MAD: Alien Covenant

(2017 Fox/Watched in the Cinema)

[I’ll keep this one mostly spoiler free. I don’t recommend this movie, but if you are determined to go see it, like I was, you could do worse.]

This was better than it could have been, but worse than it might have been. Effectively it’s a chance for Ridley Scott to do-over Prometheus, with a new script and a proper Xenomorph to satisfy the fans. Apparently he was rather surprised that people wanted Aliens to feature in a story about how the Aliens came about. This one remedies that.

Some, but not all of the issues that plague Prometheus for some (especially myself) have been addressed. The ship feels like it might possibly be from the same timeline as the Nostromo. There’s less in the way of flashy tech to present that contradiction.

The crew are not all just a bunch of stupid, needlessly aggressive, mouthy twits who this time know exactly why they are there, and debate what to do in the solid first act.

Once the acid hits the fan and people start dying things slip backwards a bit. Especially by the end of the film there’s a leery Friday the 13th feel about the way the Alien stalks two particular victims canoodling in a shower. Interestingly most of the stuff they were showing us in the trailers and preview clips is the worst of it.

The worst of it comes when Scott and company start providing definite answers to the how and The why of the Xenomorph. The why is actually pretty firmly explained with reasoned motivation, as to the HOW we are back in black goo territory. They may as well have put that Deacon creature from the end of Prometheus into a pod marked SCIENCE and pressed a button marked GO. And of course once it’s all laid out the road back to the beginning of Alien is rocky as hell.

Fassbender does a decent job this time, but that period at the beginning of Prometheus, one of unnerving subtlety is only briefly reached. A lot of it is him in a hood looking grumpy and I had quite enough of that in Assassin’s Creed. What I love is seeing Fassbender’s eyes sparkle, when he hits on a great angle for a great role . He had it with Erik and then he lost it. The same is true with this artificial person.

The music by Jed Kurzel is a blend of Jerry Goldsmith’s superb Alien score and occasionally the key riff from Prometheus, as this is, after all, inescapably Prometheus 2, no matter what it’s actually titled. As for the story, I’ve always said that Prometheus was both a shameless retread of Alien, the film it was supposed to be prequeling, and an unwitting remake of Alien Vs Predator. This one however has elements of Aliens, Alien 3, Alien Resurrection, Aliens vs Predator Requiem, Predators (somehow) AND it’s a shameless retread of Alien, the film it was supposed to be prequeling. I don’t know how much of that was intentional, but it’s a better mix and less of a mess.

I do wish, however that neither of these movies had been made. The answers to the questions that never needed answering are as humdrum as you might expect. Worse still, the film actively REQUIRES its stars to toss around the idiot ball in order for the plot to proceed. without a facepalm-inducing series of oversights they cannot be placed in mortal danger, and that was always Prometheus’ biggest problem, one that has not been eliminated. Beyond this, while it answers some key questions about why the Alien came into being, the planet they stand upon and what has happened to it cannot withstand even the most rudimentary smattering of logistical queries.

The highlight this time is not Fassbender or the competently remixed soundtrack (which fails to conjure a distinctive theme for this movie that wasn’t in one of the others) it’s Katherine Waterstone. She makes for a compelling female lead, someone who goes through palpable pain and stress and proves her mettle. Her I could watch multiple films about.

This is frustrating.

Author: Alex Shaw

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