Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Movie: Alien Covenant

Alien: Covenant:  Successful sequels are the exception.  Typically, when a studio pops out a sequel, it is attempting to cash in on prior success but usually ends up tarnishing the brand.  This is the sixth time the creatures from Alien have appeared, excluding the two wasted films that combined the Alien and Predator franchises.  The original 1979 Alien was Ridley Scott’s creation.  I still remember being shocked when the creature appeared.  I don’t recall having jumped in my seat at a movie theatre before or since.  The three Alien films that followed the original were not directed by Scott and lacked that unique edge.  In 2012, Scott released Prometheus, a prequel.  If you watched Prometheus and enjoyed it, you’ll find Alien: Covenant to be a worthy successor.  However, if you did not like the original Alien, then stay away from this movie.  Ridley Scott recreates that intense edge from his original film.  This is due in part to a strong performance by the film’s female lead, Katherine Waterston.  No one is going to duplicate Sigourney Weaver’s performance in the original Alien, but Waterston, as Dany Branson, is excellent.  Most of the commentary on this film has focused on Michael Fassbender’s dual-role performance as the humanesque robots, David and Walter.  While Fassbender’s performance is superb, the film would be a failure without Waterson.  During the opening scenes of this 122 minute movie, we learn that Dany is married to Covenant’s airship captain, Jake Branson (James Franco).  Covenant is on a journey to a remote planet.  Jake is killed off very early in the film during an unexpected neutrino storm burst that damages the ship.  Following the storm, Covenant picks up a radio transmission from an unknown planet in the vicinity.  The new captain, Christopher Oram (Billy Crudup), decides to investigate.  At this point, we meet David from Prometheus and are reintroduced to the aliens.  Unfortunately, to move the storyline forward, most of the film’s characters do stupid things, which is particularly true of the Captain Oram character.  The film makes a point of presenting Oram as a man of faith when, in actuality, faith clearly has nothing to do with his decisions.  Also, Tennessee Faris (Danny McBride), chief pilot of the Covenant, is not an endearing character.   Spock would be extremely disappointed with the decisions made by both Faris and Oram.    A number of the crew are married couples and this dynamic is intended to provide a rationale for some of the decision-making.  However, in reality, the crew would not have achieved their positions if their decisions had been so closely bound to their emotions.   The editing could have been tighter, and some of the characters could have been endowed with a bit more intelligence.  Despite my criticisms,  if Fassbender and Waterston are cast in a seventh film in this franchise and if the film is directed by Scott, I will buy a ticket.   Having been hooked in 1979,  I will sign up for another ride. For those of us intrigued by Scott’s original creation,  Alien: Covenant is a worthy successor.  Ridley Scott has kept me interested.


Steven Guttman

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