Wednesday, 10 May 2017

CAN ALIEN: COVENANT SHAKE OFF THE ALIEN COBWEBS?


NO SPOILERS HERE

1979's Alien is one of my favourite films, and it was a gateway into a lifelong love of the Alien franchise. Through its ups and downs, I have been there, enjoying, savouring, being engrossed in that world. In 2012, a lot of people believe the reputation of the Alien franchise was sullied by the more fanciful scifi-leaning prequel Prometheus, with its Damon Lindelof 'reworked' script making a relatively straightforward idea of humanity and creation into a confusing detour that further removed it from it's intended follow up film. The question has been could director Ridley Scott, an undoubtedly talented artist, but one who also has spent almost two decades milling out films both great and of questionable quality, bring the series back to its tonal roots and hit a home run in the scifi series.

The answer is yes.


Having returned from a preview of Alien: Covenant, all I can think of is just how different the experience was to seeing Prometheus. I know it's unfair to compare the films as such, but the common failings people has with the 2012 film (which I am actually quite a fan of) are absent here, with the new installment taking a more simplified survival horror route.

It's familiar territory plot-wise that sees the spaceship Covenant, who are shipping 2000 people and embryos to colonise a new planet, going off course to investigate a signal from a planet that harbors dark secrets that may or may not result in the familiar phallic-headed monsters creating chaos.

The simplicity is in the films favour, with points that were confusing in the previous film cleared up hear so no one is left scratching their heads as to what we are seeing. The most successful part of the film is the new additions to the Alien mythos that seamlessly connect Prometheus with the future installments in a way that is both wholly satisfying yet completely unobtrusive and unnecessary for those who don't seek it. In fact, though the film benefits from the context of the surrounding series, it works very well on its own merit for those who might not have seen any other entries.

Co-writer/co-star Danny McBride has been the subject of many words as to whether the more comically known talent would cross over. Well, not only does he cross over, but he steals every scene he is in, bringing an everyday man vibe, and hitting hard when hard hits. That is to by no means take away from the work of other stars such as Katherine Waterston or Billy Crudup, who, as part of the ensemble, successfully bring a realism to the film. The former's personal sorrow is felt throughout the entire film, while the latter brings a great counterpoint to the question of the reverence owed to a creator with his religious captain Oram. And let's not forget Michael Fassbender, the showstopper of Prometheus, who plays a different android in this installment. It's outstanding how much nuance he can bring to a role that could all too easily fall flat.


It's worth noting that this is one of the more grizzly installments in the franchise, with some scenes really pushing its 16 rating. It harks back to H. R. Giger's original designs, with some exact replicas in places, and you know if you got Giger, you got the beast. Though visceral, it doesn't toe the line with exploitative, as the Alien vs Predator films did. There is a maturity here that brings a gravitas and importance, though also undoubtedly a bit of drag in the middle of the film. And though the film never gets too full of itself, it does on a few notable occasions, underestimate the audience.

However, with that said, it is easy to consider this the best Alien film in the last 30 years (except for the oddballs like me who liked Alien 3).

There is a lot to say about the film, but probably best left until it is in wide release and everyone has had a chance to digest it. My final thought for the moment is that I groaned when Ridley Scott made a comment about how many more sequels to Prometheus he would like to do before it connects with Alien, but tonight, while watching Alien: Covenant, all I could think of was 'keep em coming!'


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