Is it Alien or Alien Covenant?
Ridley Scott is 83 years old in 2020. Let that sink in.
The renowned and legendary director responsible for iconic science fiction and historical fiction movies like the 1979’s Alien, 1982’s Blade Runner, 2000’s Gladiator, and more is widely regarded to be past his prime. While 2015’s The Martian was a great movie, his other recent movies like 2014’s Exodus Gods And Kings and 2017’s Alien Covenant were not.
The question now is whether his latest project (Raised By Wolves is executive produced by Scott, but the true showrunner is actually Aaron Guzikowski, perhaps best known for The Red Road TV series) is as good as Alien and Blade Runner, or just another overly-ambitious dud like 2012’s Prometheus.
Religion Versus Atheism
Why did I mention Prometheus? Well, at first glance, Raised By Wolves immediately reminded me of that film. Not only the basic ideas and concepts but also the visual aesthetics and designs. Prometheus could have been a decent science fiction movie if it hadn’t been bogged down by having to be a prequel to Alien.
The less said about Alien Covenant, the better.
While the first season of Raised By Wolves will feature 10 episodes, I was only provided with the first three episodes. Those three episodes introduced me to the unique world and characters that inhabit said world.
Raised By Wolves centres upon two androids tasked with raising human children on a mysterious virgin planet. As the burgeoning colony of humans threatens to be torn apart by religious differences, the androids learn that controlling the beliefs of humans is a treacherous and difficult task.
The underlying theme explored in Raised By Wolves touches on religion versus atheism, and quite literally at that. I won’t reveal much, but humanity basically split into two warring factions; one that supports atheism and another that believes in a Mithraic religion, worshipping Sol AKA the Sun.
The Earth was ravaged by this war and one of the factions managed to build arks to escape the doomed planet. What’s refreshing and surprising about it all is that Raised By Wolves subverts the conventional science fiction tropes. In Raised By Wolves, it is the religious faction that is more technologically superior than the atheists or liberals.
The Androids (who are a huge focus of the plot) were made and used by the Mithraic faction in the war, but the two main Androids in the series have seemingly been reprogrammed for the other side. As previously mentioned, they’re tasked with raising a bunch of human children to be atheists, which are at odds with Mithraic beliefs.
The religion versus atheism theme gets a bit too heavy-handed at times, as it seems like the story is a bit one-sided and against religion from the beginning. However, Scott and Guzikowski have seemingly not committed that mistake, as flashbacks employed in the narrative (expect a lot of these) reveal that there’s quite a bit more depth to the story than that.
There are also a lot of religious allegories and symbolism in Raised By Wolves. While some of these are too on the nose at times, they add to the lore of the world in the show, and I’m excited to learn more of these real-world parallel elements.
For instance, the Mithraic beliefs mirror those of Christianity. Instead of crosses, they wear the symbol of the sun. Their clothes also seem reminiscent of the Crusaders, while their rituals remind me of Catholic rites. Even the Androids themselves remind me of Gorgons or Siren in the depiction of their abilities. For Pete’s sake, they even fly (or float) in a pose reminiscent to that of a crucified person, or Jesus Christ himself.
Just like his previous science fiction efforts, Raised By Wolves explores the ideas of artificial intelligence and the themes surrounding it. Don’t worry though, you won’t find any cringe-worthy “I’ll do the fingering” scenes like in Alien Covenant. At least, not in the three episodes I’ve seen so far.
Scott Brings His Visual A-Game
Even if the plot doesn’t interest you, fans of Scott’s signature science fiction aesthetics will have a lot to appreciate in Raised By Wolves. There are both elements from the sleek and clean designs of his more recent works like Prometheus, as well as the gritty and grimy aesthetics of Alien or Blade Runner; it’s the best of both worlds.
The visuals look like a combination of utopia and dystopian elements, which makes for striking imagery. Impressively, the production design and visual effects in Raised By Wolves are incredible to behold, as expected for something with Scott involved. Say what you want about his works, but they will usually be pleasing to the eyes at the very least.
You certainly won’t be disappointed if you’re planning to watch Raised By Wolves for its visuals. It is definitely cinematic, which is bolstered by the haunting music and sound effects featured in the show. Remember when I said that an Android’s ability reminded me of Sirens? Well, you won’t forget the first blood-curdling scream you hear.
The two main Androids in Raised By Wolves are Mother (Amanda Collins) and Father (Abubakar Salim), who struggle to raise their human child named Campion (Winta McGrath). There are a couple of children actors in Raised By Wolves, but none of them really stick out as particularly memorable.
The highlights of the series are the Androids, especially Collins’ Mother and the two main human characters; Marcus (Travis Fimmel) and Sue (Niamh Algar). The two human characters have an interesting background, and Fimmel manages to exude a bit of the same charisma he showed as Ragnar Lothbrok in the History Channel’s Vikings TV series.
Really though, in all the three episodes I’ve seen so far, Collins’ Mother is the standout character. Menacing and mysterious, she’s the one carrying the series so far, and I want to see more of her. That said, the others probably just need more time to grow and be more compelling.
Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?
If you like Ridley Scott’s visual aesthetics and flying Androids killing humans, then Raised By Wolves is likely for you to enjoy. Still, I will have to wait until I’ve watched the seven remaining episodes before I can say for sure if this will be as good as Scott’s best. Again (to clarify), he’s not the showrunner, but his name is attached to the series and he directed the first two episodes. It might as well be his, considering how much HBO is promoting the show using his name,
Ultimately, the potential is still there, even if the first three episodes aren’t exactly that stellar. Lord knows we need more science fiction shows to take more risks, and Raised By Wolves could be one of them.
FINAL SCORE: 70/100
Raised By Wolves is slated to premiere with its first three episodes on 3 September 2020 exclusively on HBO GO, with two new episodes premiering every subsequent Thursday on a weekly basis. In the meantime, check out the trailer below.