JUMP CUT
A REVIEW OF CONTEMPORARY MEDIA

Notes

1. Rory Cellan-Jones’ “Stephen Hawking warns artificial intelligence could end mankind,” BBC News, December 2, 2014,
http://www.bbc.com/news/technology-30290540.
Not surprisingly, Hawking’s pessimism views other contemporary events as no less potentially apocalyptic. 

“’Professor Stephen Hawking thinks the human species will have to populate a new planet within 100 years if it is to survive,’ the BBC said with a notable absence of punctuation marks in a statement posted online. ‘With climate change, overdue asteroid strikes, epidemics and population growth, our own planet is increasingly precarious.’"

Peter Holley’s “Stephen Hawking now says humanity has only about 100 years to escape Earth.” Chicago Tribune, May 5, 2017, http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/nationworld/science/
ct-stephen-hawking-escape-earth-20170505-story.html
.
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2. Andre Bazin, What is Cinema? Trans. Hugh Gray (Berkeley: U. of Ca. Press, 1967), 24.

3. For an analysis of how digital movies have changed the form and production of movies, see, for example, William Brown, “man without a movie camera – movies without men – toward a posthumanist cinema?” in Warren Buckland, Film and Contemporary Hollywood Movies (New York: Routledge, 2009).

4. Director Jeunet has disclaimed authorship of the alternate, “special edition” ending that’s available on DVD. Jean-Pierre Jeunet’s Introductory Commentary to the Theatrical Release, Alien Resurrection DVD, Alien Quadrilogy. In that alternate ending, the earth has been destroyed, and Ripley and Call look upon the city of Paris shown in ruins, including a shot of a broken Eiffel Tower. 

5. The phrase “more human than humans” is the Tyrell Corporation’s slogan to describe the “replicants” or artificial beings with a limited “life” span that Dr. Tyrell, the movie’s Dr. Frankenstein, has created in Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner (1982).

6. The complete promotional video can be found at
https://vimeo.com/50383392.

7. The Alien franchise has remained consistent in one respect. A non-US accent nearly always represents the “other” and hence symbolizes “evil”.

8. Yuval Harari explores that connection between the scientific curiosity to know and the imperialism of capitalism in his chapter on “The Marriage of Science and Empire” in Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind (New York: Harper Collins, 2015)

9. Mary Shelly, Frankenstein; or the Modern Prometheus (New York: Everyman's Library 1992), 48. Shelly expresses her viewpoint through her then-narrator, Victor Frankenstein.

10. William Shakespeare, King Lear, Act IV, scene i, lines 41-42.

11. The video “Alien: Covenant | Prologue: The Crossing” may be found at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ivv5ef4TDNw. In fact, several videos preceded Alien: Covenant. These include “Alien: Covenant | Prologue: Last Supper” (2017) and “Alien: Covenant | Meet Walter” (2017). Each seemingly includes footage that had been deleted from the released film.

12. This is not surprising, considering the emotional distance that Ridley Scott felt from Alien by the time that he made Alien: Covenant nearly 40 years later. Ridley Scott, “Audio Commentary,” Alien: Covenant, DVD (Aug. 15, 2017)
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13. In an extended version of the prologue that Scott deleted from the completed film, David describes at length the plot of this portion of Wagner’s opera. As described by David, the gods have rejected mankind as “weak, cruel and filled with greed.” Thus, they enter their perfect home in the heavens, Valhalla. Nevertheless, he adds, the gods were fated to die, since they were as venal as mankind. They were “false gods.” “Prologue (Extended),” Alien: Covenant, DVD

14. David observes a holographic record of the engineers’ flute playing in Prometheus as their means to start their ship’s navigation tools. He later plays that instrument when he shows these tools to Weyland in ancipation of awakening the one surviving engineer.

15. As Scott observes, Walter, in contrast to David, would never think of going against a human decision. Scott Commentary, Alien: Covenant, DVD. Walter’s humanity exists in the limitations and imperfections of his being.

16. The flashback depicting the slaughter of the engineers’ entire civilization was not in the film’s script. Scott insisted on filming the scene, however, believing that the film required an explanation of what had happened to the engineers. Moreover, Scott has said that he had originally thought of but then decided against including a reference in the film to Adolf Hitler. Not surprisingly, he is also however, obsessed with plagues and apocalyptic scenarios, noting that the aliens are a more aggressive, intelligent form of cockroaches and speculating that cockroaches may one day inherit the earth. Scott Commentary, Alien: Covenant, DVD.

It is also worth noting that, among the deleted scenes is a brief vignette in which crewmember Rosenthal briefly prays moments before an alien attacks and kills her by beheading. She recites in Hebrew the following well-known prayer from the Bible, Deuteronomy 6:4— “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one.” “Rosenthal Prayer,” Deleted and Extended Scenes, Extras, Alien: Covenant, DVD.

17. We learn in Prometheus that Shaw’s father died from Ebola, and David seems nearly gleeful in recounting to Shaw this fact that he’s learned while watching her dream in hypersleep.

18. Scott modeled Tennessee, particularly his hat, after Slim Pickens’ Major T. J. "King" Kong, the B-52 bomber commander in Stanley Kubrick’s black-humor, political satire Dr. Strangelove (1964). Scott Commentary, Alien: Covenant, DVD.

19. The mythology of a catastrophic flood is common to many cultures. See “List of Flood Myths,” https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_flood_myths.
For an interpretation of this mythology, see Harari, Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind, Chapter 4 (“The Flood”). 

20. The word “origae” in Latin is the feminine, plural term for the word “charioteer” or “driver.” World of Dictionary, http://worldofdictionary.com/dict/latin-english/meaning/origa.

21. Daniels’ acceptance of Walter as human or its equivalent is reflected in a deleted scene in which Daniels expresses her desire to be with Walter at her husband Jacob’s funeral. While the crew is comprised entirely of couples, Daniels notes that Walter would know something about being alone. “Jacob’s Funeral (Extended),” Deleted and Extended Scenes, Extras, Alien: Covenant, DVD.

22. The full text of Yeats’ “The Lake Isle of Innisfree” may be found on numerous online sites, including
https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poems/43281/the-lake-isle-of-innisfree.

23. Two deleted scenes from the completed movie underscore this difference in the characters of Oram and Daniels. In one, Oram tries to console Daniels for the death of her husband by telling her that she must “cry it out.” Daniels replies angrily by telling Oram that she will mourn his death in her own way. “Oram and Daniels (Extended),” Deleted and Extended Scenes, Extras, Alien: Covenant, DVD. In the other, Walter consoles Daniels by observing that the terraform garden is ideal for growing cannabis. Daniels replies by noting that Walter’s gesture demonstrates how he is not simply the result of programming. “Walter Visits Daniels,” Alien: Covenant, DVD.

24. Scott clearly sides with Daniels in this debate. Thus, Scott comments that the initial disruption of the space flight was a “random accident,” since you can’t plan for everything. Coincidentally, he describes his own DVD commentary to the movie as “unplanned” and “off the cuff.” Scott Commentary, Alien: Covenant, DVD.

25. Alfred North Whitehead, Science and the Modern World (New York: The Free Press, 1925), Chapter 5 (“The Romantic Reaction”), 94.

26. Shakespeare, King Lear, Act V, sc. ii, lines 9 – 11.

27. Yuval Harari, Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow (New York: HarperCollins, 2017), 372.

28. Coincidentally, John Denver’s song is at the emotional center of Steven Soderbergh’s Logan Lucky (2017). It’s the favorite song of the lead character, Jimmy Logan (Channing Tatum), who (accurately) tells his young daughter that the writers of the song had never been to West Virginia. Nevertheless, late in the movie his daughter chooses to sing this song during a competitive pageant. The audience sings along with her, and she wins the pageant.

29. Scott has characterized Shaw’s brief role in Alien: Covenant as that of Robinson Crusoe. Scott Commentary, Alien: Covenant, DVD.

30. Supposedly John Logan, a co-screenwriter on Alien: Covenant, is already writing “Covenant 2.” Eventually the narrative will form a “back door” into the original Alien. Scott Commentary, Alien: Covenant, DVD.

31. Scott uses the term “caskets” to describe these hibernation pods. Scott Commentary, Alien: Covenant, DVD.

32. King Lear, Act V, sc. iii, lines 328—330.

33. King Lear, Act V, sc. iii, line 393.