Alien: Covenant (20th Century Fox)
I really loved Prometheus, not as a cinematic masterpiece, but as movie-worthy prequel to Sir Ridley Scott's genre-defining 40 year-old masterpiece Alien. And having rewatched it again, Prometheus's smart narrative and deliberate storyline still resonate with me. Perhaps it is my age, and probably his, that that prequel raised major existential questions -- "why are we here?" and "who created us?" -- that resonate with In that film, why did the Engineers seed life in the ever-expanding universe and our own planet, if they did at all. He certainly knows how to direct action sequences that have grit, energy, and beauty as his films Gladiator and Blade Runner Scott next chapter Alien: Covenant answers many of the questions left dangling at the end of the aforementioned movie, but still leaves some questions unanswered -- a great device to hook newbies and fans alike. And certainly raises new questions, some of which parallel our current society. Genetic engineering? Is it a good thing for our food and for life? Corporatization of our politics, Some fan blogs have not taken to some of the plot points that I admire. And some may have missed Scott's bigger themes. Sure, it's still man vs. monster, but it's also man vs. machine, man vs. man, and mankind's insatiable search for universal truths.
The Biblical references are plenty, title aside. The movie begins with the birth of David courtesy of Guy Pearce's Weyland, owner of the Weyland Corporation as his "creator" and "father". This is the most blatant homage to Kubrick's white room from 2001 I've ever seen. Nicely done, too. Cut to... space and the (Noah's) Arc of Covenant; it being launched to a remote planet, Origae-6, with it's soon-to-be shredded crew, two-thousand colonists, and a thousand embryos on-board. They are set to "seed" this new planet. But they accidentally intercept a human transmission from an unknown planet and when they arrive, the fun begins. We also come to learn about the fate of Elizabeth Shaw (Noomi Rapace) from Prometheus. This is likely to annoy some diehard fans.
The cast is fantastic especially our new female leading lady Daniels "Dany" Branson (Katherine Waterston) who is both venerable and badass. And special props to comedic actor Danny McBride as the wise-cracking chief pilot Tennessee who never seems miscast, even in the white-knuckle scenes. And of course, the stone-faced Michael Fassbender remains a scene-shredder, creating the perfect dueling synthetics David and Walter. Wait until you see their homoerotic music moment. Talk about pushing the narrative forward. And of course the actor Goran D. Kleut in the iconic H.R. Giger-created Xenomorph costume. Forget Godzilla, King Kong, Frankestein, ever Freddy, this is the most terrifying monster ever created for screen! And yes, we finally come to understand how this creature evolved into the badass Alien creature. Props to art director Damien Drew, as well. His sets were spectacular. Both the ships and the home world are fantastic, atmospheric movie eye-candy.
My one complaint is that the film could have been a tad longer, could have included some of the clips only seen in the "extended trailer" teasers. (See above and below.) As well as clips left on the editing room floor that would have slowed the movie ever so slightly and allowed it to breathe. Sadly, most current big-budget spectacle movies are produced for audiences weaned on fast-paced video games and in doing so a movie's exposition or backstory has to be crammed into dialog and sometimes right-on-the-noise narration. I'd prefer to see the backstory unfold in longer or addtional scenes rather than spat out in rapid-fire scene busting. Plus, it allows the audience to identify with each crew member and creates more empathy for their ghastly deaths. Case in the point, this scene below with actor James Franco is my favorite scene left out of the movie, especially the "choking" part, an obvious homage to the "choking" scene in the very first Alien:
Still, there is plenty of everything -- cracking action, great acting, amazing sets, new creatures -- in this film and in doing so will allow every audience member to leave the theater satisfied. It certainly ramps up the gore factor from the previous film. That will def keep the horror fans engaged with numoerous visceral and ever-evolving creatures vs. diminishing crew scenes -- many that made me turn away from the screen. However, I'd rather Sir Scott produce and direct an Alien movie that digs even deeper into the smart narratives of classic sci-fi films like 2001, Contact, The Day The Earth Stood Still, and Arrival. Prometheus flirted with that narrative and certainly succeeded on some level, and Alien: Covenant is definitely a worthy sequel to it, but I hope his next Alien film explores man's existential crisis even more. Regardless, this is a must-see on the big screen. And a "thumbs-up" worthy addition to the Alien franchise. I can't wait until the studio releases the "Director's Cut" Blu-ray with delated scenes added to the movie. - Dusty Wright
Mr. Wright is a content creator and cultural curator. He was a contributor to the Huffington Post, former DJ at David Lynch's Transcendental Music Radio, the former editor of Creem and Prince's New Power Generation magazines as well as a writer of films, fiction, and television. He's also a singer/songwriter who has released five solo albums and one with folk-rock quartet GIANTfingers. And before all of this he was a William Morris agent.