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FILM REVIEW: 'Alien: Covenant'

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33 years. Ridley Scott waited that long to return to the world of his first classic hybrid of sci-fi and horror , Alien. Ridley Scott become synonymous with sci-fi as soon as the first chestburster ripped through the sternum of John Hurt in 1979. Prometheus had decades of hype and a classic action sequel to live up to. Scott wanted to take his time with a prequel (and assumptive trilogy) that studied the timeline of countless entities that eventually birthed the original Xenomorph aliens. Patience was needed as this also needed to go back as far as questioning the origins of mankind through religion and creation of a crew on track to unassumingly erase Darwinism. Quite a lengthy topic to explain in one film or even a trilogy.

Prometheus is a very divisive film. Fans either cried that there weren’t any Xenomorphs. Not enough horror elements. Too much sci-fi elements. The laundry list of complaints were endless and only agreeing on one downfall of the film: not enough was explained for it to stand alone. Early on, Ridley Scott even wanted the sequel to stray even further the origins of Alien. The backlash from fans has spawned a hodgepodge of skipping ahead ten years in the series to include horror elements to hopefully silence the naysayers. Five years later, we are left with Alien: Covenant. A film as tonally frustrating as it is aesthetically jaw-dropping.

Origae-6 is the planet the colonizing ship of the Covenant have left Earth for unknown reason to land and repopulate. An unexpected neutrino blast hits the ship while the crew is in cryosleep. Their ship’s android Walter (played with a fierce mid-Western accent by Michael Fassbender) wakes the crew up, but the Captain’s pod malfunctions, killing him. The Captain’s wife, Daniels (Katherine Waterston), is expectedly shattered. Religiously stern Oram (played by Billy Crudup on autopilot) takes the reigns of Captain. In the midst of leadership changing hands and a collective crew mourning their captain, an unidentified transmission reaches them.

Ship pilot Tennesse (played unexpectedly a little too well by Danny McBride) recognizes it as a woman singing John Denver, naturally. Oram and Daniels argue about the probability that just because a planet has a transmission doesn’t make it safe to explore or inhabitable to start a population. Oram overrides her complaints and they land on the eerily empty planet. It turns out to be a planet that used to be colonized by Engineers (the humanoids from Prometheus said to have created humans, only to turn against their creations). It also happens to be the planet that David and Shaw’s ship from the ending of Prometheus crash landed on.

A re-hash of Prometheus, you say? At this point, basically. Until the fever sweats starts. Crew members turning up sick. Bodies start contorting. A spine-bursting white and pointy Neomorph (precursor to the Xenomorph) arrives on the scene and we now have a full-fledged horror film on our hands. Unfortunately.

Having a high profile person in entertainment around “yes men” does nothing, but separate themselves from realities of natural criticism. The flip side is listening to the audience too keenly will leave the creator constantly changing their vision at every turn. Audiences never know what they want. I loved Prometheus. I saw a film showcasing Ridley Scott having a true sense of patience about building this world that would connect to the Alien mythos. I’m also in the minority on my love for it.

Besides a tease of an alien at the end that works like absolute gangbusters, there’s no aliens to speak of in Prometheus. It’s a beautiful exploration of faith, life and creation found through the inevitable triumphs of man’s God complex to destroy itself. Covenant throws all of that religious ideology out the door for a horror film that has shiny CGI aliens pick off the crew members one by one. This isn’t the Alien I fell in love with. This is simple crowd service.

Elizabeth Shaw from Prometheus’s battle of faith over creation is replaced with Oram’s baseless religious backstory that is seldom touched upon. Humanity is lost among a slew of crew members with no backstory or development given. Thus giving room for the most inhuman characters to unexpectedly shine through with Fassbender playing two physically identical androids at odds with their existence.

Scott must have felt pressure to appease the fans that wanted Xeno action (even though the original Alien relies more on tone and atmosphere rather than scares and violence). Handing the fans the plater of gory violence they wanted didn’t leave room for substantial character development—which is another aspect the original Alien and to a lesser extent Prometheus built their stories upon.

Having Alien without vulnerable and eventually triumphant Ripley is a story that falls apart. And Covenant’s Daniels is no Ripley. She’s not even on the same branch as Shaw. She’s a poor character with no direction or vigor to propel her from the sloppy script that amateurishly stitches together horror and sci-fi. For all the cries about Prometheus not giving enough answers to questions, Covenant ’s remedies completely cut out entire storylines or are frustratingly given haphazardly to move on with future plot points. It’s aggravating to anyone that cares about the characters in past films.

Alien: Covenant fails as an original horror offering as it stalls to live up to decades of queries concerning the story’s origins. The battle of man vs machine and man versus itself has no sharpness this time around. This is a road already traveled and traveled more intelligently before. I’m not sure who the audience for Covenant is. Neither does Ridley Scott.

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About the Author

Kevin Tudor

Born and raised in the mean streets of Yukon, Oklahoma, Kevin is currently majoring in...

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Red Dirt Report was launched July 4, 2007 as an independent news website covering all manner of news, culture, entertainment and lifestyle stories that affect and interest Oklahoma readers and readers outside of our state. Our mission is to educate, promote civic engagement and discourse on public policy, government and politics. Our experienced journalists provided balanced in-depth coverage of news stories that affect Oklahomans. Our opinion/editorial stories come from a wide range of political view points. We carry out our mission by reporting, writing, and posting news and information. read more

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