Alien: Covenant (2017)

Alien: Covenant – IMDB

 

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As a fan of this beloved series, I read articles, watched interviews, and looked out for the anticipated teaser trailer released last Christmas. My hopes couldn’t have been higher. A return to the dark and dangerous universe of Alien. Prometheus opened a whole new world for us to explore and upon initial viewing I loved it, then hated it, then as time passed it grew on me and I have accepted it for being a stand alone film and an unique entry in to the franchise. With that being said, there was a lot to be expected from Ridley Scott taking yet another lead in the xenomorph franchise. And then finally, FINALLY. A full red band trailer was released. I watched. As the trailer for Alien: Covenant burst from its organic egg shell, revealing it’s gooey innards. I couldn’t help but be exposed to the spoilers on screen as one colonist after another were dying showcasing their deaths to entice and scare viewers demanding it’s attention. AND THEN, my questioning began, “Is this really going to be good, it looks like Alien? Should I lower my bar of expectations? Is this the sequel we deserve?”

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I see nothing but death.

I believe Ridley Scott listened to those shouting and screaming Alien fans and their hatred for Prometheus without consideration of those who spoke softly for their love of a film that took a risk in a new direction. Scott himself wanted to create something new that centered around creation and a story that provoked the thought of origins for life. And not just any life, but birth of the hissing xenomorph. I understood Prometheus was set in the same universe but placed far before the original. And it was this movie that many were apparently down right upset about. Movies age like wine, many show their true colors and morph into something flavorful later on down the road. The tick with this film is Scott took a chunk of Alien and a spice of Prometheus. When instead it should have been vice versa. It felt like he wanted to please the audience and new comers with an over cooked monster and playing it safe. When, in fact, I would have chosen the risky route. Continue Prometheus mission.

This is the biggest fault of the film. Alien: Covenant wanted to spring into an Alien movie so badly it left many ingredients that made it’s predecessor stand alone. There’s reviews that could go on about what Prometheus did wrong and what not. Yea, yea, we know. A great sequel would add to the first’s mystery, answer questions and then some. Frankly, the sequel does not. You want to know if Shaw gets any of her questions answered? Who cares. Want to know any more about the Engineers? Nah, irrelevant, they’re just a plot device. Alien: Covenant moves forward in a storm abandoning almost everything behind. Leaving a mess of a film.

There are good points in the movie and I will say it definitely is not a waste of time. By far my favorite is watching the androids, Walter and David, both played by the magnificent Michael Fassbender, interact with one another. Their conversations and differences make some compelling dialogue. They are by far the best part of the film. David is becoming more of a solid character in the franchise as Ripley. It’s exciting to think about. **Spoiler** Seeing as David’s relationship with Weyland is submissive in the the shadow of his creator, David holds the ability to create, and to create he does. The perfect being. And this is justified (if not hard to swallow) in the beginning  when Weyland talks to David on his initial creation. This bit I loved. Discussion of art, creation, and Gods. It is what is expected of a Prometheus sequel.

Androids were not the only ones who were good, those looking for a more serious role for Danny Mcbride actually has a good standing here. It was a pleasure to see him on screen and provide a drop of comical relief and play a driven husband to the end. A part I was looking forward to. And Katherine Waterston who played the down beat Daniels. She did good but nothing to stand out or even complain. She is in grief of losing her husband so her character hardly has an uplifting moment. With that to say the movie as a whole is quite atmospheric and despairing.

In relation to the other characters I really wish they were more fleshed out. Especially Oram and Karine. This couple could of had some deep conversations. Oram (Billy Crudup) could have used a lot more text and background on why and how he is religious. I think personally he is the most interesting character besides David. With Shaw out of the picture, Oram could have real conversations with David. If not him, Daniels or Tennessee about the future humankind’s path is set on or the Engineers’ purpose. Potential once again lost. Oram is just another guy with faith providing no meaning or value to his own asset to the story of origins. Like the trailer,  Alien: Covenant provided  meaningless scares and predictable deaths. There’s no exaggeration. The deaths are predictable, good acting, but predictable, signing on a new cast dying for a paycheck.

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Some effects I enjoyed but couldn’t help but feel it was a slight downgrade from Prometheus. Times I felt practical effects could have been used but weren’t. i.e. animatronics. The aliens themselves are creepy. Mainly the new one, the neomorph. The original isn’t welcomed like an old friend coming home. Not that it should as it’s history in terrorizing the screen for the past 30 years. We all know what you’re capable of alien, step aside. The neomorph is here and shows it’s origins but where is it on the scale of the Engineers’ existence? Where does it stand? We still know little about the goo from the previous movie. Why couldn’t we just get proper sequel instead of an Alien prequel? You are draining this series dry, Ridley Scott.

The music itself is terrific. With moments calling back to Alien and Prometheus scores gives a hybrid vibe of the universe that’s currently existing and was happy to hear. The additional music was also good, emanating a dark ominous howl. Creating a subtle hint of intense terror that’s not exploding in your face.

It’s interesting to see where the franchise is going.  Not to be sexist but I was hoping not another heroine in this picture. But it’s not all we got. And I hope she isn’t the only one. We’ve had a Ripley. Please, present something new. And try not to kill everyone in the opening credits, so learn from the mistakes. If by chance Scott listens and isn’t a crazed old man looking for a come back and says “F***  it this is how the story is gonna be” we can fix this average film into what the franchise needs: back to answering and asking questions Prometheus introduced. We’ve had our Alien films, bring us something else. Tease us with Alien, give us Engineers and a space to explore with new findings. Our minds are bigger than this. What is life without expanding our boundaries? It’ll be hard to trek back around this film and find our footing once again. Maybe in time this will grow but who knows. We still have stupid characters and a lazy, messy plot that wants to entertain with the occasional questionable dialogue.

I saw a lot of promise when Michael Green was attached (creator/writer of Penny Dreadful, writer of Gladiator). We’ll see where this takes us. Scott proclaims at this moment that the series is pinned for an additional three movies that lead up to the original Alien. Anything could happen. Am I worried? At this point, yea, I am. A Prometheus like sequel will be welcomed. Scott needs to figure out his vision for the future of the franchise. Do I still look forward to the next entry? Hell yea, I do. However, we need innovative ideas. It’s time for the reigns to be passed on Ridley Scott. If you need attention, get a dog.

In the end, I liked the movie. Since Aliens no Alien movie has been perfect. Close calls but no perfect specimen. If Scott plans to release these next few additions then he needs to find that vision and stick to it. Pleasing the audience with a cooked monster will do nothing. Possibly the goriest entry along with Alien Resurrection, we need more than shock and fright. Story much? Missing the chemistry David and Shaw had we can only look forward now after a grim experimentation. One can hope for the director’s cut. As I and fans alike look for the missing parts not already integrated into a film we anticipated for.

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Star Wars Episode I – The Phantom Menace (1999)

Star Wars Episode I – The Phantom Menace

Lucas, Lucas, Lucas, what have ye done? Taken your beloved franchise and downgraded it you have. This child-like installment had a positive force surrounding it’s premier showing, bringing back humanity’s favorite universe. Phantom Menace takes us to the beginning, to when there was balance in the force, to where we meet a young pod-racing slave, Anakin Skywalker, who contains too much “midichlorian” for his own good. Qui-Gon Jinn, a jedi master, informs young Annie the power he holds, that he is to be taught in the ways of the Jedi and is, in fact, the chosen one. This starts an epic journey across the galaxy of hardship and a dark personage with a sinister agenda.

We don’t just follow Skywalker’s first steps to becoming a Jedi, but we witness the start of a secretly planned, and I must say it is cleverly planned, that shadows this first trilogy. The Trade Federation becomes greedy, taxing resources higher, fueling a war with Naboo. The Republic’s army is weak and rumors of a Sith Lord has spread throughout the galaxy. This starts an unforeseen chain reaction throughout Episodes I, II, and III that only the unsaid mastermind himself could stop if only it didn’t benefit him in the future. The over arching story is subtle in its manifestation where it’s aftermath, the second trilogy, is more straight forward, which all can be described into one word: EPIC.

Another pro for this installment is some of the characters that were created. Like Qui-Gon Jinn who is Obi-Won Kenobi’s master during his young apprenticeship. Qui-Gon, played by Liam Neeson, as one of the best Jedi Knights and masters in Star Wars history. Most notable mention is Darth Maul, possibly the scariest, most badass, and most underused character in the whole universe! This, needlessly to say, ticked me off. Darth Maul has the awesome double sided lightsaber and horns erupting from his black, fire-like face. Oh, and really bad teeth. He had an onscreen presence that would soak up more light than Darth Vader. Although I wouldn’t go as far to say he was more powerful than Vader but definitely had the moves. Now an additional character I thought was rather sloppy and gave a childish aura was Jar-Jar Binks. As a child, myself, I thought he was funny, but now i don’t find him quite amusing as I did before. After recently watching this, I would have preferred his friend, who’s name escapes me, but you can spot him helping Jar-Jar in the Naboo scenes rocking a Fu Man Chu mustache. I would’ve liked to see him have more screen time and Jar-Jar, not erased, but less time so his comedic effort isn’t so overwhelming. And finally the wonderfully played Anakin *cough*. Again, on my first viewing i was about his age and everything was fine. But dear me, his acting would’ve been better in a Disney Channel original. However, let’s not piss this guy off, alright? He’s got enough emotions to deal with…

When Phantom Menace was released in 1999, it was during an era where almost every movie was trying out this wondrous thing that got rid of prosthetics and do this impressive thing called CGI. The CGI usage is strong with this one, and lemme tell you it’s not that impressive. This first edition to the beloved saga could have used a bit more authentic special effects. Although the pod racing scene is definitely one to check out.

I remember my dad purchasing this movie on a double VHS special edition. It had an intro before the film by George Lucas and had a Making of featurette. Good memories. Watching this movie years later and understanding the backstory and noticing the subtleties has given a whole new outlook and understanding on the second renowned trilogy. Although flawed and cringe worthy dialogue moments, this and it’s two sequels are worth watching for it’s in depth story and amazing fight scenes that range from duels to epic battles among the stars.