Alien: Covenant (2017)

10:45 AM

Run. Hide. Scream.
 Alien: Covenant is directed by Ridley Scott (The Martian, Alien) and stars Michael Fassbender (Inglorious Basterds, X-Men: Days of Future Past), Katherine Waterston (Inherent Vice, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them) and Billy Crudup (Almost Famous, Watchmen). "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". The jury is still undecided on Prometheus, will this truly be a return to form for Ridley Scott and the Alien franchise?

Alien: Covenant is a film I am in two minds about - there is a lot to love and well...there is a lot to get confused by. I firmly believe that film's these days shouldn't require 'homework' and even a sequel or prequel should be somewhat accessible to new audiences. I have seen Prometheus, back in 2012 when it was released, but I haven't seen any of the other Alien films. Usually this isn't a problem for me - for instance, I saw The Force Awakens without seeing any other Star Wars film. Covenant risks being a little too 'inside baseball' - I believe a lot has been added to the mythology but I don't really understand any of it. I am tempted to go back and watch the Alien films and hopefully I will be able to understand what actually happened in Covenant. 

The first hour or so is incredible, I really enjoyed it - it is a slow burn but the payoff is fantastic. Everything gets set up and the narrative is clear - this group of people are on a mission to bring life to another planet but they notice some odd signalling which suggests existing life so go on a detour. The exploration of the planet is brilliant - the cinematography really captures the land beautifully. There is also a sense of tension as it is clear that the place is not what it seems. Then the first encounter with the aliens happen and it is worth the entire movie ticket - it's scary, horrific, tense, fast paced and thrilling. Everything that the entirety of this film should have been. But then the film itself seems to go on a detour, narratively, and it all becomes rather confusing - I have so many questions. Alien: Covenant is already 2 hours long but I think it could definitely do with another 30 minutes to help flesh out the second part of the film. I would actually compare it to Ghost in the Shell in terms of it having a messy, convoluted narrative but don't get me wrong, this film is way better than GITS. The aliens kind of took a step back in the second half and there is some confusing development with the character of David/Walter. There are scenes I did not get at all (e.g. the flute) and there are some horrific ideas suggested but never explained thoroughly (e.g. what actually happened to Shaw in Prometheus). The twist towards the end was pretty easy to see coming and the final scenes were actually a return-to-form for the film. Ridley Scott has been quoted recently for saying that narrative is the key to films and I think he should listen to his own advice as the only problems I had with Alien: Covenant lie with the narrative. Just like covenants themselves are very secretive, if you haven't seen the Alien films, you're probably not going to get the full gist of Alien: Covenant. 

Visually, Alien: Covenant is stunning - 2017 really is on a roll with visually impressive films - Guardians 2, Beauty and the Beast, Ghost in the Shell, Kong and now this. The Aliens were well realised and were pretty terrifying. The cinematography is general is also very good - the planet is beautifully eery, dark and mysterious. I also liked the POV shots in the first 'Alien attack' - they really helped add to the tension and energy. The film is also very gruesome with lots of horrific imagery - the SFX team did a brilliant job. 

All of the performances in Alien: Covenant are good. However, what let everyone down was that nobody really got a chance to shine - there are 16 different characters in this film, excluding the aliens and is very hard to connect with most of them. Slight spoiler alert! Only 3 of these characters survive and I only remember 2 of them. This definitely wasn't down to the actors but definitely the writing- like Scott says, narrative should come first and part of that narrative is creating developed characters that the audience can follow and get behind. Alien: Covenant is Michael Fassbender's show. I didn't actually think Fassbender was capable of playing a role so eccentric and at times, bizarre. Fassbender plays two characters - David and Walter. Without saying too much - both of whom are basically the same character but are also very different. There is a reason the film spends so much time developing David and Walter - they are the most interesting, even though I didn't really get a lot of it. Katherine Waterston plays the typical Alien female protagonist - Scott really does choose actresses who could easily pass as siblings - Sigourney Weaver, Noomi Rapace and Katherine Waterston are all styled in similar ways and I don't really know what distinguishes them from each other. I was worried about Waterston's performance when the film first began as I wasn't quite convinced by her but as the film went on, I got behind her character and her performance. That doesn't stop Waterston's Daniels from being a flimsy, one dimensional female character that I will probably forget by the end of the day. One character that did have some interesting development was Billy Crudup's Oram - I thought the ideas that were explored around faith were interesting and I think the film could have done more with that. The 12 other characters? The actors are all good but all of their character's purposes are to help with the journey until it is time for them to savagely die. The marketing for the film has also played up the idea of them all being couples which is a good theme - however, this just isn't prominent enough in the film itself and nothing is really done with it. Oh, and the homosexual couple? I couldn't even tell you there was one unless I knew prior to going in. 

I did enjoy Alien: Covenant - the first hour was a slow burn but ended with a great climax, it was very impressive. However, the film takes an unexpected turn in Act 2 that you have to have done your homework for to fully understand. PSA - What Alien and Prometheus before watching Covenant. The film is scary and there are bursts of tension - the aliens themselves are as terrifying as ever. Michael Fassbender does a brilliant job, the first time I've been truly impressed by him in years. Waterston just fills the boots of the female protagonists before her and all of the other talented cast are wasted as they are red shirts waiting to die. The film is also visually stunning. I am sure there are many interesting and amazing ideas hidden right in front of my eyes - I just haven't done the pre-viewing to notice it. Alien: Covenant isn't worth seeing if you haven't and are not planning to watch the previous films but if you have, I think you'll have a great time. Alien: Covenant is dark, eery and twisted but slightly inside-baseball. 


What did you think of ALIEN: COVENANT? How does it compare to the other films? - COMMENT BELOW

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