Friday, 12 May 2017

Review: Alien - Covenant

Alien: Covenant (first-pass / spoilers in the footnotes)
Cert: 15 / 122 mins / Dir. Ridley Scott / Trailer

Taking place around ten years after the events of Prometheus*1, the crew of the Weyland Corporation vessel Covenant are transporting two thousand colonists across deep space to their new home, when they're brought out of cryo-sleep by a power surge which damages the ship. During the repair cycle, the onboard comms system intercepts a transmission coming from an unknown planet. Naturally, they go to investigate; naturally, I don't have to tell you what's coming next...

So Covenant is far more a sequel to Prometheus than a lead-in to Alien (which is fine), and it's interesting to see which of the 2011 threads Ridley Scott has picked back up to weave further, and which he's happy to basically abandon. The film also tackles its predecessor's somewhat cavalier approach to biological continuity more directly, still not answering all of its questions, but at least asking far fewer, this time*2.

Second best line in the film:
"There's so much here that doesn't make sense..."
~ Katherine Waterston's Daniels, around 45 minutes after everyone woke up and things started making little or no sense.*3

On a performance level, the Covenant cast mostly deliver pretty much what's needed and what's expected. Katherine Waterston does well though, bringing enough of herself to a role which could easily have been Cardboard Cutout Heroine. But the talking point of the film will be Michael Fassbender, of course. With his performance here ranging from theatrical to pantomime, this really is his spin on 'Legend'*4. And as a result, Covenant is every bit as bold, complex and problematic as that implies.

The film works better as an action/survival-horror flick, rather than a morality-thriller*5. That's not to say a film can't be both, just that this can't balance the two evenly. Although I didn't find this entry as instantly satisfying as Prometheus, it's an intriguing film and takes the overall story forward every bit as gleefully. It just also feels deliberately obscure and logic-defying*6, at times. There's definitely the feeling that Scott's enjoying leaving the big questions unanswered.

Still good, though*7.

Best line in the film:
"Watch me, I'll do the fingering..."
~ Michael Fassbender's android character, playing with himself.

So, watch this if you enjoyed?
Prometheus, really.
It's certainly more Prometheus than Alien.
Which is as it should be

Should you watch this in a cinema, though?
Yes, it looks gorgeous.
Although again, try comparing the birthing-scenes in this movie to the 1979 Alien and you'll realise why you won't be watching these movies in narrative-order

Does the film achieve what it sets out to do?
Too early to tell at a first-pass…

Is this the best work of the cast or director?
Probably not, but there's no shame in that.

Will I think less of you if we disagree about how good/bad this film is?
No, but I'll want to talk about it at great length either way.

Yes, but is there a Wilhelm Scream in it?
There isn't.

Yes, but what's the Star Wars connection?
Level 2: Both Danny McBride and James Franco starred in 2011's 'Your Highness' alongside Natalie 'Padmé' Portman, Kiran 'Teedo' Shah and Simon 'Blue Five' Farnaby.

And if I HAD to put a number on it…

*1 Footnotes contain spoilers: Highlight-to-read
It's nice to see that USB plugs have evolved by the year 2104, but Jack Daniels bottles are the exact same ones we have now. Presumably they couldn't face the moaning about changing the design again. And I'm not imagining a writers-link between that bottle appearing on-screen, and characters with the names Daniels and Tennessee, am I? [ BACK ]

*2 Of course, if the face-huggers we know and love are the specific result of David's own genetic experimentation between 2093 and 2104, that would rudely de-canonise their usage in the present-day-set Aliens vs Predator movie. I worry about these things. Come on, I can't be the only one who loves the first AVP. [ BACK ]

*3 The Covenant crew have tracked a surprise signal to a previously undiscovered planet, to the point where they land about 8km away, then make the rest of the journey on-foot. Y'know, rather than actually landing where the signal is. Which, incidentally, is a city that their scanning equipment doesn't seem to have picked up. Although at the same time, this is once again a team of apparently professional space-explorers who land and step out of the ship after undertaking the absolute bare minimum of research, then proceed to smoke, spit and piss into an alien eco-system whilst prodding anything which looks unusual. You'd be forgiven for thinking they deserve the misfortune that comes of it all. [ BACK ]

*4 To be honest I rarely see eye-to-eye with Ridley Scott, but he's a director who can control not one, but two of Michael Fassbender's non-native accents. For that, he has my undying respect. I also liked that when David has long hair, he looks a bit like Iggy Pop, but when he's half-way through cutting it, he looks like Joe Elliott. Part of me hopes that's intentional, but god knows what it means if it is. [ BACK ]

*5 What's also interesting that the ersatz captain of the ship raises the matter that his faith is frowned upon by the Weyland Corp, especially odd since they had no problem with bringing Elizabeth Shaw along on the Prometheus mission with a similar philosophy and in such a critical role (even if she wasn't technically crew). Although fair play to the film for showing that poor decisions aren't down to the difference between faith and reason, but just because humans are naive, irrational and stupid. [ BACK ]

*6 So if David drops a hold-full of Alien-sauce capsule bombs (and remember the carnage which can be caused by a couple of drops in vodka and some black goo in a puddle) on a city-full of people, how come the place isn't still crawling with Xenos a decade later? They can't all have been killed in that initial blast, surely? Besides, even David describes it as a biological weapon rather than an explosive one. To be fair, this is why I need to see the film again. [ BACK ]

*7 Thanks for reading all these, though. I appreciate it. [ BACK ]

• ^^^ That's dry, British humour, and most likely sarcasm or facetiousness.
• Yen's blog contains harsh language and even harsher notions of propriety. Reader discretion is advised.
• This is a personal blog. The views and opinions expressed here represent my own thoughts (at the time of writing) and not those of the people, institutions or organisations that I may or may not be related with unless stated explicitly.

No comments:

Post a Comment