Sunday, 7 May 2017
Review: ALIEN: COVENANT (2017)
Set 10 years after the events of PROMETHEUS (2012), the sequel follows the crew of the colony ship Covenant transporting 2,000 colonists placed in hyper-sleep while heading to the remote planet Origae-6. When tragedy strikes upon the ship and causes several casualties in its wake, the remaining crew members including android Walter (Michael Fassbender), Daniels (Katherine Waterston), Oram (Billy Crudup), Tennessee (Danny McBride), Lope (Demián Bichir), Karine (Carmen Ejogo) and few others soon discover an uncharted planet, which appears to be a potential alternative as their newfound outpost. Once they landed, everything seems fine at the beginning. But it doesn't take long before they realise there is something dangerous lurking on the planet.
REVIEW: When PROMETHEUS arrived in the cinemas five years ago, Ridley Scott's highly-anticipated ALIEN prequel was met with mixed responses. But personally, I enjoyed the prequel a lot, even though the wobbly storyline tends to throw the movie off balance. In this follow-up, Scott finally returns to his original roots by giving the fans what they really want: a true ALIEN movie where the iconic Xenomorphs finally making their comebacks on the big screen. Even the overall style and tone of ALIEN: COVENANT emulates both Scott's 1979 atmospheric horror original and James Cameron's 1986 action-packed sequel. If that's not enough, the legendary English director also included a tough female lead in the form of Katherine Waterston, who essentially plays a Ripley-like character named Daniels.
The good news is, ALIEN: COVENANT offers plenty of effective gore and suspense that echoes the first two ALIEN movies. During the first major set-piece, Scott and cinematographer Dariusz Wolski successfully pull off a remarkably tense and frightening moment involving Karine trapped inside the med-lab while one of her sick crew members starts to convulse and loses control of his body. The particular set-piece certainly brings out the best out of Scott's expertise in staging a scene that evokes fear and dread. The creature effects of the Xenomorphs are seamlessly designed and integrated into the movie. Scott's overall use of practical and CG effects are visually stunning as always.
As for the cast, Michael Fassbender shines in his dual roles as both Walter and David. Waterston is fairly adequate in her role as Daniels, while it's nice to see Danny McBride playing a subdued performance that doesn't go overboard with his usual comedic approach seen in TV's Vice Principals or movies like PINEAPPLE EXPRESS.
Unfortunately, the plot written by John Logan (GLADIATOR) and Dante Harper is pretty much a familiar territory. While it's understandable that most franchise revivals these days wanted to re-introduce their respective tried-and-tested formulas for both old and new audiences, not every movie work in its favour. Sadly, one of them happens to be ALIEN: COVENANT. Just about everything in this movie feels as if it tries too hard to capture the spirits of both ALIEN and ALIENS. Although the plot does attempt to approach an intriguing idea involving David's sinister agenda, it was largely executed in a superficial manner.
Another glaring problem here is some of the script feels either disjointed or incomplete. This is especially evident during the earlier scene involving James Franco's uncredited character as Branson. It is kind of baffling his character is barely in the movie, which makes me wonder: What's the point of hiring a recognisable Hollywood actor like Franco if you are not going to make good use of his screen presence or his talent? Blame it on the misleading marketing approach to release the "Last Supper" prologue strictly available via online where Franco made an appearance. In fact, the prologue is actually well-directed with some nice character moments. Personally, I figure it would be so much better to include the prologue into the movie. The second mistake is the notable absence of Noomi Rapace's Elizabeth Shaw character from PROMETHEUS. Here, she is only briefly seen and mentioned. And like Franco, her appearance is largely restricted in the online-only prologue known as "The Crossing", which supposed to bridge a gap between PROMETHEUS and ALIEN: COVENANT. After watching the movie in its entirety, the two aforementioned online-only prologues feel more like deleted scenes rather than a so-called promotional clip.
Technically speaking, ALIEN: COVENANT does succeed as an entertaining summer blockbuster. But given the rich legacy of this nearly 40-year-old franchise along with original ALIEN director Ridley Scott at the helm, this PROMETHEUS follow-up could have been better in terms of its storytelling approach.