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‘Alien: Covenant’ (review)

Produced by Ridley Scott, Mark Huffam,
Michael Schaefer, David Giler, Walter Hill

Story by Jack Paglen, Michael Green
Screenplay by John Logan, Dante Harper
Directed by Ridley Scott
Starring Katherine Waterston, Billy Crudup,
Michael Fassbender, Danny McBride,
Demián Bichir, Carmen Ejogo, James Franco

 

Alien: Covenant is visually everything you could have hoped for from an Alien movie made by Ridley Scott. Unfortunately, it also suffers from many of the storytelling and character flaws that maligned and crippled an uneven Prometheus.

Scott is a master of stunning visuals and the art of building tension in film. It is unfortunate he has sacrificed the art of storytelling to achieve such greatness in these other aspects of his craft.

After the tepid, sometimes volatile and negative reaction to Prometheus, Scott decided that he made a mistake. He thought the reason the film failed was because the audience wanted aliens, as we knew them, in an Alien movie.

He couldn’t have been further from the truth.

I think it had more to do with Damon Lindelof limitations as a storyteller, ruining a good script with his particular brand of stupid and arrogant bullcrap that ruined Prometheus, a film who’s theme and basic storyline I love but thought was then executed with the subtlety of a chestburster.

But I digress.

It seems Scott has forgotten how to tell a well-woven story with characters that not only have the proper motivations to move the story along, but aren’t just doing things because he needs the plot to get from point A to point G regardless of how stupid they are. I mean the fastest way between two points is a straight line… Why not six points, who cares if it doesn’t make any sense.

It looks super cool, right? And that’s all that matters.

Right?

RIGHT?!

Much like Prometheus there are brilliant concepts and very well thought out pieces of a great cinema here. However, unlike his original foray into the xenomorph world, Alien in 1979, this film’s brilliant and often breathtaking ideas are strung together with plot-hole ridden through lines and spoon-fed storytelling that borders on insulting. Screenwriters, John Logan and Dante Harper have taken the story by Michael Green and Jack Paglen and turned in a weak, less than original screenplay that, while better written than Prometheus still suffers a lot of the same issues as its predecessor.

The story centers on the crew of the colonizing ship, Covenant. Much like the doomed crew of the Nostromo, in the original film, the crew, sets down on a mysterious planet only to have everything go sideways and they have to escape when the all too familiar, to us, xenomorph appears and wreaks havoc.

But wait. What about David? What about Dr. Elizabeth Shaw, my two favorite characters from Prometheus? When we left Prometheus they were on their way to the Engineers homeward to finally meet their makers…

Well… they sorta do in this film.

It seems the film we were promised is more like a footnote and a flashback in this film. Though not entirely a complete “bait and switch” like the 1992 Alien 3… You know, the one where we were promised “On EARTH, everyone can hear you scream”. Except by Earth they meant a remote space prison and everyone they meant like 20 dudes, but you know, basically the same thing. It seems that somewhere Ridley Scott decided that no one wanted to see a whole movie about finding out where we came from, where the aliens came from and what people really wanted was basically a mediocre Alien rehash with only some of the things we were originally promised in this film, so he wasn’t a blatant liar.

Don’t get me wrong, there were moments that I loved. There were some were beautiful and well thought out scenes and a few of the characters that I truly liked. Unfortunately, they were definitely overshadowed by some  bad spoon fed dialog and visuals intended to “make sure we got it” when it eventually happened. There are also a couple of really awful plot devices and “explanations” that made me scratch my head and say “WHAAAAT?”.

I think in the end, what made both the first and second Alien films brilliant were that not only were they night and day different from each other but they never felt the need to spoon feed me anything. So much was left for the audience to decide. The first more so than the second but again, very different films. I feel like Alien: Covenant was trying rekindle the feel of the original film but instead of just telling a solid story it tried to be the servant of two masters by giving the fans and die hards of the series what they wanted but also tried to make it accessible to people who are new to the franchise. In doing so they basically hamstrung the film and never let it completely evolve into the xenomorph is should have been.

Sir Ridley Scott never goes full George Lucas, however there IS another sequel being written right now to begin shooting next year so who knows we may see “Alien: Revenge of the Xenomorph” sooner more than later…

This is Benn Robbins, last survivor of the Nostormo, signing off.

 

 

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