Tag Archives: alien

Alien: Covenant

Alien: Covenant posterSeveral years ago, when Ridley Scott announced his prequel to his 1979 classic Alien, Prometheus, I wondered whether we really needed an explanation for events leading up to a film that already worked so efficiently and effectively.

Now, with the follow-up to that film, Alien: Covenant, that is also another precursor to the original, that question occurs once again.

From the off it ties the two threads of the story together with a prologue featuring Prometheus‘ replicant character David (Michael Fassbender) before we are sent to the colony ship Covenant and meet another replicant, Walter (also Fassbender).

From that point on we get a story that seems to be unsure quite what it wants to do and say. Certainly there are plenty of thrills and chills and a good dose of action and excitement as the crew of the Covenant (and I don’t think this is a spoiler given the title) encounter a version of the Xenomorph Alien (apparently the ‘Neomorph’) seen in the past instalments of the series.

Katherine Waterston - Alien: Covenant - Daniels

Daniels (Waterston)

Along with the action, again much like Prometheus, the film seems to want to deal with some big questions, so we have Oram (Billy Crudup), thrust into the role of ship’s captain and a self expressed man of faith.

The fact this is self expressed is where the problem with this attempt at exploring something really comes to fore as anything Alien: Covenant might be trying to explore is just stated by the characters rather being genuinely explored through the film, so it falls a little flat.

As well as this there is a thread that, like the original Alien and its direct sequels, takes something of a feminist angle with crew member Daniels (Katherine Waterston) echoing original heroine Ripley as the film’s (comparatively) grounded heroic centre as chaos escalates.

Alien: Covenant - Walter - Michael Fassbender

Walter (Fassbender)

Unlike the original though this feels rather too heavy-handed, especially as it’s already an established trope of the series and it just never quite rings as honest and true, particularly when we reach a rather over gratuitous scene toward the film’s climax.

This might be for the very simple reason that, while Daniels is arguably the hero of this film’s story, I couldn’t escape the feeling that the series now belongs to Fassbender’s replicant characters.

It’s fair to say that, as David initially and then Walter, Fassbender has found a way to make these characters that, in the past were often sinister bit parts, into fascinating explorations of humanity and our place in the universe (as much as a big budget sci-fi blockbuster might).

The Neomorph - Alien: Covenant

The ‘Neomorph’ alien

Fassbender is undeniably the most engaging presence here and, as with Prometheus, his performance is phenomenal – to the point where his blankness is at times a little too convincing and genuinely creepy, and makes any outbursts all the more effective, but I may already have said too much.

As a whole though Alien: Covenant, while enjoyable, feels a little too much like a ‘best bits’ of the better past films thrown together, with the attempt at philosophy of Prometheus thrown in, and not quite coming out with an entirely satisfying whole and it’s hard to escape the fact that this is all somewhat unnecessary exposition for a pair of classic films that never needed it.

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Prometheus – review and podcast

Ridley Scott and co create an at once astounding, fascinating but ultimately over reaching piece of sci-fi.

So the hype and expectation are over and the film that was both heralded as a prequel to Alien and not is finally on our screens.

I am writing this about an hour after seeing the film so these are pretty much my first impressions only slightly ruminated upon.

Despite being a fan of the original run of Alien movies I had, since the announcement of Prometheus, been concerned as to if we really needed to have the blanks filled in, but had confidence that Ridley Scott would at least come up with something interesting that would, hopefully, render the Alien Vs Predator films redundant (and I’m pleased to say, if nothing else, that has happened).

I had also done my best to avoid as much of the hype and speculation about the film as possible, though I had seen one of the mock TED videos and an early trailer.

So I headed into the cinema with mixed, but hopeful, expectations, and that is kind of how I still feel now I’ve seen the movie.

While the film is undeniably well made with some amazing special effects, some great performances (Michael Fassbender in particular) and some massive ambition, I can’t help but feel Prometheus was allowed to run away with itself leaving the finished film as something of an undisciplined mess.

What really struck me was that it seemed the filmmakers really didn’t know whether they wanted to make something that stuck with the horror of Alien, the action of Aliens, a more adventure style film or a film dealing with the biggest of big questions, so they threw in bits of all four leaving a film that never seemed to be any of these enough to be a coherent whole.

This meant the tone and mood seemed to shift around a lot, occasionally from one scene to another, and made it very hard to properly get lost in the film in the way I had with Alien and Aliens or any other great movie.

While the film was imbalanced, it wasn’t without its impressive moments, though these were mostly visual and referencing Alien in one way or another.

The designs by, and inspired by, HR Giger, were undeniably astounding and suited the ‘ancient aliens’ premise to a tee, looking at once both futuristic and primeval in the way that only Giger seems able to manage, and the other aspects harked back enough to the old designs but with enough that was up to date to create something new but clearly in the same universe as Alien.

So in all on first impression I found Prometheus to be a film with too many good ideas for its own good and that seemed worryingly obsessed with setting up its own sequel in the final scenes rather than rounding off its own story. I just hope that with the sequels that seem to be on the cards we get some of these thing dealt with and questions answered, and we are able to get more properly attached to the characters.

As well as this review I also joined the guys from the 24LPS podcast (including Wynter who writes the CinemaScream blog), and Claire Mockett, to take a look at Prometheus (and a few other movies), you can listen to that here:

Warning Spoilers!

Trailer:

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Alien: 2003 Directors Cut (video review)

While its status as a true ‘directors cut’ is debateable, this tweaked version of the 1979 original is just as atmospheric and effecting.

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