365 Movies By Day Reviews of Movies I Watch that I Feel Like Writing About

28May/170

Alien: Covenant (2017)

Ridley Scott's (Gladiator, The Martian) brainchild franchise proves a few things. The Alien series still has legs. Its sequels continue to evolve. And Scott has no plans of letting his baby fall into the wrong hands again. Ridley's monster first burst onto the screen in 1979's Alien, a movie that did for space travel what Steven Spielberg's Jaws did for swimming on beaches just four years prior. It certainly wasn't the first movie set on a spaceship. And it certainly wasn't the first horror film. But, if it wasn't the first horror film set in space, it was certainly the first one we all remembered as being the first one. And, just as the tagline of the original movie poster suggests, In Space, No One Can Hear You Scream, nothing can be truer as sit down and prepare ourselves for one of the Alien movies (minus the two Alien Vs. Predator movies of course).

Alien: Covenant is set ten years after the events of 2012's ambiguous and disappointing Prometheus that we were lead to believe was an Alien prequel even though Scott, for the longest time, would never confirm. Instead, he would say such things as "while the movie carries the DNA of Alien, it is an original piece of science fiction that delves into everything from biotechnology to artificial intelligence to the origins." Well, what the heck did that mean? What it meant to me and to the millions of people who saw it was that it was a movie, that regardless of how much we liked it, was never going to be able to live up to its lofty expectations. Personally, it was a movie that felt original but overwhelmed. I actually very, very rarely mention a movie experience on Facebook (other than my annual Oscar preview post), but I felt the need to let people know that if they were going to see Alien: Covenant that they would be better off if they rewatched (or watch for the first time) Prometheus.

There is no uncertainty about this one though. Alien: Covenant IS absolutely a direct sequel to Prometheus. In addition to being a sequel, it bridges the massive gap Prometheus and Alien. The year is 2014 and the colonization ship Covenant is on route to a remote paradise planet, Origae-6, with two thousand colonists and a thousand embryos when suddenly it encounters a neutrino burst that kills the ship's captain who (like the rest of the crew) is in hypersleep. His pod chamber doesn't open and he burns to death (fun, right?) The ship is being monitored by Walter (Michael Fassbender - Steve Jobs, Shame), a next generation robotic crew member created in the mold of David from Prometheus. Physically, the two Androids are identical. The newer version has fewer emotions and not as intense a personality (think of Arnold Schwarzenegger in Terminator 2: Judgment Day rather than The Terminator or a trained Rottweiler versus a trained Pit Bull). Again, it really is important to see Prometheus before seeing Alien: Covenant and, even if you've seen it, it wouldn't hurt to see it again right beforehand. I do remember David from the Prometheus, but it was more from the previews than the actual movie. I remember wondering why 1) Fassbender would take this role and 2) Why a robot would be created to look and behave just like a human? Like what's the purpose of that? Well, for the first answer, Fassbender, who I think is a very good looking man, showed me there's not a role he wouldn't take on when he starred in Frank, a movie that in which he hid inside a gigantic (I mean GIGANTIC) fake head. This movie earned a score of 91% on Rotten Tomatoes. I hated the movie myself. I never could figure out the point. But that's neither here nor there. And, looking back, I'm glad he took on the role of David in Prometheus, not so much because of that movie but because of Alien: Covenant. And for the second question, there are many reasons to make the robot have the physical resemblance, qualities, and strengths of a human being, but you can allow your imagination to think of the reasons why.

The death of the ship's captain leaves behind a grieving wife named Daniels (Katherine Waterston - Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, Showtime's Boardwalk Empire), a terraforming export. Terraforming is the hypothetical process of deliberately modifying its atmosphere, temperature, surface topography or ecology to be similar to the environment of Earth to make it habitable by Earth-like life. Christopher Oram (Billy Crudup - Almost Famous, Watchmen) reluctantly assumes the position as the ship's captain. Instantly we learn that he's a good man, but he doesn't have the confidence, the sharpness, or quick decision-making skills that Captain Jacobson had. These are the tragic flaws of this hero.

After fixing the damage to the ship, the Covenant picks up the transmission signal of a nearby planet that they believe has a more habitable atmosphere than the original destination of Origae-6. Knowing that it will still take more than seven years before they reach their original destination combined with the fact that the crew is unwilling to go back into their pods, Oram makes the decision to check out the planet, despite objections by Daniels. Obviously, the planet has some Aliens on it some fashion. Otherwise, the film wouldn't be called Alien: Covenant. Most of the crew descends to the planet to explore and if the scene when they first get out of the shuttle with guns up and worried looks stretched across faces reminds you of Predators, rest assured there is very little resemblance between that movie and this one.

For me, this movie was a great science fiction, action adventure. The drama was okay. I never felt the cheesiness that I thought I might feel when I saw Danny McBride (Tropic Thunder, Pineapple Express) had a starring role. He was serviceable as a pilot named Tennessee, but each time I saw him, it was hard to take him seriously because of everything I had seen him in prior. I think if he would have been substituted out for just about anyone, the trailer wouldn't have received that slight groan and caused the viewers to wonder if one of the best movie franchises was about to fall apart right before our eyes. But this was not a horror film in the same sense of Alien, Aliens, or Alien 3. I didn't cover my eyes one time and, while I'm far more jaded when it comes to my horror film than I was when I was a pimple-faced 17-year-old high school senior, I can still jump when I'm deeply invested in the build up. Nothing surprised me in Alien: Covenant despite Scott's effort to try to surprise us and add some plot twists. But that doesn't mean I wasn't entertained.

I did get lost between some of the characters, but that was strictly a time and issue. With a 14-person crew, you're not going to be able to define each character the way you would if this was a television series. But, at any given time, I couldn't figure out where Demian Bichir's (A Better Life, HBO's Weeds) Lope, Jussie Smollett's Ricks, Callie Hernandez's (Blair Witch, Machete Kills) Upworth, or Amy Seimetz's (Love Song, Your Next) Farris were at any given point and time. But when the Aliens are introduced, none of that really matters anymore. It strictly becomes a matter of survival and, ultimately, that's what we were looking for. Alien: Covenant certainly evolved from Alien and is an excellent follow-up to Prometheus. Scott brought a strong effort error and while there were some continuity errors as well as a horror that didn't really scare, I would call the film a success. Of particular note was Fassbender's performance(s). To me, he made the movie work. I thought he was really great here. There's plenty of action. It never got slow. The CGI was great. And a point I really want to emphasize was that it just didn't redo Alien and try to capitalize monetarily on a formula that Scott knew worked. He tried something new and made the movie less predictable, in many of ways, of a "find the aliens and destroy them" approach.

Unlike a movie such as Alien, where the build is slow and methodical that, before you know it, you are completely engrossed and feel like you are actually on the spaceship with this monster, Alien: Covenant never feels like it is anything other than a movie. Outside of Fassbender (who is incredible as both David and Walter), none of the other actors really has the acting chops for this film. Granted Alien: Covenant is not trying to fool anybody. We all know there won't be any Oscar nominations for acting. But Danny McBride? Right away it's hard to even give a chance to take this movie seriously. Even worse is that some of our main characters lose spouses during the course of the film and, while I wouldn't say they were unfazed by it, it hampered them for minutes before they were back to the task at hand. The relationship building almost made Christopher Nolan movies seem sentimental. There was more than once when I thought that I was sadder when my great aunt died than the character was when his or her spouse died. It was painful to watch. I understand that people needed to die and I understand why you might have spouses on this voyage because of, not just its length, but its permanency. But come on, man.who played the android David in “Prometheus,” is on board the Covenant playing Walter, a next generation version of the character whose emotions and personality have been dialed back a bit.

Fans of the franchise should definitely see this movie. Those who haven't seen it should see Alien, Aliens, Alien 3, and Prometheus (in that order). Alien: Resurrection and the two AVP movies can be skipped.

Plot 8.5/10
Character Development 6/10
Character Chemistry 6/10
Acting 6/10
Screenplay 8.5/10
Directing 9/10
Cinematography 10/10
Sound 10/10
Hook and Reel 9/10
Universal Relevance 7.5/10
81.5%

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