Sunday, May 21, 2017

Alien: Covenant Review

In space, no one can hear your exposition.

After nearly 40 years, I don't need to tell you that Alien is a terrifying movie. A crew of people trapped on board a ship in space with a creepy, super quick and super powerful monster? Sign me up! And you know what, the sequels was also just as good too. Everything else afterwards... well at least Alien: Isolation was really good.

As great as the first two movies are, it's easy to forget that the Alien franchise has more crap in it than good. When Alien: Resurrection isn't the low point in your franchise's history (thank you Colonial Marines), then it's a miracle that people still hold the franchise in such reverence. It's the same as the Terminator movies; first two were good, then everything was shat upon in the attempt to make it a franchise, despite the plot not making any sense once it is a franchise. But like Terminator, Alien is able to survive and is still highly regarded for one reason; the main enemy is that memorable. The xenomorphs are just really cool, really awesome monsters. Everything about their design, the way they walk, the way they kill people, are all just really, really impressive.


Enter Prometheus, the 2012 prequel to the entire Alien franchise that split fans like no other film in the series. To say Prometheus was confusing would be an understatement, including Trilobytes, the Engineers, and muddling up all of the lore and atmosphere of the original movie. And for some reason, Prometheus had enough fans clamoring for more, so we now have Alien: Covenant, and it's so, so, so disappointing. It's not bad by any stretch of the word, but it's a whole lot of buildup for a whole lot of nothing.

The Covenant is a space colony that is on a 7 year journey to a distant planet in order to repopulate the human species there. During their mission, the crew is woken up by a solar disturbance and also receive a message from a distant planet that looks pretty much more habitable than the planet they were original supposed to go to. As soon as they land on this new planet, when the crew begins to explore it, some members become sick, chest bursting is involved, David pops up again from Prometheus, and BAM!, xenomorphs start creeping around. Lots of death ensues, and a lot of exposition and people waxing philosophical. 

Well really, the philosophical musings come from David, an android and sole survivor of the Prometheus, who looooooves to quote poems, play opera, talk about the arts, and is more eye rolling than anything else. I know that he's meant to be creppy and ultimately serves as the main villain of the movie, but the biggest fault of this movie is focusing too much on the squishy humans than the creepy xenomorphs. The xenomorphs are around for maybe three scenes in the entire movie, and the big xenomorph you see in the trailer is the only really tense moment involving these fellows. Instead David looks down on everyone, muses how human life is pathetic and that he wants to create a new, perfect race because why the hell not, and it all leads to a final twist that you could see coming from a mile away. 

Rant aside, if there's one thing that Covenant does right, it's build a solid atmosphere for the first half of the movie. The crew of the Covenant all seem like interesting characters with their own unique flaws and quirks for the first half, and while none of them every become memorable or interesting, the few moments where they're all just exploring the mysterious planet are good ones. However, the entire plot gets started solely because these characters as stupid. I don't mean them visiting the planet in the first place, one could argue that they made an informed decision on that one, but the fact that they land on the planet without any space suits. So, they didn't do the thing that every crew has done in every Alien movie, and because of that everything went down in flames. 

There are a solid amount of moments in this movie that just scream dumb. Crew members forgetting protocol, everyone walking into a room that constantly murders everyone, people dying like they're in a slasher movie, and my favorite, a woman trying to shoot a xenomorph only to pratfall and blow up the entire landing ship they're on. Everyone acts dumb just to create a plot. If it wasn't for any of this, then we would have no movie, but the movie feels lame just because its all predicated on stupid behavior. It's like starting Captain America: Civil War not because of the Sokovia Accords, but because Captain America accidentally set off a bomb that nuked Kansas and only he was to blame for it.

Plot details aside... actually plot structure aside, I said that Covenant was a disappointing movie, but not a bad movie. To be fair, when you're directly following up the structural nightmare that was Prometheus, anything would be a step up. I wouldn't go and say that I was scared watching Covenant, but when there were some intense moments, they were intense. Chestbursters are still heart pounding to watch, and the first act's buildup is pretty sufficient. I only wish that the movie actually had payoff.

There's a ton of exposition on display here, and all of it doesn't really matter by the end of it. We see the Engineers, we see how xenomorphs came to be, but none of it really matters. And all of that info is towards the latter half of the movie. When Alien: Covenant is playing close to its chest, it's a solid Alien movie. Not as good as the first two mind you, but certainly on the same level as Alien 3. Once we know everything though, the xenomorphs lose a bit of their appeal. The mystery is solved about their origins, and while they're still frightening to watch as they dismember crew members, they lack that bit of the unknown.

Wow I'm doing a bad job at trying to say a few positive points about this movie and why it doesn't suck on toast. Ummm... Oh! The last scene is actually really interesting! Once the lame final twist occurs, it actually does leave a bit of an interesting ending. It's nothing mind blowing or anything like that, but it would make me want to see a direct sequel to Alien: Covenant because of it. A few new plot threads can be explored and to see where the franchise goes from there is somewhat compelling at least.

Other than that, yeah, Alien: Covenant is pretty mediocre. It's no sleigh ride of friendship from AvP, but it's inoffensive fluff that most fans are probably going to ignore. It makes more sense than Prometheus ever did, but Covenant doesn't contribute anything that's compelling about the Alien franchise. There's no cool action scenes, no claustrophobic scares, no memorable frights, and it more concerned with explaining the history of the franchise than actually delivering the scares of Alien or Aliens. 

Ridley Scott went on record that he has ideas for four, yes four, more prequels to the Alien franchise, and while the next movie may be slightly more compelling because of its ending, please just make this a prequel trilogy. Prometheus was inept, Covenant was inoffensive, and if we can wring one more movie to close out the prequels, I would be totally fine with that. Just please make it more like the first half of this movie than the second half.


Hi everyone, before the usual Patreon post, I just wanted to make quick update and say that there will be no review next week. I'm heading off on vacation, and I don't want to try and cram in a review on a game I really want to talk about while I'm prepping to go away for a week or so. You'll still get Wonder Woman on the 4th, I'm just rescheduling Yooka Laylee for some other time. Maybe I'll trow up a quick something if I have time, but we'll just have to see. See you next time!

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