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169

Story Story Lie – The Devil Is In The Details

Comedy, Culture, Events, Interviews, Reviews, Showcase

May 27, 2017

On a balmy May evening, the din of the crowd at Cafe Deux Soleil is palpable from a block away. The venue is a well-loved place where the local community gathers nightly for improv, poetry, live music and for this night a story telling game show and podcast.

The premise is simple, listen to stories, pick out the liar, win fabulous prizes!

The show’s creator and host Jo Dworschak sat down with me for a quick interview on a hot sunny afternoon. I got to pet her bunny rabbit.

Floppo the Bunny (Photo By Anne Honeycutt)

 

LM: What is the inspiration of Story Story Lie?

JD: I moved to Vancouver and Vancouver didn’t have the variety of shows that I thought it should have. After travelling to Chicago to study with Second City I came back and thought about the type of show I wanted to do. My son and his friends had a game where they would tell two truths and a lie and it seemed like the best way to get storytellers involved.

Photo By Anne Honeycutt

LM: What is your selection process?

Jo explaining the show. (Photo by  Richard Glen Lett)

JD: I scout through shows in the area. I go to a lot of them and then sometimes I get recommendations.

LM: If you could have any person on the show living dead real fictional, who and why?

JD: My two personal icons! Who are Frida Kahlo and Leonard Cohen. They are just so inspiring to me.

LM: Who would be the worst person on your show?

JD: A Lawyer… *nervous laugh* actually not them because I am trying to get an online divorce attorney to sponsor the podcast.

LM: How do you get the cool and very practical prizes for the show?

JD: I buy random things off of Craigslist!

Travis Bernhardt talking about a magic act gone horribly wrong (Photo by  Richard Glen Lett)

LM: What would be your Hogwarts House or Star Trek Shirt Colour?

JD: Ops Gold

LM: If you were in an airport and you had time to waste and 20$ what would you spend it on?

JD: I wouldn’t buy a thing, but I would go get a quick pedicure and ask the person for their story.

If you are able to attend the next show June 10th at Cafe Deux Soliel please do. This is the type of show and cultural experiences that are awesome.

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136

Instant Theatre – A Fistful of Kicks: An Improvised Kung-Fu Spectacular

Comedy, Culture, Events, Improv, Reviews

May 27, 2017

“A long time ago, before East met West. When the modern world wasn’t so modern. In a far away land across the Pacific Ocean, there was one path, one way, one truth – kung-fu. A Fistful of Kicks is an improvised kung-fu spectacular starring an all Asian-Canadian cast of Vancouver’s best improvisers. Mashing up all of your favourite martial arts movies of yesteryear, this show will bring you all of the hard-hitting fight scenes together with our signature epic storytelling to tell these authentic and hilarious stories all for one amazing show. Filled with impressive stunts choreographed by local fight director, Nathania Bernabe, an amazing soundtrack, and a grand adventure, this is a unique and exhilarating improv show with a cultural twist.

Vivian Tang, Brent Hirose, Kai Rudell, Carla Mah, Curt Da Silva and Kia Vance

Featured comics include Curt Da Silva, Vivian Tang, Carla Mah, Brent Hirose, Nathania Bernabe, Kia Vance, and Kai Rudell.”

A Fistful of Kicks: An Improvised Kung-Fu Spectacular started off as part of Instant Theatre’s Incubator program. Curt Da Silva the show’s director/producer organized to have fights choreographed for the show by local fight coordinator Nathania Bernabe.  After having several successful shows it has been added to the monthly line up of shows that Instant puts on at The Havana. Representation matters and to have a show that honours Asian heritage in a city that has a population of 42.9% of Asian descent is not only important but vitally needed.

The story itself ended up being an epic much along the lines of most epic Eastern tales with trickster spirits, pupils and masters teacher each other, goddess empresses, family feuds and in the end a happy end. 

The next showing of this masterpiece is June 9th at The Havana. 

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295

Review – Here I Stand: A Benefit + Awareness Show – Opera Mariposa

Culture, Events, Performance, Reviews

May 26, 2017

Review – Here I Stand: A Benefit + Awareness Show

I recently had the pleasure of attending Opera Mariposa’s “Here I Stand” benefit and awareness concert for Myalgic Encephalomyelitis/Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and Fibromyalgia (ME/CFS & FM).

Soprano and Artistic Director, Jacqueline Ko, tells her inspirational story of living with ME/FM through a variety of musical theatre songs and opera arias with highly accomplished pianist Angus Kellet.

A big part of Jacqueline’s story is the chronic pain and emotional struggles born out of the many obstacles she has faced. That struggle was explored through carefully chosen songs and arias. The song “Anyone Can Whistle”, by Stephen Sondheim, was an insight into what it feels like to not be able to do normal things the way someone without ME/FM would.

So why not do extraordinary things? Jacqueline became an opera singer and started an opera company. She mentioned this with pride, and rightfully so.

I know how much work goes into putting on a show like this, but I was blown away when Jacqueline said she will spend months recovering from this one night. “You Learn to Live Without”, from If/Then by Tom Kitt, alluded to all the adjustments Jacqueline has had to make since she became ill at just six years old. Yet you can see how much joy singing brings to her life, and how it radiates to the other people around her.

Her musical numbers showcased how versatile her voice can be: delightfully sweet and intimate, yet also powerful and raw. It was a welcome surprise to hear her sing “Wait For It” (complete with an Opera Mariposa chorus) and “That Would Be Enough” from the highly acclaimed and very popular musical Hamilton by Lin-Manuel Miranda.

However, two pieces were absolute standouts for me. “To This, We’ve Come” from The Consul by Gian Carlo Menotti, requires a solid classical technique, while still conveying an utterly tragic frustration with how immovable bureaucracy can be to the disenfranchised. It’s chilling to hear Jacqueline sing lines like “I’m asking for help, and all you give me is papers” as she sings with her whole body and every ounce of emotion.

The second standout piece for me was “Elle a fui, la tourterelle” from The Tales of Hoffman by Jacques Offenbach. Jacqueline makes a quick joke about how she just had to sing this aria. It’s about a woman that is forbidden to sing because of her illness, but she sings anyway. I was very moved with how graceful, lyrical and resonant her voice was. It was as if the aria was written for her.

This concert was a unique experience, with a very important purpose. I’m grateful to have been there.

Photography by Diamond’s Edge Photography: https://michelledohertyphoto.smugmug.com/


Kathryn grew up in Vancouver as a proud geek & nerd. Her love of sci-fi led to her first big dramatic dream of becoming the blue alien from the Fifth Element. Instead, she graduated with a Bachelors of Music degree as an opera singer. She is also a regular photographer for various performing arts groups and recently has been most interested in fun boudoir & body positive photo shoots. You can contact her here.

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211

God of Comics: Saucer State #1

God Of Comics, Reviews

May 23, 2017

Saucer State #1 (IDW Publishing)

This has been a weirdly political week, I think. Why not end it that way?

Check this out: there was a comic called Saucer Country that was about alien abductions taking place within America, and it was a lot of fun. There was a democratic governer that was abducted and had to deal with the fallout of that while playing politics that were as ruthless as anything you’d see on, say Game of Thrones or House of Cards. Do you know Charles Fort? He once said “The Earth is a farm. We are all someone else’s property.” This governer came face to face with that as a reality and was then stone-walled by various people in the know.

She managed to make it out of the initial run with her political career intact, though it took some doing – seriously, read Saucer Country, it’s one of the best comics that came out in 2012, it’s fourteen issues long and you can grab it in trade by clicking here – and now she’s upped her game and pulled an Underwood and become President of the United States of America.

Her goal is to find out who and what abducted her and why using the resources now at her disposal, and to wage war to protect America and the world as necessary. Did I mention she’s PoC? She’s PoC and politically brilliant. This comic is amazing.

Saucer State is the brain child of Paul Cornell, who you might remember as the genius behind Demon Knights, one of the few bright spots of the nu52, and the awesomely complex new iteration of Vampirella. He’s being joined by Ryan Kelly, the artist who worked on the original Saucer Country and has proven that he can capture the social complexities and weirdness that comes with having memory alteration be part of your story while juggling alien science-magic.

This is going to be incredible, and both Cornell and Kelly have promised you don’t need to be familiar with Saucer Country to dive right in to Saucer State – but I would recommend reading it anyway because it is seriously that good.

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209

God of Comics: Samaritan #1

God Of Comics, Reviews

May 23, 2017

Samaritan #1 (Image Comics)

Computers and the internet have changed the world.

It’s funny – I remember watching sitcoms in the eighties where computers were likened to a passing trend – I think it was Married… with Children that called computers “the pet rock of the eighties.” The popular opinion was that they were overpriced and useless and I had one and loved it because I could use it to write.

Now, of course, computers are everywhere. Computers and the internet have forced every industry to re-evaluate itself because when people don’t like an industry they will talk about it and there isn’t a lot that those industries can do about. It’s one of the reasons that industry keeps trying to kill the internet: they can’t control this thing that has become vital to life in the modern era, so they try to choke it, kill it, shove the genie back in the bottle.

Another thing that internet has done has given us a growing understanding of things like wage theft and the wage gap and the one percent, the undeserving oligarchy that has been strangling progress and innovation for decades to keep themselves wealthy while the rest of us struggle and die so they can have just a little bit more.

There’s been a number of stories about that struggle, about people realizing how badly they’ve been screwed attempting to fight back: Mr. Robot, Person of Interest, Alif the Unseen, Hacktivist, and others all come to ready mind – stories of people using computer wizardry to strike down their oppressors like the literal wizards of older tales.

Samaritan is the latest story in that vein.

Writer Matt Hawkins plays in a house he is very familiar with, given his prior work on titles like Think Tank and IXth Generation. This is a man that is very comfortable working in both hard science fiction and science magic, often crossing between the two to drive home the core concepts of the stories he tells.

Here, the largest military contractor in the world has crossed the wrong woman, a hacker who has decided that she’s going to bankrupt them for their crimes against humanity. Her plan? Steal all their data and make it open source, giving it away to anyone that wants it and laying their every secret bare before the American Government kills her for exposing their secrets.

I’d say that’s far-fetched, but Chelsea Manning was imprisoned for embarrassing a corporatist regime and Edward Snowden is still on the run for doing the same thing. These two heroes had their lives destroyed for exposing crimes committed to make those aforementioned affluenza-sufferers richer, so… maybe not that far-fetched?

Atilio Rojo dares to illustrate Matt’s fever dream, and the two of them have worked together before on the excellent and underrated Eden’s Fall, which is another comic that you might want to hunt down and read. If Samaritan ends up being even half as good as that title was, we’re in for something special – get in now, because this is going to be awesome.

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225

God of Comics: Rat Queens #3

God Of Comics, Reviews

May 23, 2017

Rat Queens #3 (Image Comics)

Yes, it’s the third issue of Rat Queens and the third time I’m talking about Rat Queens in that time. Can you tell that I’m happy this series is back?

Rat Queens is the brainchild of Kurtis Wiebe, one of the more progressive writers in comics with a liking for stories that deal with complex characters and modern issues set against a background of whatever genre has caught his eye. In the case of Rat Queens, this means classic Dungeons & Dragons fantasy tropes.

The Queens are an all-female group of adventurers that address a multitude of backgrounds and concepts: the atheist cleric who knows her god exists and doesn’t care, the half-demon and half-elf necromancer with more chip than shoulder, the literal manic pixie dream girl, and the tradition-smashing dwarf warrior who leads them.

All four of them are troubled and come from places that demanded that they make a family rather than rely on the ones they were born into, and their histories haunt them as much as the monsters that they face. There’s a lot to unpack here, and the first run of the series inspired a host of imitators and echoes that can’t quite capture the same feel or complexity of the original.

The newer iteration, then, is amping up the complexity of character and issue to further set itself apart. The cult that the atheist cleric escaped from would really like her to come and rule them. The necromancer really wants to be left alone. They’ve adopted a transgendered half-orc into the family. The dwarf warrior’s older brother has come to town with his own group of mercenaries and adventurers, the Cat Kings, in an effort to show up his sister.

The Cat Kings have a mushroom druid and the manic pixie dream girl is trying to get high by eating him.

It’s… well, it’s pretty much comic perfection, the most accurate portrayal of the best kind of Dungeons & Dragons campaign. Rat Queens perfectly captures the creativity and madness of campaigns run amuck and characters risking all for the sake of cool, because that’s what Dungeons & Dragons is.

New artist Owen Gieni proves worthy to the challenge of Kurtis’ scripts, inventing monsters on the fly and making me wonder what the stats would be for a Dire Canadian Goose. The normal ones are vicious bloodthirsty animals, but a dire one…? Yikes. He also handles magic and violence and sexy well, and all of these things are important because that, friends, is the heart of this comic.

If you like fun, give this a read.

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214

God of Comics: Rapture #1

God Of Comics, Reviews

May 23, 2017

Rapture #1 (Valiant Entertainment)

I get a lot of people accusing me of loving everything Valiant does. It’s mostly true – Valiant is doing the mature superhero comics that Marvel and DC Comics keep talking about, but focusing on story and character rather than shocking swerves for quick sales boosts that lead to ever-decreasing returns (I’m looking at you, Marvel, with your Captain Nazi: Nazi Empire).

But they do not do everything right: the initial run of Shadowman was overly ambitious and not very good. A lesser company might have tried to retcon the problem away, but Valiant has done something much more better: they ran at the problem full tilt and are fixing it by expanding upon it, keeping the problematic stuff in continuity but bringing it back into the fold and making it retroactively better.

Shadowman is a divine loa riding a human forever. The two of them can draw on one another, and the loa in Shadowman is one of the most powerful beings in the Valiant-verse. It is supposed to watch the boundaries of the living and dead worlds, but fell victim to a necromancer who then tried to overrun the living with the dead. It took the entire Valiant universe to stop him, but the consequences were pretty damn dire.

When that happened, though, Shadowman was taken in by MI-6 and they’ve recruited a woman named Punk Mambo to help him get his power under control. Good for them. The necromancer’s plan involved twisting the life-force of the planet into something it was never meant to be and allowed a new Geomancer into the world – a young girl named Tama who now has access to all the living knowledge and power in the world.

She knows that there is a war coming: the man whom the Tower of Babel was named for is coming to reclaim his home, and it turns out the necromancer that nearly killed everyone was cribbing Babel’s notes. Lucky for us, the spirit that inspired tales of wandering barbarians has taken up residence in the Tower and has no desire to give it up, but even the truth that inspired Conan’s legend isn’t enough to stand against a power like that, not alone.

Normally, Tama would call on the Fist and Steel of the living Earth to deal with her problems, but the Eternal Warrior hasn’t been the same since tangling with the necromancer and so she’s got to look elsewhere. MI-6 is right there, so she’s grabbing Punk Mambo and Shadowman and MI-6’s illegitimate lovechild of Batman and James Bond, the man we call Ninjak.

It’s five against one, but the one has an army and has already pierced heaven once – and if he does it again it could mean the end of everything, forever.

Matt Kindt is writing, and he does his best work when Valiant lets him run wild like he is here (see also X-O Manowar #3, out this week). The artist mortals call Cafu is playing with a lot of heavy concepts and different worlds, but this is where Cafu thrives and you can tell. Better still, as complex as I’m making all this sound, Valiant does a damn fine job of making their stuff accessible. If you’re looking for an alternative to DC Comics and especially Marvel, Valiant might be just what you’re looking for.

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203

God of Comics: Destroyer #1

God Of Comics, Reviews

May 23, 2017

Destroyer #1 (Boom Studios)

It’s like an article torn from today’s headlines: cops shoot black pre-pubescent in less than a couple seconds for no real reason and get away with it, media tries to villainize kid, and before anyone can say black lives matter the cops take a paid vacation before heading back out on the streets where they can continue to terrorize the populace they’re supposed to protect and serve.

Good evening, overseer. Traded in a whip for a gun, but I guess both still crack – they make a loud noise, break communities, and terrorize many for the glory of a few. Well done.

Things are set to be a little different this time around, though: this child leaves behind a grieving mother who is also the last surviving descendant of a certain Victor von Frankenstein. She’s totally done with waiting for a justice she knows will never come – a justice that will not give her back her murdered son – so she’s going to crack open the family medical journals and find herself a solution.

Victor’s genius did not stray from the family line. His many-times-removed grand-daughter, Baker, has exiled herself to deepest whitest America where she can mourn in peace and work on her science and generally be left alone. It’s working out for her and she’s making progress, but, well…

The monster has been sighted.

Mary Shelley originally envisioned the monster as a thing of beauty, the ugliness only coming later as a means to convey that the monster was a dead thing. This story falls into the latter camp, with the monster being a massive horror that just wants to be left alone. Sadly, climate change and whaling bring the monster out of isolation, and he murders two barges and a whole town on his way back into civilization.

His anger at humanity has not abated and has, if anything, only gotten worse.

Writer Victor Lavalle is looking to explore love, loss, and vengeance in the modern world where ancient horrors still lurk and kill us. He’s an award-winning author whose written some incredible work – the Ballad of Black Tom and the Devil in Silver being the stand outs for me, but the curious may also want to check out the Big Machine and Slapboxing with Jesus. The art team is equal to the task of the story, given Dietrich Smith and Joana Lafuente, and this comic plays well with a lot of the other horror comics Boom has published (Hexed, Day Men, the Woods).

Get in now. This is going to be great.

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298

Geeks versus Nerds Vancouver – Episode 34: Hot Wheels & Shady Deals

Comedy, Events, Reviews, Showcase

May 19, 2017

The last season of Geeks versus Nerds Vancouver is proving to be super entertaining and full of the good stuff.

This episode was Hot Wheels & Shady Deals and it put Team Rocket against Cobra and The Delorean against The Batmobile.

The Opening Debate was Team Rocket vs. Cobra – They just cannot win… but this time, one of them has to! Right? Right?! It’s TEAM ROCKET versus COBRA – “Which is the least effective criminal organization?”

The members of Team Rocket were Adam Duff (a GvN regular), Phil Amore (of The Criticals Comedy) and Neoma Charles-Lundaahl (in her second debate with GvN).

The members of Team Cobra were Keegan Flick-Parker (Producer of GvN Vancouver), Beni Spieler and Nick Drake (both are regular performers for GvN)

This debate was filled with such a great knowledge of the fandoms. I don’t think that I have fully appreciated how crappy both Team Rocket and Cobra both are until I heard these two teams debate.

On one hand, Team Rocket are just the worst at being criminals. They are part of a world where they do not teach basic education but only how to train and fight Pokemon. On the other hand, Cobra is a terrible terrorist organization, they really do not grasp the finer points of espionage. Both teams fought well, but in the end, Team Rocket was THE WORST.

The Headlining Debate was The Delorean vs. The Batmobile – These cars have it all – speed, power, style, and ridiculous special powers! But which is superior? It’s THE DELOREAN versus THE BATMOBILE – “Which is the coolest ride?”

On Team DeLorean was Jo Dworschak (from Fruit Salad and Story, Story, Lie), Zachary Taylor (of The Criticals Comedy) and Graeme Thompson (GvN Regular and actor about town).

The members of Team Batmobile were Brent Hirose (Instant Theatre), Hunter Cochrane, Jess Ode.

One of the great parts of Geeks Versus Nerds Vancouver is that it gives local performers a place to stretch themselves out and grow. I am not going to lie, I love Batman and I was set to cheer for The Batmobile the team for Team DeLorean made the best case possible.

In its essence, this debate is Car vs. Time Machine and who better in our modern popular culture to tout the benefits of owning a Time Machine than Rick Sanchez. The pure amazing that was Graeme Thompson dressed as Rick,  spouting his points mid burp while yelling for that Mulan Szechuan Sauce was possibly the scale tipper on this one.

Team DeLorean despite Team Batmobile’s noble attempt to weave the mythology of John DeLorean advocating for the destruction of his coke induced monster car, won, and they won hard.

 

All in all the show was great and we cannot stress this enough, GO TO THE LAST TWO SHOWS THAT GEEKS VERSUS NERDS VANCOUVER WILL BE HAVING.

May 27th Geeks versus Nerds – Ep35: Absolutely Revolting – Pinky and The Brain Vs. Invader Zim and Gir / Katniss Everdeen vs. Neo

And their final show is on June 24th which will put Black Magic against Super Science and Steve Urkel against Sheldon Cooper.

 

All photo credits belong to Zemekiss Photography

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342

Alien: Covenant

Culture, film, Reviews

May 19, 2017

The Alien series shifts genre in a strange parallel to the xenomorph upon which it was based and as commentary on the era in which it was made. The first movie was about horror and suspense as took us from the seventies to the eighties, where the suspense we felt moving from one decade to the next gave way to the horrors of corruption and disease that we’re still feeling to this day. The second movie was all about action and consequence and how the greed of a few might kill the rest of us, about how our society will blindly follow the people that are profiting off our work into war and not heed the warnings of those with the most experience. Sounds like Iran-Contra, the AIDS epidemic, the Iraqi War… all those messes that we barely survived.

Alien3 was a thing that happened; we had settled in nihilism by that point, and David Fincher captured the entropy that had taken root in the human soul, the disappointment of his movie caused by forces far beyond his control but still being forged into something better than it had any business being. The fourth movie was a music video written by Joss Whedon, a high action disaster that started strong and ended weak… and that was okay. We weren’t expecting anything more than a close to the series and that was it.

It should be noted that Neill Blomkamp’s Alien movie is apparently dead, but it was supposed to be the Alien3 movie we had been promised thirty years ago. Instead of that, we got Prometheus, a wildly ambitious high-concept sci-fi adventure movie that would have been stronger without a connection to this franchise. Honestly, most of the problems people have with that movie is that it ties into the others, acting as a direct prequel to the very first movie. This movie acts as a direct sequel to that movie, which makes it the second chronological movie in the six-movie-long series, with a third part to begin shooting in fourteen months, which will make this a seven-movie long franchise if you don’t count the two AvP movies.

Confused yet? Don’t be. One of our staffers didn’t see Prometheus and went with me when I saw this, and he seemed to have a good time. I had a good time, and you will, too. Just try to relax your brain a little because this is, like Prometheus, not what you’re expecting from an Alien movie.

“We’re all still going to die. Morituri nolumus mori.”

Whatever that may be. C’mon, guys, given how loose the continuity is and how much these movies change from one installment to the next, you just kinda sit back and accept the movie for what it is. Have some popcorn.

Covenant very much aims to equal the ambition of Prometheus while also taking into account fan backlash – there’s a lot of concessions made that directly address problems that fans had with Prometheus, and some of those are for the better. To illustrate those points, though, we need to talk spoilers. You have been warned. The whole movie is summarized below, so highlight at your own discretion or skip past it to where we talk about the movie without spoiling it:

We cold open in a white room where Peter Weyland is waking up David, an android played by Michael Fassbender and one of the big reasons so many things went wrong in the story of Prometheus – that movie is basically about David being creepy and touching things and here we get to know the beginnings of his dissatisfaction with humanity, as his creator is kind of a tool. Thankfully, they both got ripped apart in Prometheus, so we cut to

A crew of colonists in deep stasis, heading towards a planet that has been researched for them. They are being cared for by a robot named Walter who doesn’t do creepy things but is still played by Michael Fassbender. They’re doing a recharge of the electrical systems when there’s a solar flare that causes that system to be damaged and wakes up some of the crew while also burning one of them to death in his pod as his girlfriend looks on.

The person that died was supposed to be the captain, which puts Oram in charge. He’s not good with people and thinks people don’t like him because he’s religious, which he brings up a few times and doesn’t play into his character arc at all but does play into the themes of the movie, so we’ll let that one go. The crew is full of couples (including a gay couple, which is a nice touch), and dead captain’s surviving partner is Katherine Waterston’s Daniels. She leads a funeral that Oram isn’t onboard with, but he lets it go without comment because he’s not an asshole.

As they’re fixing things they pick up a distant distress signal from… somewhere. They use long-range scanners and find a planet that is much closer than the one they’re supposed to go to that is suitable for human habitation – they could get to this one in a week, and the one they’re supposed to go to is decades away and requires more sleeping in cryo-pods like the one the captain burned to death in, so off they go explore the new world. Daniels objects, but not loudly given that her lover was just turned into BBQ.

Oram and Daniels lead an away team down to the planet and find it full of plants and, strangely, wheat, but no animals. They test for toxins in the atmosphere and find none, so they head out and discover the crashed ship that Shaw and David stole in Prometheus, along with Shaw’s dog tags. There’s no sign of Shaw or David, though. Everything is okay until two people are infected by microscopic spores and hatch white not-xenomorphs that blow up the ship they came down on and nearly kill them all until they are rescued by David.

David leads them to a necropolis that is clearly an alien city (actually one built by and for the Engineers) and David tells them a story about how the Engineers and Shaw both died and it was sad and he is sad. David and Walter have some conversations that are the core and most interesting part of the film that infers questions about the act of creation and what is owed between creator and creation. It’s some interesting stuff that hints at the horrors to come.

David watches as a human gets killed by one of the white not-xenomorphs and tries to communicate with it, but then Oram blows it up and tells David that he is the devil. So David offers to show him something and Oram, instead of shooting him, follows him down into a pit where there are xenomorph eggs and David reveals that he created them. Oram gets face-huggered and out bursts a mini-xenomorph. Oram is dead, a xenomorph is on the loose, and Danny McBride is in charge of the mothership and brings it down for a rescue.

We get Daniels fighting the Xenomorph on a flying ship while David and Walter have a conversation and one of them dies and the winner goes on the ship. Daniels beats the xenomorph but there is another and that one ends up on the ship and kills the whole crew except for Daniels and Danny, who jettison it from an airlock in a tense battle because that is how the first, second, and fourth movies ended and it worked for them.

Daniels and Danny go into their pods and go to sleep, the android on board is revealed to be David, and that’s where the movie ends.

So, now that that’s out of the way, let’s talk about the movie.

First off, this movie is gorgeous. Ridley Scott has some flaws as a director but set design and cinematography have never been among them, and this movie lives up to the high expectations he sets for himself. The ship looks good and practical, the necropolis is fascinating, the ruined Engineer ship is as haunting as you might remember if you saw Prometheus. The score is gorgeous and perfectly sets the mood and compliments the visuals and the direction is spot on.

The writing is also stronger here than it was in Prometheus. Aside from a couple of character moments that are never followed up on – like the replacement captain being a man of faith and that being why he wasn’t fit to be the actual captain – we get the sense that these are people that know and trust one another and that they are professionals. Their deaths are the result of circumstance and panic rather than idiocy, and they feel like experts who have hit a situation they’re not prepared for. It makes the movie more enjoyable when we want the characters to live, and we do here; even Danny McBride brings surprising nuance to his performance, and it makes the movie stronger.

Fassbender is transcendent, playing two understated characters with very different experiences and goals. There are subtleties to each of them that set them apart from one another, small tics in body language that speak about the intelligences that they are. His David is heartbreaking and terrifying, his Walter aloof but sympathetic. The dichotomy of these two characters are what makes this film as good as it is, and their conversations are what allows us to see two very different ways of accepting the role of created and the drive to create.

Likewise, Katherine Waterson is also incredible. Fassbender’s characterization wouldn’t work without her, and if he is the backbone of the movie than she is the movie’s heart. This is entire tale is very much hers to tell, and her sense of loss is palpable throughout, her acceptance of Walter as a surrogate for her lost love heartbreaking in its conclusion. She is smart, agile, and courageous in the way we demand that protagonists in this franchise be. She is a worthy successor to Shaw, but perhaps not to Ripley and it’s painful to type that – this movie, like Prometheus before it, would be a much stronger film without being attached to the Alien franchise.

She is great.

The central question of the film is a good one and justifies the religious subtext and populates the undertones of the movie: where Prometheus was about stealing answers, Covenant is about building relationships with what is created. This trilogy is about David but is told through the eyes of heroines who do not live through their meeting with him; they are the main characters of the chapters they are in with David as the clear antagonist of their story, while he remains the protagonist of the trilogy as a whole. It’s an interesting means of framing a tale about an immortal creation plaguing his creators, all while creating something as monstrous as he perceives his creators to be.

Make no mistake: David’s reliance on human poetry and art to express himself is as defining as his sociopathic outlook on the human race as a whole, and it makes him both pitiable and more monstrous. He is alien in his mindset and outlook simply because he was alienated, and it remains to be seen what final revelation awaits him.

Which is not to say that the movie is perfect: it isn’t.

Like Prometheus before it, Covenant is a highly ambitious but flawed masterpiece.

The promise of the last film was that Shaw was going to find and confront the Engineers that we might learn more about them. David has killed them all sometime between the end of Prometheus and the beginning of this movie, so we learn nothing more about them. The humans that discover this have no time to seek answers to any questions they might have because they are trying to survive the white not-xenomorphs, the actual xenomorphs, and David (two out of three ain’t bad~!). It’s frustrating but understandable – the Engineers were a framing device in the first movie but are of no importance here – but that lack of resolution is irritating.

And, again, David’s creation of the xenomorphs adds nothing to the franchise as a whole and detracts from the mystery of the creatures somewhat. The xenomorphs aren’t scary anymore – we know all about them, what they do and what they’re about, and it’s hard to be afraid of them when we know so much about them. Because of this, the xenomorphs are denigrated from terrifying presence to a simple obstacle to be overcome.

Worse, we know them but the characters don’t, and that drives a wedge between us and the people we should be rooting for. If the characters were informed – if they had a chance to even glance at David’s notes – they might have been able to put up an informed fight and that would make the monsters scary again by showing their intelligence and versatility. The monster that shows an ability to learn is much more terrifying than the one that doesn’t, but they are not the antagonist here: David is. David does learn, David does show his intelligence, and David is terrifying.

Terrifying.

The xenomorphs are nothing more than a tool being used by the true villain in a movie that they are named for.

Aliens: Covenant is not a scary film. It has a couple of jump scares and it flirts with horror, but much less so than even Prometheus did. It will not give you nightmares and I don’t think it was designed to. This is a movie that is about the journey and the questions more than the destination or the answers, a complex exploration of a god’s responsibility disguised as a science fiction film.

It’s likely to be as divisive among Aliens fans as Prometheus was. It adheres to some tropes from the franchise it’s nominally a part of to its detriment, clearly a response to the backlash the first suffered, but that reining in of that ambition gains the film nothing and hobbles the scope of the potential trilogy as a whole. If this had been a new property I get that sense that people – including fans of the franchise – would love it, but as an Aliens movie, it confuses itself as it stumbles along.

All that said? It’s a fun movie and a good way to spend a couple of hours, and the conversations it inspires will be worth the price of admission. Fassbender and Waterson turn in incredible performances and the artbook is going to be a must-have for people that go in for that sort of thing (I am very much one of those people). Definitely worth seeing.

All photo credits are Mark Rogers.

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