Saturday, May 20, 2017

Alien: Covenant review

Damon Lindelof (Lost) is off the hook. You see he wrote Prometheus (2012), the prequel to Alien: Covenant (Covenant) and was a major force behind Lost's seasons five and six. And his reputation for both was to leave a bunch of questions in the drama open. For Prometheus, he basically let the movie end on a cliff hanger as heroine Shaw (Naoomi Rapace) climbs into a ship with her robot friend, David (Michael Fassbender) going off to where the creators of the alien monsters live. Okay, some of Prometheus' mysteries also belong to director Ridley Scott, who directed the original Alien (1979), Prometheus and Covenant. Well, in Covenant, some of the questions raised are answered. Still, mad at Lost, seasons five and six. Damn you Damon!

Alien: Covenant begins with a flashback. We see Peter Weyland (Guy Pearce) of the Weyland Corporation bring to life his robot, David. (Michael Fassbender) There's a brief discussion about creativity, and mortality. It's an important scene as it sets up a theme in the movie.

We then flash forward to the colony ship, Covenant. On board are 2000 souls and human embryos on their way to a planet that they plan to colonize. The humans are in cryogenic sleep for the journey. Hold on. This is the plot to Mass Effect: Andromeda. Luckily the movie does not have that video game's gltichy and crazy animation. Taking care of the crew as they sleep is another robot friend, Walter (Michael Fassbender) who is another version of the android David.

A neutrino burst hits the ship. The main computer, Mother wakes up the flight crew. Unfortunately, the ship's captain and husband of scientist Daniels Branson (Katherine Waterston) is killed. Executive officer Oram (Billy Crudup) is forced to take over. While repairing the ship, the crew discovers a human signal from a near world. Oram orders them to explore the planet of the signal's origin. This being an Alien movie, you can pretty much figure out that they don't find paradise with hulu dancing girls. Yeah, there be monsters. It's a horror movie okay?

The cast is all very good. But most of them are there just to be slaughtered. Michael Fassbender is always excellent. He improves any film he is in. I bought into his android who begins to question his existence. Billy Crudup shows a guilt ridden and uncertain captain. While the casting of Katherine Waterston as Daniels was pitch perfect. She's resourceful, smart and has the look of someone you would believe as a scientist on a mission to colonize strange new worlds.

Veteran writer John Logan (Star Trek: Nemesis) along with Dante Harper have penned a thought provoking screenplay from a story by Jack Paglen and Michael Green. Unlike Prometheus, the humans do very little stupid people things. Okay, I did scratch my head when the away team went on the planet without spacesuits. I mean there's a reason why we quarantine astronauts coming back from the moon. Or maybe one needs to read Michael Crichton's The Andromeda Strain. There could be nasty space viruses. And you guessed it. A couple of our meat bags er... crew members get it. Okay, I understand the movie has to infect the humans someway but maybe there could be a line about the biofilter will decontaminate them when they return.

Another thing. Will people please stop looking into the alien egg's orifice? Yeah, look in the opening with the pulsating raw chicken. At least, the characters should think about the Jack in the Box effect. Regardless of this minor stuff, the story does a pretty good job of portraying human emotions and motivations. Heck, even the film's sex scene could be explained in a deeper context to the themes.

This being a Ridley Scott movie, the visuals are gorgeous. And Scott mixes in more action than the original Alien movie. Though this movie does have more in common with Alien than Prometheus. In fact, there are musical nods such as the use of the original Alien theme by Jerry Goldsmith. But unlike the original movie's claustrophobic scares, much of the exciting action pieces takes place in open spaces. Thus, Scott creates a new and original setting for all of the carnage.

Yet, what really drives Covenant is the mystery. As much as there are answers given, more questions are raised. And there is those overall themes of existence and creation. This time I will assume more answers will be in the next Alien movie. See this movie knowing that this is a smart, horror film and part 2 of perhaps a trilogy. Hey, there might be a whole bunch more. Just remember in the movie theater, everybody can hear you scream. The grade is A.

This trailer has a cut scene. It's Daniels' speech.

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