Alien Covenant (with spoilers)

Venusian Broon

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Well, what can I say about this after going to see it? I suppose at least I went in with low expectations. Although, even after a pretty shoddy Prometheus (IMHO), Covenant still managed to underperform even those lower expectations. It made you actually look back to Prometheus a bit wistfully...

Now, like many I assume here, I love Alien. It's a masterpiece. Made even better by the fact that Aliens came after it. Another masterpiece!

But Ridley Scott has, I feel, gone full Lucas with these prequels (and there should be one more, right, to get everything set up for the Nostromo :confused:)

So basically, a bit like Star Wars 7 The Force Awakens being a reboot of the original Star Wars, Covenant basically is a reboot of the original film Alien: Crew are woken up from hypersleep, find mysterious transmission, are compelled to investigate, land on planet, have spaceship problems & find xenomorph, lots of people die, psychotic android, get back to ship (and alien follows), before finally they blow it out into space.

Okay so there are a few differences. For example for those wanting answers from the questions from Prometheus...well, that all gets resolved in a couple of flashbacks. Noomi Rapace makes a reappearance as a wax dummy and the Engineers are conveniently removed stage left. Which I do think will disappoint those with fonder memories of Prometheus and wanting satisfying answers. I think Scott may taken on some of the Prometheus criticism and decided to fall back on 'what worked in the past'. And perhaps just taking all the wrong stuff from the past.

Anyway good and bad points:

Good
- Michael Fassbender makes a fantastic genocidal psychopathic android. (But IMO this great performance does not carry the whole film)
- Cinematography is as you'd expect from Scott, really beautiful.
- Danny McBride. Honestly, Danny McBride!, was about the only one of the 'humans' that managed to get some sort of character across. Well done him :p

Bad
- The rest of the cast unfortunately were so badly fleshed out that I barely understood why I should care as they inevitably got destroyed by the xenomorphs. They were supposed to be all couples, so there should have been more empathy when people died...yet I barely understood who was with who, never mind get hooked into their story.
- The Humans in charge of the Covenant expedition were just as stupid as the highly trained scientists and engineers in Prometheus. And hence made the same stupid decisions. Lots of them.
- Plot points galore that don't really makes sense...but all there to corral the story into the basic Alien plot. Like, why they even bother to go to the world in the first place, aren't they on a more important mission already, with people and unborn relying on them to just do their job?
- Spaceship destroys itself after taking a few hits inside it from a gun, yet main spaceship can fly in the atmosphere of the planet and not become an evaporating fireball.
- Alien life cycle becomes ever more complicated and confusing, but essentially it seems that David is the person experimenting with the black gunk and making xenomorphs. And how fast do this buggers grow? The Chest burster takes a couple of minutes to get to a full size xenomorph!
- After praising the cinematography I have to say that the CGI was pretty poor. Especially the old-school chest burster that almost broke into a dance and song a'la Space balls

So overall I was disappointed. Which given I went in not expecting much is quite bad. Some might like the knowing obvious references to the original - there were loads - but to me that just made it predictable. Captain looks into the opened Alien egg (oh what is going to happen next? Yeah no s**t Sherlock), alien is tracked on ship as it scuttles through the decks...

Anyway that's my view, others are welcome :)
 

Foxbat

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So overall I was disappointed. Which given I went in not expecting much is quite bad. Some might like the knowing obvious references to the original - there were loads - but to me that just made it predictable. Captain looks into the opened Alien egg (oh what is going to happen next? Yeah no s**t Sherlock), alien is tracked on ship as it scuttles through the decks...

Anyway that's my view, others are welcome :)
I once had an argument/debate with a guy who played in a band and got legless before each gig. My view was (and still is) that if somebody is going to pay money to watch me play then the least I can do is have enough respect for them to play sober. Perhaps Ridley Scott was absolutely mortal when he photocopied the original Alien script and changed the names?
 

Venusian Broon

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I once had an argument/debate with a guy who played in a band and got legless before each gig. My view was (and still is) that if somebody is going to pay money to watch me play then the least I can do is have enough respect for them to play sober. Perhaps Ridley Scott was absolutely mortal when he photocopied the original Alien script and changed the names?
Now I'm not so much of an Alien Fanboi to have followed every single development, but I believe that Ridley Scott did listen, for what it's worth, with some of the criticism about Prometheus. Unfortunately he seemed to have gone back to some sort of 'greatest hits' compilation and a seriously flimsy script.

For his two crowning SF achievements, Alien and Blade Runner the script wasn't, I think too much influenced by him, and I believe he was lucky to have just the right scripts at the right time for his cinematic vision and a lot of other factors that came together beautifully. These Alien prequels are much more of his project I believe and (I'll whisper this) don't think he really 'gets' SF very well. ;)

This does not bode well for Blade Runner 2049 I fear. But who knows, it may be good, as I know very little about its development.
 

Toby Frost

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I think it's time they stopped making these films. Every new Alien film takes us further away from the Lovecraftian space-god of Alien and closer to a pedigree attack dog that can run up walls. It's clear that no answer can be given to the question "Where did the Alien come from?" that is as impressive as the question itself.

Also, Scott seems to want to make A.I.: this is a film about a robot, not an alien. The philosophical questions just aren't very interesting. The pretentious religious stuff in Prometheus, which made no sense whether you believe in God or not, have been replaced with a sort of quotation-frenzy. It's one thing to reference art in the visuals, but to litter the script with as many references to poetry as possible just feels clunky.

That said, there were good set-pieces. I especially liked the creature in the quarantine bay; not so much for the effects, as for the pacing and the fight that followed. I think Scott needs a strong script to keep him on track, and neither film has had one.

Incidentally, I'm slightly irritated that the design of the ships looks nothing like the Nostromo. At least the Star Wars films have tried to be consistent in their look.
 

Lucien21

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This does not bode well for Blade Runner 2049 I fear. But who knows, it may be good, as I know very little about its development.
Ridley is just producer on it. The director is the guy who made Arrival. However it is written by the same person who wrote Alien Covenant and Logan.
 

Toby Frost

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Oh, and another thing while I think of it: arbitrarily killing a main character off-screen (and not in the course of the plot, like Parker and Lambert) feels like a cheap trick. I thought the same thing about Hicks and Newt in Alien 3. I have a nasty suspicion that Scott is just making this up as he goes along.
 

MontyCircus

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My Criticker.com mini-review:

Long-time Alien franchise fan. Unlike many, I liked Prometheus. This was okay, but I haven't seen Prometheus since it came out and I was left a bit confused as to how it all fits into the timeline and the intricacies of the plot, as Ridley Scott assumes you've memorized Prometheus going in. Also there is a twist that I saw coming miles and miles ahead which was more distracting than anything. Walking out of the theatre I enjoyed it. But just a few hours later...it was kind of forgettable.

So you've got 2 identical robots. One evil. One good. They battle. One survives. I'm thinking "I think that's the evil robot pretending it's the good one." Next scene: "I'm still thinking that's the evil robot." Then they emphasize that he's missing his hand, like the good robot was: "Hmm...but I'm still thinking that's the evil robot. Or maybe not. By now I don't really care one way or the other."

And then in the end...it's the evil robot. Cue eye-roll.

I'd like to add a bit that spoils Christopher Nolan's 2006 "The Prestige"
I mean...we've all seen "The Prestige" right? The whole amputation-to-match-your-twin thing was done to perfection there.
 

Overread

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Oh, and another thing while I think of it: arbitrarily killing a main character off-screen (and not in the course of the plot, like Parker and Lambert) feels like a cheap trick. I thought the same thing about Hicks and Newt in Alien 3. I have a nasty suspicion that Scott is just making this up as he goes along.
It is a cheap trick, but its often used because most films are not paid for in a blocks like Lord of the Rings was. Instead the first film has to basically finance the next; or at least generate enough money to get investors to pay up. The result is that actors can sign new contracts and move on; which is without saying that an actor who see the first film get slated suddenly doesn't want to appear in the sequel and get tarred with the same brush. So often as not the off-screen kill-offs are because they basically can't sign the same people again.

Also don't forget that wages increase; the famous line that Sigourney Weaver got paid more for the second film than the entire budget for the first (or something like that) is another constraint which can appear.




Sadly I think the problem with these prequels is that they are trying to answer questions that are best left not answered. All those questions raised generate interest and following and trying to answer them cheapens the story; especially if you give your audience decades to come up with their own theories.

The focus on AI might also be harkening to the old Comic strips where AI did feature far more; the whole concept of AI gaining emotions and such is a kind of parallel story line that emerges within the Alien franchise as another cornerstone of stories. It's a neat way to bundle human focused drama into the story that isn't just relationships and which hints at a bigger world outside of just the alien's influence.

That said with this film and the last StarWars it does seem we are getting a spate of writers/directors trying to copycat old films trick for trick. It's rather sad that they do this within the same franchise; done on a new film franchise with new characters it would be fine; doing to the same feels daft and as if the world is just repeating itself over and over.
 

Toby Frost

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It is a cheap trick, but its often used because most films are not paid for in a blocks like Lord of the Rings was. Instead the first film has to basically finance the next; or at least generate enough money to get investors to pay up. The result is that actors can sign new contracts and move on; which is without saying that an actor who see the first film get slated suddenly doesn't want to appear in the sequel and get tarred with the same brush. So often as not the off-screen kill-offs are because they basically can't sign the same people again.
That's fair enough and makes commercial sense, but I don't think it that makes it any less unsatisfactory to watch.

Sadly I think the problem with these prequels is that they are trying to answer questions that are best left not answered. All those questions raised generate interest and following and trying to answer them cheapens the story; especially if you give your audience decades to come up with their own theorie
I think that sums it up very well. There seems to be a modern need for people to know everything about a favourite character or setting, which just isn't really necessary. Apparently there's a comic book of the life of Furiosa from Mad Max - I can't think of much that I want to read less. What people don't seem to realise is that some characters start fully finished. I don't need or want to know where Furiosa's arm went because what is more important is how she gets on without it. I don't need to know the backstory of Boba Fett or The Man With No Name because, by definition, these are mysterious characters. I don't want the mystery sucked out of them with endless origin stories. But of course it sells.
 

Lumens

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That said with this film and the last StarWars it does seem we are getting a spate of writers/directors trying to copycat old films trick for trick. It's rather sad that they do this within the same franchise; done on a new film franchise with new characters it would be fine; doing to the same feels daft and as if the world is just repeating itself over and over.
I feel exactly the same way. I hope we will soon see a revolt against this and instead of copies, there will be more creative scripts loosely based within the same universe. Marvel is well ahead of the curve on this and I think they are onto something.
 

Overread

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Marvel has the advantage in that they've established themselves with a huge comicbook franchise prior to going to the movies; they've then solidified that position with a series of high success films. This gives them much more freedom to actually do what they want rather than what investors feel is safer. Heck don't forget that we went through a spate of spiderman reboots one after the other after the other; Hulk also went through similar although he's generally a more simple character when it comes to the variations in his starting point.

Comics work really well in films and already have a long history of re-writes so its more easily accepted for them.
 

clovis-man

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I think it's time they stopped making these films. Every new Alien film takes us further away from the Lovecraftian space-god of Alien and closer to a pedigree attack dog that can run up walls. It's clear that no answer can be given to the question "Where did the Alien come from?" that is as impressive as the question itself.
I don't know if it's really all that intentional, but the original artwork by Giger (not used anywhere in the films) strongly suggested a cultish phenomenon, if not a religious one.
upload_2017-5-29_7-26-50.png


David's assertion that he believes in "creation" seems to indicate that he sees himself as the progenitor of the iconic creature of the first two or three movies. But who laid the eggs? And why were the inhabitants of the planet seemingly happy to see the spaceship appear overhead prior to David's dumping out the spores? The original Alien had a ship with a cargo hold full of eggs. How do we make the connection between that and David's idiosyncratic scheme to perpetuate and enhance the creatures. Looked to me like the idea of the "engineers" or whoever willingly carting them around ended with their demise at the hand of our wacked out android.

I have to admit that much of my motivation to continue pursuing these films has been just to find out what is really going on. Some questions were answered about the wild variety of creatures that appear. But not much else. So I will officially stop pursuing that phantom and may not bother with the next installment.

Oh, and another thing while I think of it: arbitrarily killing a main character off-screen (and not in the course of the plot, like Parker and Lambert) feels like a cheap trick. I thought the same thing about Hicks and Newt in Alien 3. I have a nasty suspicion that Scott is just making this up as he goes along.
I agree here. Not that I really wanted Newt or Hicks or Shaw to reappear, but their cavalier disposal seemed to invalidate all the trials and tribulations of their characters. I mean, why bother to battle the creatures if you're just going to be munched on as soon as you go into hyper sleep.

A random thought: It was interesting to see that Scott squeezed in parts of both Jerry Goldsmith's score from Alien and Marc Streitenfeld's from Prometheus. I had mixed feelings about it. I suppose the intent was to build something of a bridge between the stories musically.
 

Toby Frost

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Not that I really wanted Newt or Hicks or Shaw to reappear, but their cavalier disposal seemed to invalidate all the trials and tribulations of their characters.
Exactly! I'd be happy for any of them to come back, provided Newt didn't shriek too much. I liked them all, and Shaw was pretty easy on the eye. Admittedly, when everyone you know gets torn apart, roasted in acid, vomits milk or turns into a blob-monster, there's not a lot of competition looks-wise.

I quite liked the score, although it wasn't terribly original. It did the job, really.

But I've got the feeling that there isn't a final revelation waiting to be made here, and it will drag on for as long as it's profitable.
 
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clovis-man

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But I've got the feeling that there isn't a final revelation waiting to be made here, and it will drag on for as long as it's profitable.
Agreed. Unfortunately that seems to be Ridley Scott's mission these days. I don't think we'll be seeing the likes of Legend, Thelma and Louise, Gladiator or Kingdom of Heaven again. The Martian was likely his last good one.
 

J Riff

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It doesn't grab, that's for sure. Too much obvious rehashisms. Too much variations on the Aliens, already a 'perfect organism' .. so let's just make 'em into a virus that you can snort up nanoparticles of, and hey look it's a little guy alien, all complete with arms and legs and instantly attacking like a mad giant flea.
Fine to trap everyone and pick them off one or two atta time, but there's quite a few people this time, and the ending(s) drag on with a few too many twisty clever attempts at ... whatever. There's no real tension. I dunno... is it better than Prothemeus? I can't remember. *
 

Lumens

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I finally got to see this. I agree with the overall tone in this thread, except it was more original than I had first expected. Scott is experimenting a little, and failing. Nevertheless I still respect him for that. Pity about the weak script and other issues, he can do better.
 

Brian G Turner

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I just watched the Honest Trailer appraisal, as there's no chance of me watching 18 rated films any time soon:


Sounds like I didn't miss anything. :)
 

Toby Frost

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The more I think about this, the more clumsy it feels. As ever with Scott's films, it looks good (if rather washed out, like the filter the BBC uses for "gritty" police dramas), but there's so much awkward stuff in there - things that make no sense, or belong in a tackier film, or wrench the earlier films out of joint.

Why is there so little of the actual Alien? Why is David apparently so interesting that he gets his own film, and gets to create the actual monster? Why kill off Shaw (ok, we've discussed this above, but it still feels crude)? Why so many characters? Why is the pacing so strange?

Why the shower scene, with its obvious "they're going to die" aspect and the tacky tail between the legs? It belongs in one of the later Jason flicks. Who thought that the tiny alien chestburster was an improvement on the original? Why include the utterly predictable twist in the end?

It feels as if somewhere down the line, something went terribly wrong with this. I'd like to think that it was put together wrongly, and that there is, somewhere, the potential to make a really good film out of it. But I think that's overly optimistic.
 

BAYLOR

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The more I think about this, the more clumsy it feels. As ever with Scott's films, it looks good (if rather washed out, like the filter the BBC uses for "gritty" police dramas), but there's so much awkward stuff in there - things that make no sense, or belong in a tackier film, or wrench the earlier films out of joint.

Why is there so little of the actual Alien? Why is David apparently so interesting that he gets his own film, and gets to create the actual monster? Why kill off Shaw (ok, we've discussed this above, but it still feels crude)? Why so many characters? Why is the pacing so strange?

Why the shower scene, with its obvious "they're going to die" aspect and the tacky tail between the legs? It belongs in one of the later Jason flicks. Who thought that the tiny alien chestburster was an improvement on the original? Why include the utterly predictable twist in the end?

It feels as if somewhere down the line, something went terribly wrong with this. I'd like to think that it was put together wrongly, and that there is, somewhere, the potential to make a really good film out of it. But I think that's overly optimistic.
For me , the Alien franchise is ruined. Scott should never have bothered with either Prometheus or Covenant. He should have left both the Aliens and the Engineers a mystery. That would served the franchise far better.
 

Overread

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He should have followed what the comics did; keep the mystery and keep doing regular alien style films. People trapped on ships; the invasion of Earth (huge story potential there); robotic aliens infiltrating hives etc... So much potential to explore the world without ever touching upon where they came from or their great history.
 
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