Review of "Alien Covenant (DVD)"

published 03/11/2017 | afy9mab
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Satisfactory
Pro A decent cast.
Cons It takes itself too seriously, some roles are miscast and the story is awful.
exceptional
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Story
Characters / Performances
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Soundtrack

"In Space No-one Can Hear You Sigh"

The crew of the colony ship “Covenant” is headed for a new life on the other side of the universe. But they are drawn off course by a radio broadcast that suggests human life might be closer than they think. They touch down on an uncharted planet, believing they have found a paradise, but soon discover this is a dark dangerous world. Its sole inhabitant is the synthetic David, the only survivor of the doomed Prometheus expedition.

Ridley Scott returns with a completely unnecessary sequel to the belated “Alien” prequel “Prometheus”. In visual terms, the film is very much of a piece with its most recent predecessor. The interior shots of the spacecraft are bathed in blue light and feature lots of hard angles and smooth surfaces. Meanwhile the exteriors are so desaturated that they are almost in black and white. This approach gives the movie a chilly aesthetic. In combination with a utilitarian design for the spaceship and costume design and some bleak locations, it sucks every iota of glamour out of interplanetary travel. The sets for the alien city are dark and forbidding and the whole shebang has a sinister air that would send any normal folk running for the escape pod. The creatures are disturbing, but perhaps look too similar to what we have come to expect from the franchise to truly terrify. In addition, there is an excess of CGI, which feels like it has been used in a slapdash manner.

The storytelling is where the film falls apart. It suffers from many of the problems that plague other prequels. First and foremost is the fact that the audience is better informed than the characters. If you’re watching this film, then odds are that you’ve seen all or most of the other movies in the franchise, so you know what the threat is and how the story will eventually play out. This makes it very difficult to build tension because the viewer knows how the xenomorphs operate. The first movies in the series preyed on the viewer and the characters’ fear of the unknown, so the monster reveal was terrifying. But now we know what to expect, the baddies have lost their ability to scare in the same way. An attempt to explain their origins only functions to demystify them further. Consequently, there are few surprises. Scott tries to counter this by going with the bigger is better philosophy. So he expands the aliens’ hunting ground to encompass an entire planet and creates a larger victim pool by increasing the number of crew members, presumably to increase the fear factor. But this actually works counter to the director’s intentions. By increasing the scale of the baddies’ world, much of the tension is leached away because you can be pretty sure that there isn’t an alien around every corner. The most effective scenes are those that replicate the claustrophobia or fear of the dark of earlier instalments, with attacks taking place in a landing craft and a pitch-black wheat field. The expanded cast means there are more opportunities for nasty deaths. That being said, it is hard to invest emotionally in the vast majority of the crew members because there is little to no character development. As a result, each successive death (for me at least) was accompanied by a mental shrug. It’s hard to feel for supposedly intelligent characters when they consistently show so little common sense, frequently wandering off alone on an unexplored alien planet. It is also very difficult to invest in relationship between people who act as though they barely know one another until one of them dies and the other exclaims “My wife!”

The plotting is predictable because it relies on the same old divide and conquer mechanics of your average slasher film. I felt as though the director really wanted the film to be taken seriously as a meditation on man’s constant urge to bend nature to its will and the hubris in doing so. But it’s hard not to snigger when one android puts a flesh-coloured recorder in another’s mouth and says “I’ll do the fingering”. I really felt as though the film disappeared up its own fundament once Michael Fassbender started kissing himself. I found the pacing ponderous because very little happens between the alien attacks and spending time with characters I didn’t care about was mind-numbing. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the film felt far too long to me, clocking in at a-hundred-and-twenty-two minutes.

The screenplay by John Logan and Dante Harper poses two very big problems for me. Firstly, it suffers from the same issues as every other prequel; namely that the audience knows where the story is ultimately going. As a result, it makes it difficult to create tension or develop any serious attachment to any of the characters because you know that their odds of survival are somewhere between slim and none. It also leaves little room for surprise. Secondly, the plot relies on a group of apparently smart and responsible people consistently doing stupid, reckless and downright dangerous things, for no other reason than whimsy. In spite of being in charge of a colony ship containing thousands of passengers en route to a new world, the crew blithely deviate from their course on the basis of a faintly heard radio transmission. The entire command structure goes down to an alien planet without any protective gear, leaving the ship all but unmanned. They split up almost immediately, making it easier for them to be picked off one by one. They don’t question the intentions of an android who admits to wiping out an entire planet and they always go and poke the weird looking new thing, without any understanding of what it might do to them. At the very least, it makes them bad scientists. It made me wonder if the Weyland Company’s real mission is to strengthen our species by sending all of the idiots into deep space. In addition, there is a last-minute twist that falls squarely into B-movie territory, but doesn’t work because the whole production takes itself way too seriously.

I felt that the characterisation was marked by a lack of well-drawn and sympathetic protagonists. The vast majority of the characters fall into well-worn science fiction stereotypes and most of them get killed off before we get the chance to know them. Daniels is the closest thing the film has to a sympathetic character because she has a sliver of a backstory and she’s fighting her grief at losing her husband throughout. But she is less convincing as a kickass heroine because she appears too fragile. Androids Walter and David are a variation on the good and evil twins beloved of B-movies and soap operas. While the former is the obedient, good little soldier who lives only to serve, the latter is a megalomaniacal villain, who believes that humans don’t deserve to live. Replacement captain Oram is a bad leader because his decisions seem arbitrary. Vague mutterings about his religious beliefs aren’t reason enough for him to risk the lives of so many on whim. I suspect folksy pilot Tennessee is meant to be the comic relief, but isn’t actually funny. The other crewmembers are so underdeveloped that they might as well be numbered and have targets on their backs. The dialogue is weirdly perfunctory and tin-eared.

Although I could buy into Katherine Waterston as a grieving widow as Daniels, I thought she was too teary of eye and wobbly of chin to convince as an action heroine. I felt as though she was likely to go to pieces at the first hint of trouble. Michael Fassbender differentiates between the characters of Walter and David through accent and hair length. While Walter is neatly coiffed speaks with a non-specific American accent, David sports straggly hair and a cut-glass British accent, so you know he’s eevil, even before his Dr Frankenstein tendencies show up. Billy Crudup is hard to like as Oram – partly because the character is so inept, but also because Crudup plays him as if he has a massive chip on his shoulder. Danny McBride feels somewhat out of place as pilot Tennessee, but at least shows a little more of an emotional range than I have previously seen from him. Demian Bechir, Carmen Ejogo and Amy Seimetz all get short shrift from the script.

The original music by Jed Kurzel includes lots of dark, doomy arrangements of burring brass, sweeping strings and unsettling percussion. He also employs majestic-sounding themes full of swelling strings and brass with unsettling woodwind undercurrents for the planet. Also expect lots of creepy shrieking strings for the horror elements and some softer piano themes for the more emotional moments. Generally, the music fits the film, but it is rather too gloomy to listen to as a soundtrack album.

I didn’t find “Alien: Covenant” as tedious as “Prometheus”, but it still bored me rigid. I thought the direction was self-important and humourless, which led me to believe that Ridley Scott was the wrong man for the job. I felt the writing was self-satisfied and lacking in substance and sympathetic characters. I was a little sorry for the cast because some parts seemed miscast, while others were so badly written that there was simply nothing the actors could do with them. I think if you liked “Prometheus”, you’ll probably enjoy this more than I did. But if you’re looking for the slow-burn creepiness of the original “Alien” or the action-packed horror of “Aliens”, it’s likely you’ll be as disappointed as I was. Unless you’re looking for something to help you nod off, I’d give it a miss.


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This review was read 97 times and was rated at
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Comments on this review

  • Secre published 13/11/2017
    British accent; ultimate proof of evilness!
  • danielclark691 published 13/11/2017
    good work
  • Icypink published 09/11/2017
    Excellent
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Product Information : Alien Covenant (DVD)

Manufacturer's product description

Product Details

DVD Region: DVD

Director(s) (Last name, First name): Scott, Ridley

Classification: 15 years and over

Actor(s): Michael Fassbender, Noomi Rapace, Katherine Waterston, Guy Pearce, Billy Crudup

Production Year: 2017

EAN: 5039036081313

Video Category: Feature Film

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Listed on Ciao since: 23/10/2017