By midlandsmovies, May 16 2017 09:00AM
Alien: Covenant (2017) Dir. Ridley Scott
After offering some universe building themes in the much maligned Prometheus – a film I coincidently enjoyed against the tide of criticism – Ridley Scott returns to his Alien ‘franchise’ in this new sci-fi horror exploration. Whilst not mine, the general consensus was that Prometheus’ lofty subject matter of creators and deities overshadowed the crowd-pleasing terror of the earlier Alien films. Well, Covenant has sadly gone even further with his quasi-religious side-stories rather than rein them in and even I am losing patience with Scott’s obsessions.
In an absolute carbon copy beginning, and one that removes any sense of tension, we are introduced to a set of poorly-fleshed out stock characters as the crew of a colonist ship follows a signal to a mysterious planet. They send a party down to a mountain-filled landscape only to discover an extraterrestrial ship which they enter. Sound familiar at all?
Well, this dullness last for almost 40 long minutes and plays out EXACTLY as Prometheus did which was, and even I have to concede this, not the most interesting original opening in the first place. Rather than drama and dread, the film is as dull as dishwater then delivers the inevitable alien infection/quarantine scene – again, a duplication of things we’ve seen so often before.
And so we come to a point where it finally follows up on Prometheus as we find that film’s android, Michael Fassbender’s ‘David’, sneaking around the planet. Wearing Skywalker-esque robes he goes on to explain some fishy goings-on about the alien goo from the first film. He seems to know the score, both physically and metaphorically. By this, I do mean the actual musical score. The film jumps the shark as he teaches the crew’s own synthetic life form (Fassbender again as ‘Walter’) to play Prometheus’ orchestral main theme on a flute. Scott’s presenting a character playing the film’s theme tune?! That’s like Indiana Jones humming John Williams in the middle of an adventure!
With two robots now introduced, Scott spends an extraordinary amount of time on them and their ‘profound’ (think The Matrix’s ‘Architect’) discussions and interactions. Yet neither one contains the humanity needed to care about their actions. And when they begin fighting, I cared even less.
That aside, the film has further niggles with over-use of poor CGI to recreate the Xenomorph, and its genetic spin-off animals, and much of the film plays out in harsh daylight. Some JCB product placement made me question if the film is now set in “our” future. Which would be like an Apple logo suddenly appearing on a lightsaber. These flaws add up and by the second act, had me gritting my teeth in frustration.
[SPOILER PARAGRAPH] The film also pulls an ‘Alien 3’ by killing off the main character we engaged with from the previous movie. Noomi Rapace’s feisty Elizabeth Shaw is shown only as a corpse experimented on yet she is strangely replaced by a carbon-copy character played by Katherine Waterston. She is now the female in the tight crop top yet the film is consistently unsure who the main character should be anyways. And the mildly-interesting space-jockey engineers? Oh, they’re wiped off the face of the planet in a sequence lasting just seconds. [END OF SPOILERS]
The disappointment of the summer so far, Alien: Covenant is an absolute mess. I would go as far to say that Scott’s 1979 original is one of my top 10 films of all time. Cameron’s superb war action film not far behind too. Yet Scott is intent on focusing this new set of films on a bottomless pit of exposition and thesis based around an android’s god-like goals and dreams. And without Alien’s terror and Aliens’ excitement, Covenant falls into the worst place possible – it’s simply dull and elicits very little emotion at all and is as underwhelming as any film I’ve seen recently. Scott must do better if he’s to continue otherwise he may blow this franchise out of the airlock forever.
Midlands Movies Mike