By: Reel 127 (Two Beers) –
Alien has got to be the most unintentionally symbolic franchise of all time. No matter what happens, no matter how much time passes, it seems the franchise can’t be killed for good, just like the aliens in them. However, things have turned back to the positive side with the latest film. Alien: Covenant is another prequel to Alien; a group of settlers accidentally come out of hyper sleep to discover a closer planet they could inhabit. Once there they quickly become marooned when the deadly xenomorphs return.
The writing stands out as the strongest part of Alien: Covenant. The story and pacing work well with the characters. Each event has an effect and progression that feels natural. Nothing is forced so that the story can reach a point the filmmakers want, rather than what should logically happen. The cast of this movie was excellent (of the characters who mattered). Michael Fassbender, Katherine Waterson, Billy Crudup, and even Danny McBride not only gave life to their characters, but the characters were well-written and developed. Making it actually matter if they live or die.
I will say though that I have no idea
why James Franco is in this movie.
Literally everyone else had more screen time than him.
Alien: Covenant is one of those few franchise films that can stand on its own. If you watched this one before any other film in the series you can still understand what is happening. The film is part of the prequel series that takes place before Alien. This one picks up after the events of Prometheus. Michael Fassbender reprises his character, David, from Prometheus and plays a new android named Walter. There is a really well-shot scene where the two of them are interacting and no cuts are used. It’s almost worth seeing the movie for just this scene.
The cinematography could have been better. Alien: Covenant uses a blend of handheld filming as well as mounted filming. For the most part it works, but one too many times the camera was shaking too much and for no reason. As if they decided not enough was happening in the shot so moving the camera around would make it better.
The cast is a little too large for this film. Despite the full crew in Alien, you could still learn everyone’s name and understand them before they were killed off. I honestly lost track of how many randos died in this movie. After they only took the time to develop like five of the characters I was thinking, “Oh, so everyone else is alien fodder.”
Marketing research suggests audiences prefer
people being ripped open even if they
have zero character development prior.
With Alien, the film was much more of a horror film with its pacing. With Aliens, the film was clearly an action flick. Alien: Covenant tries to be both; at times it can be done really well, and other times it really doesn’t work. The build up to the first alien being born was a really good horror sequence with the host’s body being torn from the inside out and the chaos ensuing thereafter. Then with a second alien born not long after they transition into an action sequence. This is one of the times it really works. The climax unfortunately can’t seem to balance this. It keeps trying to act like the ending to Alien with the buildup of anticipation of trying to kill the last alien, but then they make it a huge spectacle like Aliens. This doesn’t make or break the movie, but it certainly is distracting enough to take you out of the scenes where it happens.
Despite its flaws, Alien: Covenant is a great addition to the Alien franchise. There are times where you might roll your eyes at what is happening. I certainly got a laugh at the characters using GoPros despite it being the future. The effects are good enough that a trip to the theater to experience them is justified. If you are only going to see so many films from a franchise this summer, make this one of them.
God, this is going to be a long summer.
Alien: Covenant (2017) Drinking Game
Take a Drink: every time an alien claws it way out of somebody’s body.
Take a Drink: every time a character dies and you think, “Who was that?”
Take a Drink: every time someone slips on blood.
Do a Shot: every time James Franco speaks (you’ll be surprised how rare that is).
Do a Shot: every time they show that decapitated head in the water.