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The lingering issues in ‘Alien: Covenant’ (Spoiler Warning)

Published by: Anthony Wallace


xEMPIRE_AC_PAGE_70_CROP.jpg.pagespeed.ic.ssHt4qHtROHaving given my thoughts on ‘Alien: Covenant‘ in my review (click here) there was plenty to think about as credits rolled. I spoke fairly positive about the film as far as the acting by Katherine Waterston, Michael Fassbender, and even Danny McBride. We also got to see amazing cinematography and production design with space and the eventual arrival on paradise (a.k.a. the Engineer’s home world). And lastly, the suspense and terror were coupled by a talented sound artist in Jed Kurtzel. Where the film struggles however is in its identity and where  Ridley Scott and the studio want to take the series next.

To begin the search we examine the moment when the Covenant ship arrives on the Engineer’s home planet. It’s here that we find a beautiful landscape that hides a dark and dangerous agenda by David. Once David makes his presence felt he then leads the surviving colonists to a safe haven where we they discover the terrible truths. The problem though is that the Engineers are hardly mentioned and the citadel where they live is barely searched. This was an opportunity to learn who, what, and why the Engineers decided to create humans as we learned in ‘Prometheus‘. By the end of the film it’s learned that the Engineers were to go back to earth and destroy their creation.

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It’s almost a tease to the fanbase who loved ‘Prometheus‘ that the Engineers would not play a bigger role in ‘Alien: Covenant‘ and were consequently non-essential. The second half of the film we are reintroduced to David who reveals his desire to create life and how humanity’s actions have led him to believe that the human race does not deserve a second chance. Thus he’s been experimenting with the ampules and the black goo we saw in Prometheus. It leads us to David needing living hosts to breed a pathogen that to him is considered the perfect organism. All is well when it comes to Michael Fassbender and his character’s intrigue and horrifying viewpoints of how he perceives his creators and his creations. My issue comes to how and why the Engineers were eradicated without even a mention of what he learned from them as he and Elizabeth Shaw journeyed to their home world.

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The next issue is in the discovery of where the Aliens originated. It becomes clear that David engineered the embryos and would then spawn blood-thirsty monsters. But the discovery is all too obvious and is almost eluded to in ‘Prometheus‘ because of David’s curiosity and a desire to become a god himself. In point, everything happens so fast and the revelation to the origins of the Alien are non-suspenseful. Had we seen some of the experimentations or the progression of his final product it would have been more fulfilling. But a quick explanation to Oram (Billy Crudup) devoids the mystery we’ve come to enjoy and almost feels like a cheap way of furthering the mythology in the Alien franchise.

It feels like much more can be developed when it comes to the Engineers and I certainly hope we’ll see more of them in the next installment. There are many elements to this film that are enjoyable but I would have preferred a more fleshed out script that didn’t feel like rushing through its big ideas and thus leaving behind what could have been. ‘Alien: Covenant‘ is enjoyable and is one of the more solidly made entries in the series.

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This leads me to my last point and that is the studio should not always react to the fanbase. After ‘Prometheus‘ left so many critics and audience goers divided than ever before the studio’s hand changed the direction in which Ridley Scott was going with the story. After watching ‘Alien: Covenant‘ it’s evident that the movie feels half of a ‘Prometheus‘ and ‘Alien‘ sequel. Because of that we get a movie that doesn’t know its true identity. In the end, it cheats itself from being a great ‘Alien‘ movie and thus resulting as an apology to the fanbase.

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Alien: Covenant (2017) Review

Published by: Anthony Wallace


IMG_20170323_0950491It was 38 years ago that movie watchers were introduced to ‘Alien‘ back in 1979. Director Ridley Scott would go on to terrify audiences with a gut wrenching, hair raising cat and mouse game when space truckers encounter a deadly beast in deep space. A first of its kind that would spawn rip-offs that pales in comparison to a horror masterpiece. Then 33 years later, Scott would return to the universe that solidified his career with 2012’s ‘Prometheus‘. His return was met with praise and frustration as the movie had high production value but lacked in answering it’s big questions.

This now leads us to the follow-up in ‘Alien: Covenant‘ where Ridley Scott promises to bring back the Xenomorphs and the carnage fans came to love. And he also provides answers to the many lingering pains that were left unanswered in ‘Prometheus‘. After months and months of anticipation the time has finally arrived where fans look forward to a much needed Alien sequel. What one has to wonder is if fans will be satisfied for what has been a tumultuous journey up to this point.

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As a colony ship, the Covenant, advances towards its destination of a new home they are hit by a neutrino burst. The crew awakens from cryo-sleep to then intercept a signal from a nearby planet that closely resembles earth. While investigating this new world they discover what turns out to be a deadly game of survival when death and chaos awaits their arrival. The film stars Katherine Waterston, Michael Fassbender, Billy Crudup, and Danny McBride.

I was in the minority of those who enjoyed ‘Prometheus‘ and praised the direction and production that was put into the project. The idea of the Engineers was clever as it brought about the idea of creators of mankind who then turn on their creation. Michael Fassbender’s David makes a strong presence as the newly created android by the Weyland Corporation as his ability to be curious takes on a life of its own. Going into ‘Alien: Covenant‘ I was looking forward to another strong performance by Michael Fassbender as this time around he plays not only David but the Covenant’s new android Walter.v1.bjsxNTM1OTU4O2o7MTczNDI7MTIwMDs0NjYyOzMxMzk

The way to describe ‘Alien: Covenant‘ is a little frustrating because as much as it tries to be an Alien movie it also tries being a sequel to ‘Prometheus‘. And a lot of it has to do with Ridley Scott trying to appease the fan bases in both camps. Starting with the positives the movie is beautiful to look at. If there’s one thing everyone can agree on is that Ridley Scott knows how to produce and direct. From the external shots of the Covenant ship to the landscapes of the Engineer’s home world they are breathtaking to watch. Even the cast do a decent job while falling one by one to deadly pathogens.

Lead actress Katherine Waterston plays the distressed co-captain alongside Billy Crudup’s Oram. The director’s belief in casting strong females for the role has proven to be true as was the case of Sigourney Weaver. Except she isn’t meant to surpass Weaver’s performance in the franchise rather to demonstrate the tenacity as she fights for her life. Unfortunately, a large chunk of the runtime is dedicated to Michael Fassbender’s David/Walter as he continues to explore the idea of creation. But that’s what saves the film from floundering into familiar gasps and terror. David takes things to the next level and that’s when he truly becomes a terrifying menace.

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Now we come to the difficult part because as much as we’re entertained by Michael Fassbender and the visual prowess of Ridley Scott, the film struggles to balance in tone. When we explore the terrain of an uncharted paradise it’s hard not to forget ‘Prometheus‘ and the scientific expedition that took place as they journey to find humanity’s origins. Then there comes a point when the monsters arrive, a.k.a the back-burster, and the many other creatures that show up in the film. The creatures almost seemed to take the backseat or were merely around to make an appearance. A good chunk of the film glides around the questions of the Engineers and how David survives a hostile environment. There never were smooth transitions between the terror and the grand ideas set by the script. It’s unfortunate because the lack of substance behind the Engineers is something I was hoping to see more of.

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There’s going to be disappointment and that’s because the script tries to please everyone but not in a satisfying way that we’d hope. Great performances by the cast; more specifically Michael Fassbender and even the one and only Danny McBride. There are terrifying moments in the movie and I wouldn’t even say its the aliens themselves. If you were put off by the religious and scientific garble in ‘Prometheus‘ then don’t expect it to go away. In fact, it may be more blatant as the movie does explore the ideas of heaven and hell. If you’re a fan of the aliens then you will also be disappointed because their mysterious beginnings may spoil the lore that fans have enjoyed for many years.

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It may take subsequent viewings to change my perspective on ‘Alien: Covenant‘ as time goes on. But in the way I was thoroughly in awe of ‘Prometheus‘ on its first viewing it may be a tough mountain to climb. This is not an easy review because although I tried not to go in with expectations I still ended up feeling somewhat let down. The last thing I will mention is the sound score by Jed Kurzel. He did a great job by mixing in the sound of Jerry Goldsmith’sAlien‘ with this movie. There was a great use of buildup when things started going awry. It made me feel like we returned to Ridley Scott’s world and bringing back memories of how great the original ‘Alien‘ was. Though the latest entry in the franchise isn’t a deal breaker it certainly reminds us how special a filmmaker is able to explore the unknowns while terrifying its audience in the process.

Rating: 6.5/10

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What do you guys think of ‘Alien: Covenant‘? Do you plan on watching the movie? How would you rank the films in the franchise? And would you rather have gotten a Prometheus sequel or an Alien sequel? Comment below and share your thoughts.