Alien: Covenant (2017): An Intriguing, Flawed Sequel Prequel
The Alien franchise has finally returned to the big screen five years after the release of Prometheus with Alien: Covenant. In an attempt to draw in both the fans of the divisive Prometheus and the classic Alien films, Ridley Scott looks to blend elements of all the films together into a satisfying mixture. But did he succeed in his mission to create a bloody, Xenomorph-filled cocktail? The following review will be spoiler free.
Alien: Covenant is directed by Ridley Scott and stars Katherine Waterston with Michael Fassbender, Billy Crudup, and Danny McBride. On the way to a far off planet in order to colonize it and start new life, the crew aboard the Covenant receive a distress signal from a nearby planet. While reading diagnostics on the planet, the crew comes to the conclusion that it is actually more of a sure bet of being habitable than their scheduled destination, prompting them tochange course and send a group down to investigate. However, as you can imagine, things are not as pleasant on the planet as the crew once thought as creatures of unknown origin begin to hunt down the group. Considering this is an Alien film, you can imagine that things get quite bloody.
2012’s Prometheus was highly debated upon its release with many either loving or hating the film.
Those who enjoyed it praised its gorgeous cinematography and strange, bizarre elements that truly expanded the Alien lore. However, for every person that loved it was a person who hated it, annoyed by the fact that it didn’t really answer any of the big questions it was trying to ask and didn’t have any classic Xenomorphs killing everything in sight. Many wondered if this was all we were going to get from the franchise.
Ridley Scott then dropped to many news outlets that Prometheus was the start of a prequel series leading up to the original Alien with the next film already in development.
That’s when Alien: Covenant came into the picture.
From the marketing material leading up to the film, the film appeared to bridge the gap between the far-out exploration that Prometheus ventured into with the classic elements of 1979’s Alien. But could it succeed?
What I Liked
As one might expect from a Ridley Scott film, Alien: Covenant is absolutely breathtaking. Scott has always had an knack for creating realistic, lived-in worlds that seamlessly blend practical and CGI elements. Hell, even Blade Runner still looks miraculous today.
Scott understands that CGI should be used as a tool, not a crutch. He builds large, elaborate sets, allowing for his actors to have an understanding of their surroundings. Then, for every element he can’t recreate with practical effects, only then does he use CGI. These elements allow for all of his films to essentially be timeless.
There are moments in this film that will have your mouth drop at its beauty. Even when Alien: Covenant falters (we’ll get to that in a second), the picture remains wholly watchable because everything is aesthetically pleasing.
Combined with some horrific, gross-out imagery from a new crop of bloodthirsty aliens, you have a film that is absolutely brilliant from a technical perspective.
What I Liked…Continued
Like practically everyone of his other films, Michael Fassbender once again proves that he’s easily one of the top working actors in Hollywood. I’ll keep the finer details of his performance under wraps as it may ruin the experience for people attempting to go into Alien: Covenant completely blind. But I’ll say this: prepare yourself.
Playing another android this time around, Fassbender changes in vocal pattern in such a distinct, sharp way without appearing cartoonish or over the top. This android is much more robotic an unemotional than his previous effort.
However, despite this rooted, unfeeling nature, Fassbender goes to depths that I didn’t imagine possible for a movie such as Alien: Covenant. He owns his performance, unabashedly resorting to weird, creepy actions and mannerisms that fit the vibe of the entire film. He’s certainly a true thespian.
What I Didn’t Like
However, for all its visual flair and impressive feats, Alien: Covenant can’t help but feel a bit hollow and frustrating.
Yes, the film does try to take all the things we’ve enjoyed about the franchise thus far and mix them together into a hybrid of sorts. There’s a lot of Alien, Aliens, Prometheus, and even quick homages to Alien 3. However, in its attempt to satisfy all these quadrants, the film falters in capturing the sensation of any of those films to a satisfying degree.
For all its naysayers, Prometheus had the gall to go out on a limb and ask possibly the biggest question of them all: who are our creators? Say what you want about the execution of this idea, but it certainly opened the door for completely different avenues to be explored within the Alien franchise. Rather than further explore this notion, Alien: Covenant plays it safe and disbands this idea for quick horror thrills that fail to make a lasting impression like its predecessors.
In the same vein, there’s a fine line between homage and ripping something off in film. Unfortunately, Alien: Covenant crosses this line. This last act of this film doesn’t add anything to the lore of this universe. Rather than adding some fun new twists, there’s an obvious effort to re-gift what came before and put a new bow on it.
What I Didn’t Like…Continued
Alien contained a subtlety about it that few films have replicated. The editing and camera movements heighten everything on screen, giving the film an extra bite. However, Ridley Scott’s editing prowess didn’t exactly come to play here. This is not an indictment of the film as a whole, but there’s a pivotal moment that occurs in the film where the editing makes an element of the story incredibly predictable. Once it occurs, the camera focuses in on it multiple times as if exclaiming, “don’t worry, nothing to see here!” We should expect better.
For all its promise, Alien: Covenant is a flawed film. The awe-inspiring production design paired with a gonzo performance from Michael Fassbender make this film wholly watchable and fascinating. Every actor is solid. Every creature is solid. Everything about this film is solid. But fans of this esteemed franchise deserve a little more than just solid. It gets a B. Like Prometheus, Alien: Covenant will most likely polarize a lot of people. And honestly, a compelling argument could made for both sides of the coin.
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