Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Movie Review: ALIEN: COVENANT


When the crew of the colony ship Covenant intercept a distress signal from an unmapped planet, they discover that said planet could actually have a better habitat and ecosystem than the one they were aiming for. The captain makes the decision to change route, but when they land, they quickly discover they shouldn't have come in the first place.

Alien: Covenant has many stumbles on its way, it has a lot of fat that could have been cut out or been better written, in some ways it could be said it is a frustrating film, but what it comes down to is the fact that no matter how disconnected I felt at times, the tension always and constantly delivers and Ridley Scott gives proof of his mastery at it. This is a solid Alien film, with lots of glorious suspense and scare mixed with a surprisingly excellent attempt at world and mythology building.


After the first ten minutes of film that reveal themselves to be totally unnecessary and disastrous, the actual plot of the film kicks in and from there we are taken to a journey of constant and relentless tension climaxes that are structured in a very particular way. I'm not going to give anything away since the film has many surprises stored in it both from a story and character aspect and both on the traditional Alien formula and how it is carried out. If there is one thing that this film has going for it, as many Scott films do, it is that there are many clich├Ęs employed, but they always fit into the story and are used to their maximum potential; built around them is a film that ultimately surprised me continuously and with the exception of a couple of beats, I never had an idea of where it was going.

There is so much going on in this film that it is really hard to wrap my head around my thoughts on it. I have to point out how many character scenes drag, at different times during the movie there is dialogue and character interaction that made me cringe, but every time this happened the film gave me a new twist that was never gratuitous and gave new context to everything that happened before. It is this constantly moving piece which lets you down occasionally, but always finds a way to engage you again and once the tension hits, you are always sure to be locked in.

The film does feel like it is fighting to be both an Alien film and a sequel to Prometheus and at many times it seems to be failing at molding the tones and getting it to feel organic. It gives you something vitally new and fortunately the narrative heft never stops. I have to call myself amazed at how successful the attempt the filmmakers gave to build mythology for the Alien saga is. There are hardly any expositional dumps on the audience, yet there's so much going on under the surface, we manage to understand and appreciate so much of the Alien world. They take a big risk with this film and by the very end it pays off which is probably why during the film I was having my doubts, yet by the end it sweeps you away, leaves you on a high note and wanting more. All of the setups pay off and whilst some of them might have been placed a little mechanically into the flow of the story, there is so much going on that by the end I didn't care.

The tension and horror moments also have a bipolar nature to them, whilst some of the character fat in the film could have gone into a little more of these sequences, they are so well built once they hit you it is hard to be unsatisfied. Yes, there could have been more stuff with the actual aliens, but what we got was excellent. There are moments of true horror in which it is hard to watch the screen and other moments in which I thought I could not take the tension anymore, so all in all how can one be underwhelmed when a film does this to you.

I have to call out the fact that I found a lot of the production design of the Covenant ship to be a little underwhelming, especially for Ridley Scott standards, but the planet the film takes place on is so beautifully built and designed it is once again hard to complain.

Alien: Covenant is possibly the first successful attempt at building mythology in the Alien world, it gives Prometheus all the answers it needs and makes it a better film because of it. Whilst there are inherent problems scattered around all of the film and constantly flawed executions in acting, directing, writing and editing, as an overall piece it still manages to hit the audience as it should and gives them a full dose of scares, tension and even some sci-fi thematic exploration.

James' Score: 7.5/10


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