Archetypes: Film: Review: ‘Alien: Covenant’ (2017)

20th Century Fox

20th Century Fox

The Alien franchise’s signature archetype has been the Moon, signifying Lunar birthing and caregiving: there’s the space vessels’ operating system MU/TH/UR, simply referred to as “Mother”; the extraterrestrial xenomorph, keen on reproducing; the absentee mom who misses out on her daugheter’s entire life – easy to do when you’re lost in space – and who afterwards symbolically adopts a preteen in an unconscious act of penance. The franchise is full of innocents who become surrogate wombs, evil corporate types eager to broker new life forms, and clones galore.

Directed by Ridley Scott, Alien: Covenant’s Lunar mix is as potent as ever. It’s 2104 and a crew of married couples – with colonists and embryos in tow that metaphorically shout “family” – are on board the Covenant to settle on far-off Origae-6.

We’ve also had a glimpse, before credits roll, of the once newly minted David (Michael Fassbender) who had made his appearance in Prometheus, set a decade prior to the events of this film. Back then David calls his inventor-dad (Guy Pearce) “Father” who, in turn, says, “You are my creation.” The dialog, both minimal and clinical, is nevertheless familial. But in this new addition to the franchise, the notion of family becomes even more delineated.

20th Century Fox

20th Century Fox

Alien: Covenant’s Mercurial brother-and-twin archetypes emerge as a result of an intergalactic glitch on the vessel.

The crew is awakened years before their scheduled arrival at their destination and, in short order, a freak human-sounding communication reaches the ship from a much closer planet. Should the crew reroute for possibly greener pastures?

Daniels (Katherine Waterston) argues that the team has methodically spent 10 years researching Origae-6. “It’s a monumental risk not worth taking,” she says, unwilling to disrupt Saturnine discipline, data and good judgment. However, Daniels is outvoted by her superior Oram (Billy Crudup), who figures the planetary source of the unexpected, out-of-left-field Uranian transmission is worth a look. Soon after they descend on their new potential paradise, potent invasive parasitic microbes make them wish they hadn’t.

The key denizen of this new planet is David, who eventually meets up with the Covenant’s kindly synthetic, Walter (Fassbender). They’re lookalikes except for the hair. But the technology behind the earlier created David has allowed for creativity and emotion. Walter’s technology – to correct for a tad too much freethinking in past android iterations, such as David’s – is more limited. The two robotic brothers depict the contrast between Saturnine tradition and Uranian independence, mirroring the Daniels-Oram interaction.

These warring dualities – the ordinary, dutiful and mainstream vs. the inventive, visionary and disruptive – harken back to the relationship in Greek mythology between the Sky God and Gaea, and their offspring, the Titans, the youngest and most powerful of whom was Cronus, who eventually dethroned Daddy. However, once in power, Cronus swallowed his own children, just in case any of them got any ideas to rein in the old man.

In Alien: Covenant, the scene in which the more gifted David – the movie’s Cronus figure who has become a progenitor in his own right – teaches the simple, limited and less spontaneous Walter how to play the recorder is both sexual and soulful. Now that Walter has had a taste of genius, will he dethrone the symbolic father or will a sense of duty – the purpose for which he was created – prevail?

The answer lies in the film’s last few seconds as an android begets his gifts, all but tucking them into their beds.

Archetype: Brothers. Twins. Children. Families. Traditionalist. Visionary.

Astrology Archetype: ☽ ☿ ♄ ♅ (Moon, Mercury, Saturn, Uranus)

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