Friday, May 19, 2017

A Reel Review - ALIEN: COVENANT



In 1979, when Sir Ridley Scott arrived with his horror/sci-fi classic ALIEN, in which a crew of space-truckers are terrorized by the menacing and bug-nuts scary “xenomorph”,he introduced us to what would become one of the most fear-inducing creatures in all of cinema history. Scott took a break from that universe for many years, and then returned in 2012 with PROMETHEUS, which looked to tell the backstory and origins of the xenomorph. That film only did a portion of the job, and now with ALIEN: COVENANT, Scott looks to finish what he began.

Ten years after the events of PROMETHEUS, the starship Covenant, (crewed by humans Billy Crudup, Katherine Waterston, Danny McBride, a host of others …and their android Walter, played by Michael Fassbender,) is on its way to colonize a new planet when it is diverted off course to a mysterious planet. There, they find David (also played by Fassbender), the last surviving member of the starship Prometheus, and discover a new threat.

COVENANT only has one mission to accomplish; to wrap up the loose ends left dangling after PROMETHEUS, which includes the fate of David and Dr. Shaw (sort-of reprised here by Noomi Rapace), and the origin of the aliens. All this is taken care of in the film’s second act, which leaves our crew of colonists with little to do other than find aliens and run away from them. There is very little story here, and our thinly-drawn characters serve only the purpose of alien-food.

True to its predecessor, COVENANT chooses a round-about, convoluted way of revealing the origins of the aliens. The final result is, and will be very divisive for some long-time fans of these films, and flat-out outrageous for others. The explanation is unsatisfying and leaves many loops unclosed, and once again raises more questions than are answered.

Scott directs the film as if he’s going down a checklist of horror clich├ęs that we yell at characters for doing; actions like splitting up the group, wandering off alone, and reaching out to touch creepy things. It makes for predictable plotting, and the characters seem like total idiots. On that note, Scott gives us some incredibly daft crewmembers here; they’re supposed to be scientists and the founders of a new human colony but never are given a chance to show any sort of intellect or problem-solving skills, and just do stupid acts like step outside of moving aircraft or stand still to get slaughtered. Lazy screenwriting all-around. And worse, for a Ridley Scott film there is nothing very remarkable about it. The look is drab, the action dull, and despite some decent moments of blood and gore…feels like it could have been directed by anybody. The CGI versions of the aliens, which appear in several forms, are creepy in some scenes, and just plain-old not-scary-at-all in others.

Acting is mostly ho-hum. Billy Crudup gets the shaft the most as his character is supposed to be the most troubled, but is on-screen for so little it doesn’t matter. He also gives an odd line which points towards some of his backstory that we never see. Katherine Waterston is bland and just gives the same sad face she always gives. Danny McBride is a total surprise; stepping away from his typical village idiot role for some real drama and pulls it off nicely. Michael Fassbender is somewhat spectacular in his dual roles as the two androids. His scenes where he is acting against himself range from magical to silly, and he is also the victim of a lame twist which can be seen from five galaxies away. Guy Pearce makes a cameo and is his usual excellent self, and James Franco cameos for exactly ten seconds in one of the oddest appearances ever. The rest of the large crew basically serves as chow and never make an impression.

With disposable characters, no real plot, an aggravating origin of the aliens, and an ending which punts even more storylines down the road for another movie, COVENANT makes for one frustrating experience. If Scott put a steak-knife to this film and cut away the worthless fat in favor of the meat, he would wind up with a five-minute epilogue to PROMETHEUS, and that would have been good enough. The rest belongs in the garbage disposal.

BOTTOM LINE: Fuck it



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