Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Alien: Covenant

By Sati. Tuesday, June 13, 2017 , , , , , , ,
(spoilers!)

We need to stop giving the benefit of a doubt to Ridley Scott.

While the man deserves respect for his two masterpieces - Alien and Blade Runner Scott has now taken the turn that makes it very clear his Alien prequels aren't a thing of passion and certainly not necessity. Why is Scott at 79 years of age set on damaging his masterpiece? (Alien is forever tainted by the existence of the Covenant now). I'm saying this because there is no way anyone can tell me this rehashed, mangled product is the intended movie. This is reactionary.

It's so very clear that after the less than enthusiastic reaction to Prometheus Scott abandoned whatever vision he had. I'm not even talking about the rewrites. There is an actual proof in the movie. And that is the appalling, disrespectful and shameful treatment of the character of Elizabeth Shaw.
What Scott has done here goes far beyond the treatment of Newt and Hicks in Alien 3. Fincher did that because the story required it. Ripley needed to be alone. It went perfectly with the nihilistic tone of the movie. Here the reasons for Scott's doing are unclear - it's for sure the tepid reaction to the character and movie but it is done in such a way, that given the behind the scenes events, comes off as highly spiteful and to be honest disturbing. That the filmmaker who has featured so many great female characters in his films did this is absolutely shameful.

Here is what happened - Noomi Rapace was on the set for 2 weeks. She is not in the movie. The only time we see her character, it's not an actress, it is a prop. We did see Noomi reprise her role...in a viral marketing video that wasn't a part of the film (it was part of the film during December test screenings). The protagonist of Prometheus and the story that - everything points to that - was set to be the actual content of the movie was treated as a snippet for fans who care enough about the series to find out about the existence of the viral (people pay for tickets. They should see the entire story in the movie not in some bullshit marketing). That is hugely disrespectful to the fans. And to Rapace.
What we essentially got here is a rehash of Aliens mixed with Prometheus. It's the worst thing Scott could have possibly done. The plot doesn't move the story that much forward. Scott could have easily have a completely different movie where a crash of some random ship with colonists happens near David and the outcome would be exactly the same within 5 minutes of screentime. But what is actually insulting to the audience and especially to the hardcore fans of the franchise is that Scott had far better story right there in front of him - that of David going mad with Shaw still being alive.

Imagine a two hour long movie with already established characters that would show us how David went mad and started his experiments. What is a cliff note, would not only made a far better story, it would serve the franchise a better purpose.
The black goo may turn out to be Alien's own midichlorians. I mean I should not be looking at this theory and actually going "shit, it's possible". We have fossilized SJ believed to be very very old in Alien - Scott gives us dumb as fuck way for fossilization to happen in the matter of seconds in Covenant. We have a mural in Prometheus that the fans who for some reason think Scott is still competent say proves the Aliens are old species. Are you people really going to tell me that the guy who doesn't give a fuck about the protagonist of his own movie cares about a two-second long Easter Egg?

I am the furthest anyone can be from Neil Blomkamp's fan - District 9 is a glorified (boring) footage from video game and there is no excuse for most of Chappie which couldn't have been saved even by amusing performance from Hugh Jackman and a very adorable robot - but at least he had a vision. At least he had a continuation in mind and not a rehash that goes nowhere new.
Other than the fact Alien is forever tainted by Covenant possibly being the beginning of the dumbest retcon ever, it's a mediocre, dumb movie. Unless you are a fan of the franchise and know all the stuff I wrote about above you will probably have fun but you will forget about the movie quickly. It doesn't have a single original thing in it. The film opens with a scene which establishes that Ridley Scott really only has eyes for his boo boo Michael Fassbender. No one can blame him, but when you have an actor like that you should have a material worthy of him. Scott doesn't. The film opens with David awaking after being created by Peter Weyland (yet again utterly wasted Guy Pearce) and then in a completely jarring transition the film switches to the crew of Covenant, colonization ship. There is an effort to give Daniels, the most recent Ripley knock off, some depth by killing off James Franco in a fiery capsule death but it doesn't work. The only distinctive thing about Daniels is her horrifying hair cut which apparently was Waterston's idea after she saw it on Ezra Miller in Fantastic Beasts. It's a maneuver as silly and pointless as most of the actual plot of the movie.

The crew has a moronic captain (completely wasted Billy Crudup) who in spite of being responsible for the lives of several thousands people thinks the distress call from shady as fuck planet is a sign from God. Ship lands, crew gets out, monsters appear, crew dies and Fassbender lurks in the background armed with his innuendo-loaded flute. And why is feral David's hair long? He is android. It's something so puzzling and then rendered completely pointless when few scenes after we are reintroduced to David he actually cuts his hair. What the hell were Ridley and the writers on? The only explanation for the hair thing I can think of is that when Scott closes his eyes he sees shirtless Fassbender, long hair blowing in the wind, sitting on a white horse. That would explain several things about Covenant.
I recognize the problems with logic in Prometheus but the crew there was genius comparing to this. Masks off on the suspicious planet, firing flamethrower indoors, not one but two hysterical scenes with person slipping on blood, sticking your face into alien eggs, following possibly insane robot through THE FIELD OF CORPSES to the CREEPY CITADEL only to give him info about your ship and ignoring his 'oh rly tell me more' expression.

There is more stuff here that is just embarrassing. The chestbuster scene almost works - retconning the incubation time and form of the creature aside - because of brilliant score by Jed Kurzel but the creature mimicking David is my early vote for the most embarrassing scene of the year. It's so on the nose it belongs in a parody, not in the actual Alien film. Especially not in the film made by the director of the original. It's utterly, humiliatingly embarrassing for Scott and embarrassing for a fan to witness. Remember how South Park parodied the recent Indiana Jones suggesting Spielberg and Lucas raped Indy? They could easily make that parody about Scott and his treatment of the Alien franchise now.
And of course I have to mention the instant classic in the so bad it's funny genre. The Android kung fu.

Covenant has several things going for it. The cinematography is good but then again even if everything else fails the cinematography in Scott's films is always good (unless it's The Counselor). The special effects are alright other than several annoying and too-much-of-CGI shots of Xenomorphs. The production design is good but it's not distinctive enough for Alien franchise (yet again). Every single one of the four first movies was filled with bizarre and disturbing stuff in set design, Prometheus could be excused for less creepy set since it focused on Engineers but there is no excuse here - David's laboratory of horrors is especially underwhelming and the only prop that looks awesome is infuriating for the reasons mentioned above.
The cast did a good job. Katherine Waterston is a great actress and her character strikes realistic balance of calm and heroic but again, we had good female protagonist in place and one who we get to know for entire movie last time in the franchise. There was no need for a new one. Danny McBride who is a great actor gets to show more range and delivers the best performance out of newcomers in the series. The problem is that no one there is given enough. Not one of those characters is developed enough for us to care when they die. Even the most annoying characters in Aliens were distinctive, this is just...forgettable in every way.

Scott has literally erased all traces of Prometheus but salvaged only David. Fassbender gets to play a double role here - of deranged David and of new robot, Walter. He is wonderful in the role(s) and technically the idea to make a prequel trilogy with villain as the protagonist and android set on destroying his creators is fascinating. The fact that it feels so derivative and so forgettable really shows you how terrible the script and execution is. None of this is on Fassbender - yet again Scott proves he is simply not worthy of Fassbender's talent. This could have been amazing but instead it's all so incredibly half-assed and it's awful watching Fassbender in yet another terrible movie.
Given the box office results Covenant is a massive flop. I am a huge fan of the Alien franchise. I love those movies. Hell, I even love the bizarre, grotesque Resurrection. But other than for Fassbender's work there is absolutely nothing rewatchable in this movie. I'm actually glad about the horrible box office results because maybe it means Scott won't get to another one. There is a misconception that Alien is Scott's and he can do with it as he pleases. This movie shows that this is not true at all. Alien is not great because it's Scott movie. It's great because of Giger's design. Because of Weaver's strong, amazing heroine. Because of great characters that don't act like idiots. Hopefully Scott's reign of terror on the Alien franchise is done and Fox is not gonna give him the chance to top this awfulness in whatever he has planned in third movie. Dozen Fassbenders braiding each other's puzzlingly long hair? Probably.

And Scott is also involved in Blade Runner sequel. Now that should worry all of us.

(Alien: Covenant, USA, 2017, 122 min)
Plot: The crew of a colony ship, bound for a remote planet, discover an uncharted paradise with a threat beyond their imagination, and must attempt a harrowing escape.
Director: Ridley Scott
Writers: Jack Paglen, Michael Green (story by) John Logan, Dante Harper (screenplay)
Stars: Michael Fassbender, Katherine Waterston, Billy Crudup

14 comments:

  1. Yaaaas I've been waiting for your review of this! I'm no fan of the Alien franchise (I don't mean that harshly, only that I've only seen the original and Prometheus - once!) but even I found the faults in Covenant. It was still a fun couple of hours, but I doubt I'll ever watch it again.
    Still - it's my favourite James Franco role EVER. Sorry.
    I need to rewatch Blade Runner, I watched it years ago and don't remember anything...but Covenant has definitely taken the edge off my excitement for the BR sequel :(

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    1. Haha :D Have you seen This is the End or Pineapple Express? Franco is pretty amazing there

      You should check out the first Alien movie. It's a masterpiece. The other films in the franchise are at least fun which Covenant wasn't

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  2. Yikes! I saw that score and I was afraid...very afraid. I've been coming to your blog since 2011 or 2012 and I don't think I've ever seen a film with that low of a score from you! It honestly doesn't surprise me after Prometheus. My favorite things in Prometheus were Theron, Elba, and Rapace--none of whom were in this film. I really don't understand why Scott didn't want Rapace to reprise her role in this film? It made absolutely no sense. Building a story around Rapace and Fassbender would have been magical. Unfortunately I think it's time for Scott to retire. If he's overly involved with Blade Runner then I fear the worst.

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    1. Oh I rated many films this low and lower but I just never reviewed them. but I'm a big fan of Alien franchise so I know all those behind the scenes things and honestly so many things here pissed me off I just needed to review this one. The thing with Rapace is bizarre:

      1. we have Scott clearly wanting to bring her back, given how Prometheus ended. Then Scott admits publicly he read the criticisms for Prometheus - which in itself is a good thing but he took wrong lessons from that. He decided people simply wanted monsters and didn't like Elizabeth Shaw.
      2. Rapace was actually there and shot her scene which was initially in the movie and after test screenings just became part of viral marketing. Honestly it's just...rude

      It's like he doesn't care. To read criticisms of one work is great but he took wrong lessons from that and then he admitted to the media he changed his initial vision for the film. So Covenant is basically purely reactionary and even to those people who wanted Aliens it didn't deliver because it's not even a good movie

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  3. My brother-in-law saw this film with a friend and they were very disappointed. I too agree with you that we shouldn't give Ridley Scott any special treatments. It's true, he's made some great movies but he's also made some shitty films. I don't hold him in high regard as I don't think he's even in my top 50-75 filmmakers of all-time.

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    1. Also he got nominated for Best Director for The Martian right? I'd say the directing there was the worst part of the movie

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  4. small correction: Ridley Scott has THREE masterpieces. The other one being Thelma & Louise. ;)

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    1. Heh, for me it's not a 10/10 movie like Alien and Blade Runner. But it's very good.

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  5. Cosign! Walter's voice was hot though. That was. Plus.

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    1. Yes well at least there was Fassy hotness in this trashfire :)

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  6. I Had never seen Alien before March, when I saw it and Covenant at SXSW. I feel like seeing them both like that, back to back, really revealed Covenant's strengths and weaknesses - trying so hard to recapture what people loved about the first, but of course not really being able to.

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    1. Oh man that must have made Covenant look even worse than it already did. Original Alien is amazing, this one is just awful.

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  7. I liked this one a bit more than you, however, I can fully admit that I have not thought about this movie once since posting my review. It was completely insignificant.

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    1. Absolutely, it's just such a waste of the potential and the actors.

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