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[Movie Review] Alien Covenant (2017)

Official Site

Plot Summary: The crew of a colony ship, bound for a remote planet, discover an uncharted paradise with a threat beyond their imagination, and must attempt a harrowing escape.

Director: Ridley Scott

Writers: John Logan and Dante Harper

Runtime: 2hr 2min

Main Cast:

  • Michael Fassbender as David / Walter
  • Katherine Waterson as Daniels
  • Billy Crudup as Oram
  • Danny McBride as Tennesse
  • Jussie Smollett as Ricks

Review: by Chris

Ridley Scott didn't make a lot of people happy with the flawed yet ambitious Alien prequel; Prometheus. Though I enjoyed the movie, its flaws are clear, especially in regards to its storytelling and characters.. With the direct sequel taking place 10 years after Prometheus, Scott attempts to make up for the problems of that film while adding another interesting nugget into the Alien mythos.  While a lot less frustrating than Prometheus, Covenant suffers from some of the same issues of that film.

What I Liked:

Much like Prometheus, Alien: Covenant is science fiction production design porn. Every ship, every set, every new location just oozes style and atmosphere. Its amazing what the team has been able to accomplish in terms of keeping to the Alien aesthetic. Even the most hopeful of locations gives off an eerie, otherworldly vibe. The dark shadowing and dripping ship interiors give off the perfect aesthetic for an Alien film. It’s something that has always held true with the newer alien films. It just looks so damn good.

The first half of this movie is everything I wanted a sequel to Prometheus to be. It went back to examine the God/Creator, Man/Creation themes that Prometheus struggled to hold on to. These themes are handled excellently with the scenes involving Fassbender’s David, who plays double duty as both synthetic android David and his updated model Walter. Once the movie begins outright, we are thrust head first into a serious of unfortunate events that set up so many interesting ideas, that it’s infinitely more frustrating what the film turns into. After a truly suspenseful and gory opening, I was primed and ready for what could be an exciting interesting ride. Things go south pretty quickly for the Covenant crew and I was at the edge of my seat. 

Much like Prometheus, the acting saves the show at times.  Though not giving nearly enough to work with, the cast does its best to create believable characters out of the cookie cutter “spaceship crew” characterizations.  Billy Crudup does a great job playing a captain out of his element trying to do with right thing (right up until the script tells him to act like an idiot). Michael Fassbender once again steals the show as the androids, David and Walter. In one of my favorite scenes of the year Walter and David discuss everything these movies are about and the philosophical implications and it’s hauntingly beautiful. 
 
Watching this movie felt like a true continuation of everything Prometheus wanted to say and do and it made me like that movie even more. Prometheus was kinda a mess in terms of quality but the ideas and philosophical musings carry on into this film and caused me to think a lot more on the Alien franchise and what the xenomorphs represent. Its some heady stuff, and not all of it is handled as well as I would’ve liked, but I appreciate the willingness to go this weird with the Alien franchise.
What I Didn’t Like:

From what was written above it would seem like I loved this movie, or at the very least had a good time. Unfortunately, there’s still the third act. It’s clear Scott took the fans complaints about not enough Alien in Prometheus and decided to dedicate the closing act to a poor remake of the original’s “scary monster on a ship” concept and the movie suffers for it. Without any real characterization for the leads outside of “sad cuz loved one died and I don’t wanna die” all of the tension is removed. I care more about David’s his existential crisis and God complex more than any of the crew mates.

Another carry over problem with this film is its inconsistent writing. In Prometheus, characters that were established as the best in their respective fields turned into idiots and it happens here again. Characters make some really bone-headed decisions and often devolve into people set up to move the plot going. Some unintentional hilarity ensues once its clear that we need to get into some more Alien stuff, as characters do some of the dumbest stuff possible to keep the plot moving. 
 
Though I stated I enjoy the true sequel feel and its relationship to Prometheus, not all of is handled too well. Major characters from the previous film get unsatisfying ends to their arc that seem like wasted opportunity. A character that is the driving force of Prometheus, one whose arc in the first movie led to many of the important revelations, gets an unceremonious offscreen death which just rubbed me the wrong way and it leads into another issue. I didn’t really want or need a real origin for the Alien creature, and the explanation here certainly didn’t change my mind. Though fitting with the themes of creation and Gods, it took away much of the fear of the unknown that made the xenomorph a scary monster. It was a horrifyingly focused killing machine, to find out its super villain-esque creation took away a lot of what made those creatures so scary. 

Images Courtesy of IMDB

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