problem.  If someone somehow arrived from another planet and developed like Clark, what would his legal rights be?  That would engulf the debate on immigration (or race) if it happened. We may be approaching a world where we need to consider the legal rights of “non-human persons”, like individual orcas (killer whales) and other dolphins. Cetaceans may be the closest thing we have experienced to alien intelligence on our level. The possibility of cross-mating (DNA compatibility) would no longer define “personhood” legally.

Downtown Roswell NM, Wiki. I visited it in April 1998.

Area 51, Nevada, Wiki. I was near there in May 2000.

Name: Unacknowledged: An Expose of the World’s Greatest Secret
Director, writer:  Michael Mazzola
Released:  2017
Format:  2.35:1
When and how viewed:  Netflix instant play  2017/9/8
Length: 107
Rating:  NA
Companies:  The Orchard
Link:  Facebook

(Posted: Friday, September 8, 2017 at 7:15 PM EDT)

“Bokeh”: An appealing young couple finds themselves “Leftovers” in Iceland while on honeymoon

Bokeh” (referring to the way a lens brings together out-of-focus points of light, the kind the first George Bush liked) is a challenging science fiction film by Geffrey Orthwein and Andrew Sullivan (a different person from the well-known gay conservative writer, who ought to make a film).

We’re presented with an attractive young couple on an apparent honeymoon in Iceland.  That is Riley (Matt O’Leary) and Jenai (Maika Monroe).  Riley is particularly attractive visually.

Seven minutes into the film, Monroe gets up at the 3 AM dawn.  Suddenly there is a huge explosion on the horizon.  A Gamma-ray burst would be invisible.  More likely a comet or asteroid crash, at first. I wonder if a huge coronal mass ejection could cause this.

The next morning, at 10 AM, the couple finds that there is no one at the hotel front desk or in the continental breakfast room.  (How often have I made waffles at Comfort Inns when on the road?)  They go outside, and in ten minutes or so they realize something is very wrong.  Riley speculates about aliens; Maika about the Rapture.

They try the Internet, and find it up but news stopped flowing at 3 AM.  They try to call people on their smart phones.  Even for newlyweds, friends matter.  No one answers or calls back.  It’s interesting that (geothermal or hydro-driven) electricity, water, and Internet all work, so a solar event of EMP is ruled out.  Later, there will be a scene where Riley almost gets stuck for all eternity on an elevator.

They wander in a high-tech wilderness where they can break into stores and find food.  They visit a hot spring near a volcano that will set up the movie climax.  About an hour into the 90-minute film, they encounter a stray cat, who I think could have come along and been written into the script. Then they find one other survivor, an old man (Arnarr Jonsson) in his cabin, dying of pneumonia.  He has only a religious explanation.  The film does move toward further tragedy without explanation.

The movie reminds me of musical works like Vaughn Williams’s Sixth Symphony, or Bartok’s last string quartet.  Neither is used, but the chamber score by Keegan DeWitt is atmospheric enough.

I can bring to mind other films or series:  your dome-wall movies (Stephen King’s “The Dome” on CBS; “The Wall” (a Swiss film); or your Rapture-based movies, like “The Rapture” itself (1991) or the HBO series “The Leftovers”.  But his film turns out to be nothing more than beautiful desolation.

Here are some landscapes from Iceland (wiki).

Name:  “Bokeh”
Director, writer:  Geffrey Orthwein, Andrew Sullivan
Released:  2017
Format:  2.35:1
When and how viewed:  Amazon instant ($4.99 HD rental)
Length:  92
Rating:  R (some nudity, tastefully done)
Companies:  Screen Media, Cinedigm, Zealous Films
Link:  official, Ebert

(Posted: Saturday, September 2, 2017, 1 PM EDT; the picture is mine, 2016, from Grandfather Mountain, NC).

“The Dark Tower”: basic Stephen King, and an interesting tour of another planet

I can remember a dream as a child, looking across a nocturnal, oily, desert landscape with a lighthouse in the distance and a command from on high, “Do not go near the Tower of Ned”. Indeed, there is such a tower in my own screenplay “Epiphany”, on Titan, on a methane lake (most of the action happens in a rotating rama colony).

The horror sci-fi film “The Dark Tower”, directed by Nikolaj Arcel, is based on Stephen King’s novel series by that name. Indeed, part of the movie happens on another planet (actually filmed in South Africa), accessible through a portal, largely desert, populated with shanty towns and ruins of pyramid-like structures, leading to a sanctum where the Man in Black Walter O’Dim (Matthew McConaughey, who has a chance to be bad in rather arid fashion) unleashes his minions. He seeks to control an engine of the Universe, the so-called Dark Tower, made to look like Burj Khalifa Dubai, a metaphor for some kind of pulsar emitting rays in straight line fashion. His opponent is Roland Deschain, the Gunslinger (Irdis Elba).

Vox has pointed out that the film adaptation is rather loose (screenplays by Akiva Goldsman, Jeff Pinkner, and Anders Thomas Jensen as well as the director). I haven’t read the novels, but I remember great characters from other King novels becoming movies, like the “Walkin’ Dude” in “The Stand” as well as films like “Dreamcatcher” and “Storm of the Century” (sold in print as a screenplay, “Give me what I want and I’ll go away”), as well as the book “Cell”.(where technology makes people into monsters).

The star of the movie is the 13-year-old kid Jake Chambers (Tom Taylor), who anticipates the Dark Tower rivalry in his dreams, and whose fantasies and writings (he’s written graphic novel) are so shocking that his mother (Katheryn Winnick)l want to send him (from an upper West Side apartment) to therapy upstate (arranged by the villains). Instead, Jake will become almost the next Christ figure.

I saw this film as a break for news coverage about the North Korea nuclear crisis, and just as the movie ended I learned of Mattis’s stark warning backing up Trump’s.  Kim Jong Un is indeed a caricature of the Man in Black.

The music by Junkie XL reminds me of Hans Zimmer.

Vox commentaries (one  two).

South African scenery (wiki).

Burj in Dubai (wiki).

Name:  “The Dark Tower
Director, writer:  Nikolaj Arcel
Released:  2017
Format:  2.35:1
When and how viewed:  Angelika Mosaic, 2017/8/9, daytime, moderate audience
Length:  95
Rating:  PG-13
Companies:  Columbia
Link:  official

 

(Posted: Wednesday, Aug. 9, 2017 at 5:45 PM EDT)

“Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets”: Life in the ultimate model world populated by aliens; De Haan shines

Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets”, directed by Luc Besson (“The Fifth Element”) tells us what we have to look forward to as a species if we survive Donald Trump, North Korea, and Putin, and take civilization to the stars.  The movies is based on graphic novels and comic books by Pierre Christin and Jean Claude Mezieres.

Unfortunately for the 3-dimensional space city of Alpha, it has a leader who is like a combination of Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin, played by Clive Owen.  “Foreigners” whose desert planet (“Dube”) he had once destroyed, played by “Pearls” (like the beings in “Avatar” (2009))have infiltrated.  They seem to have placed a radioactive core “tumor” in the heart of the city.  It’s up to special operatives Major Valerian (Dane De Haan) and girl friend Lauraline (Cara Delevingne) to find and destroy.

De Haan, with his boyish skin and looks (he is 31) plays the role with great charisma, a real hero.

Alpha has many physical spaces, inhabited by all kinds of creatures.  AI bots looking like flies make up the computers.  The humans live in a vertical city sort of like a Hong Kong.  Toward the core there is a red district where no foreigners are allowed (hint: Trump) but drag queens are,  that looks like an open air gay bar running for blocks, embedded into a Disney theme park.  You expect to run into Sean Spicer in leather at any moment.

The desert planet was also interesting before it got blown up, with its own lego-city underground and rather bizarre lake beaches.

The film was shot in studios in France (Toulouse) and Quebec.

The title of the film makes me think of the “Valley of 1000 Smokes” in Alaska.

Here is an imdb image of what Alpha looks like.

Name: Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets
Director, writer:  Luc Besson
Released:  2017
Format:  2.35:1 3-D
When and how viewed:  Regal Ballston Quarter, sneak, small auditorium, fair audience, 2017/7/20
Length:  129
Rating:  PG-13
Companies:  STX, Europa  (French Canadian production, in English)
Link:  official

(Posted: Friday, July 21, 2017, 8:30 PM EDT)

“A Ghost Story”: what to expect during your own “life review” when you pass away

Richard Lowery’s new little “horror” film and Sundance hit, “A Ghost Story”, does indeed provide an interesting theory about the afterlife.  In a sense, heaven is for real, and not just in the Christian sense.

The basic idea here is that C (Casey Affleck, covered in an inexpensive bedsheet as a prop, right out of the morgue) goes through a “life review” (the Monroe Institute talks about this) first, experiencing his widow’s (Rooney Mara) grief as he mopes in their rented house in exurban Dallas.  But, since they weren’t together long enough to have kids, he has to find some other chains of “space-time boxes” to connect his own lifeline to.  These tesseracts are connected to the rural house itself, it’s history (back to the days of the pioneers and Indian attack) to the future, when the house is torn down and replaced by commercial real estate as the Dallas area keeps expanding.  The same fate as the gay club Town DC a year from now.

The film has a bare-bones look in the beginning, shot 1.37:1, to create the feel of old movies (though in color) and enable closeups, At a critical point in the screenplay, twenty minutes into the film, we see the aftermath of C’s fatal car wreck in front of his house (he was T-boned getting out of his driveway, but we don’t see the accident in motion).   But toward the end, as M does his time travel, the visuals get quite impressive.

There are some other social gatherings, as the Hispanic family that rents the house after M leaves, and the kids play with Brio toys – and people try the out-of-tune piano that never leaves the house (right out of Alban Berg’s “Wozzeck”).  Then there is a pot party with some other people, where Prognosticator (Will Oldham) gives a monologue on whether consciousness lives forever through music – using Beethoven’s Ninth as an example.  I thought he could try the completed Bruckner Ninth as an example (Dec 3 posting).

I thought particularly about Casey Affleck’s earlier tragic film “Gerry” (2002) , Gus Van Sant’s film where he and a friend played by Matt Damon face loss in the Mojave Desert.

Also, I remember Peter Straub’s mammoth 70s novel “Ghost Story”, with its long middle section about Anna Mobley, and the character Stringer Dedham, who didn’t die when the “life ran out of him”.  The movie (1981, John Irwin) was underwhelming.

Name: A Ghost Story
Director, writer:  Richard Lowery
Released:  2017
Format:  1.37:1 (old-time aspect for close-ups)
When and how viewed:  Angelika Mosaic Fairfax VA 2017/7/14 late night small audience
Length:  91
Rating:  PG-13
Companies:  A24
Link:  official

(Posted: Saturday, July 15, 2017 at 2:30 PM EDT)

“Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 2”: can a young man be a god and not know it for a little while?

Can a young man first born in the American Midwest to a seemingly average pair of young lovers find out that he is supposed to become a god and be immortal?  Can one be a god or angel  (or human-looking alien from another planet) and not know it until some initiation in young manhood?  Maybe Chris (or Christian, like in the Sibelius King Christian Suite) is the best name for such a character or the Hollywood star who plays him.  Donald Trump would never suspect a thing; his travel bans won’t apply to UFO’s from other planets.

That seems to be the gist of the new franchise sequel, “Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 2” written and directed by James Gunn (based on the Marvel comics series by Dan Abnett).

Minnesota-born (from the Iron range) Chris Pratt (remember him as the teenager “Bright” in the WB Series “Everwood”) plays the archtype superhero Peter Quill, or Star-Lord.  Chris, approaching 38, does look a little more weathered, and as I recall had at one time gained weight, which he shed. Now, well post-adolescence, there is a mop of hair decorating the middle of Chris’s chest, which is at risk from the laser probes through his bod toward the end.  (That also happened to the young Clark Kent on Smallville near the end of Season 2, resulting in a keloid scar for a few episodes.)  Chris’s character needs to add some art to his people skills: how about singing bel canto, playing piano, directing plays, and making short films.  He does carry others on his back.

After a prologue set against the disco radio music of 1980, we jump to 2014, when Peter (who, without relativity, would be the same age as Jesus during his ministry) visits the High Priestess (that was the name of a friend’s cat when I lived in NYC) on a golden throne in a golden palace in a city on some other planet looking like Dubai.  He’s sent on a quest to find his father and his ancestry. How he gets past the speed of light barrier is not explained.  Does he rent a digital holographic replica of his body from Hertz when he streams instantly to a new planet?  Oh, they show in him spaceships with a co-pilot Rocket, a talking raccoon with voice of Bradley Cooper.  And there is a little wood spirit (whose learning abilities play a critical role in the resolution at the end) with voice of Vin Diesel.

There are some other planets, like one with an open market in what looks like a town in Siberia, but he finally meets his real father, Ego, played by a foppish but aging Kurt Russell.  Ego has created his own living planet in his name, the size of the Moon – making us wonder how it has near Earth gravity. (Ever notice how these planets all have the same atmosphere as Earth?)  Ego wants to expand, so that the entire universe (or at least Milky Way Galaxy) becomes him.  The planet has wonderful scenery:  organix spires of plant material, with red and violet colors as well as the more common photosynthetic green.  Are any of these planets tidally locked?

We do see planets explode at the end, at least Ego.  And there is a scene where a blue mass (remember “The Blob”, which was pink) encroaches on a town (is that back in Missouri?)

And finally, after Peter is reassembled one last time it seems like he will become a god whether wants to or not.

Remember the pretext of the NBC series “The Event”, where Jason Ritter’s character saves everyone but doesn’t know he is an alien?

Wiki chart of sizes of exoplanets known so far.

Name:  “Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 2
Director, writer:  James Gunn
Released:  2017/5
Format:  2.35:1, 3-D, IMAX
When and how viewed:  AMC Potomac Mills, Woodbridge, VA, 2017/6/4, late, small audience
Length:  136
Rating:  PG-13
Companies:  Marvel, Walt Disney Pictures
Link:  official

(Posted: Monday, June 5, 2017 at 6:15 PM EDT)

“Two Lovers and a Bear”: in northern Canada, a polar bear plays guardian angel to troubled lovers fleeing their pasts

Two Lovers and a Bear“, by Kim Nguyen, is a bizarre little film that pits desperation and the will to live against a harsh environment, and argues for befriending wild animals to boot.  The film touches the fringes of sci-fi and erotic mystery without going very far.

Roman, played by the charismatic and boyish Dane DeHaan, drives trucks and run errands in Iqaluit (actually, Apex) in Nanavut, formerly part of Northwest Territories, above Hudson Bay, Canada, well above the Arctic Circle. He has an off-on relationship with a more bookish girl friend Lucy (Tatania Maslany) who wants go to Montreal or Toronto to college and study pre-med. Both he and Lucy have issues with abusive pasts.   He also has the unusual talent of befriending wild animals, especially a particular polar bear, with whom he carries on conversations (voice of Gordeon Pinsent).  (It occurred to me that Reid Ewing could have played this role, given his history with dogs on social media.)   The film shows a few impressive shots of the polar bear alone, and gives us a moment to ponder whether climate change will endanger is magnificent and free animal, well up the scale in intelligence.

Roman resents her leaving and even kicks her out when she wants to make up, but then they do make up and go on a journey south together on a snowmobile, oblivious to a coming spring blizzard.  The bear has three conversations with Roman in the movie, and is obviously concerned for Roman’s life. The bear knows he can survive but humans can’t (again, ironic, given the climate change issue).  Dangers mount, as Roman falls into an crevasse but Lucy gets him out.  They then have an interesting sequence inside an abandoned military facility that they stumble into, but this doesn’t give them enough wisdom to avoid tragedy.  But the Bear seems to have the key to their entry into heaven.

The early scenes in the film make indoor life in the village look more prosperous than we expect.  There is a party scene in a home early in the movie.  Everything, including Internet, seems to work.

I’ve had a couple of encounters with wild animals.  In Maine in 1974 on a trail on Mt. Katahdin, I saw a black bear in the distance, but he didn’t pay attention to me.  A few years ago on the Appalachian Trail near Stoney Man in Virginia, I saw a mother bear with her cub. She saw me but did not act concerned. She calmly crossed the trail with her cub and ran down the mountain.  On the day of Hurricane Sandy (in the DC area, a long way from the area of major damage), a crow twice chased me back into my garage, as if to warn me of the storm.

There have been a couple of films from Russia about the far north with similar moodiness, such as “The Return” (2003) and “How I Ended This Summer” (2010) and “Leviathan” (2015).

Wikipedia picture, Iqaluit.

Wikipedia picture, Apex.

Name: “Two Lovers and a Polar Bear”
Director, writer: Kim Nguyen
Released: 2016
Format:  2.35:1
When and how viewed:  Netflix, Instant play, 2017/5/23
Length: 98
Rating: R
Companies:  2oth Century Fox (rather than Searchlight, unusual for Fox), Entertainment One, Netflix
Link:  official FB

(Posted: Wednesday, May 24, 2017 at 7 PM EDT)

“Alien: Covenant”: A synthetic man makes his (adopted) home planet a deadly honeypot for a colony space ship

Ridley Scott’s “Alien: Covenant” is said to be a prequel of the well-known “Alien” franchise but also a sequel to “Prometheus” (2013), which had shown the panspermia of man and then set up the series of space journeys that could set mankind in mortal danger.  The story for this movie is by Jack Paglan and Michael Green.  Titan books sells a “novelization” of the movie.

I was still living in Manhattan at the end of 1978 when I saw the movie posters for the upcoming first “Alien” movie. There was a picture of an egg and a laser flare beaming down on bodies, and I thought some wording like “a warning”.  I wondered then if the movie was about some kind of mass abduction (given my contacts then with Dan Fry and “Understanding”).  Indeed, a movie about what happens to those who are “raptured” (an inverse of “The Leftovers”) could be an interesting premise. That would not be the case.  I remember standing in line at the Medallion Theater in Dallas Memorial Day 1979 to buy a ticket, and seeing a young man who had been severely burned in line.  That’s one of the few time I remember seeing that.  And I remember the visual captivation of the first movie:  the cave with the devices combining man with machine, the egg cases, and then, back on the ship, the exploding bodies, and later the hidden robot.  Ripley, Sjjuourney Weaver, believer.  For the third film, they gave out clippers for private parts.

The new film starts with a shot of an eye, and then we’re on some mountain spa on another planet, as David (Michael Fassbender) learns he is an immortal android artifice created by his dad, who has learned how to connect consciousness to AI.  Then we’re on a colonization ship, the Covenant, with 2000 colonists and some embryos looking for a specific Earth 2 at the other side of the galaxy. The ship (where Fassbender plays another droid, Walter) passes through a “neutrino flare” and gets damaged.  When the ship is getting fixed, it gets a bizarre transmission indicating another earth-like paradise planet is much closer. The crew takes the bait, not suspecting it is a honeypot.

The surface is a damp, fjord country of southern New Zealand (“Aotearoa”).  When the crew makes its initial exploration, it quickly notices the silence, no birds or animals.  Soon the astronauts are getting infected by dust that can enter an ear lobe, and the bodies start to explode.  Some of the crew is led to the ruins of a former city, ruled by David.

It seems that ten years before, the survivors of “Prometheus” had been there, and David, after arriving with them, had thrown a hissy fit and destroyed the entire civilization, after breeding a virus that destroyed all other animal life except this one shape-shifting monster mutant.  (Did that virus come from the Prometheus planet?)

The flashback makes the ancient city look quite interesting.  There were two organic sabres or “ships” that commanded an open circle in the center of the City.  The rest of it looked like a typical place in the Middle East, despite the damp climate.

Davis, as a character, presents a dilemma.  If you’re immortal you don’t need to have children. But wouldn’t you care about the future if you knew you would be around forever, like a god?

There’s an interesting sequence where David learns to play a flute, to articulate the soaring music theme that had played in “Prometheus” (by Mark Stretenfeld). David also has a fixation with Wagner, the “Entrance of the Gods into Valhalla” and the movie (before credits) ends with the close of “Das Rheingold”.  The closing credits feature a Wagnerian symphonic poem by Jed Kurzel.

Wikipedia New Zealand scenery.

Wikipedia chart of extra-solar planets.

Name:  “Alien: Covenant
Director, writer:  Ridley Scott
Released: 2017
Format:  2.35:1
When and how viewed:  Regal Ballston Quarter, 2017/5/22, large auditorium, evening, small audience
Length:  122
Rating:  R
Companies:  20th Century Fox, TSG, ScottFree
Link:  official

(Posted: Tuesday, May 23, 2017 at 3:30 PM EDT)