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Non-Review Review: Alien – Covenant

Alien: Covenant feels as though somebody facehuggered Prometheus and ended up with Alien.

It is a very messy, very awkward, very clever piece of film. It is a genre movie that understands both what it wants to be, and also the reasons why it cannot be what it wants to be. It is a film aware of its own grotesque attributes, of the way that it has been warped and deformed in its journey from original idea to concept to screen. It is a movie very much aware of what it wants to be, but it is also cognisant of the fact that it cannot be that film. Alien: Covenant is the result of any number of compromises, but it is very pointed on the subject of those compromises.

Alien DNA.

Most likely driven by the critical and audience reaction to Prometheus, the sequel is a decidedly more conservative affair. For all intents and purposes, Covenant is wed more tightly to the Alien franchise than to its direct predecessor. Although one main character (and performer) carries over from Prometheus to Covenant, most of the major characters from Prometheus are relegated to small supporting roles and cameos. Even the Engineers, the alien race at the centre of Prometheus, are primarily relegated to an extended flashback sequence.

In contrast, Covenant embraces the trappings of the familiar Alien franchise. The soundtrack repeatedly samples Jerry Goldsmith’s iconic score from the original Alien. The climax devolves into a hybrid of the most iconic action beats from the first two Alien films. The film lingers on the dramatic reveals of familiar Alien iconography, only barely teasing audience expectations before fulfilling them. It seems fair to argue that Covenant is a movie more consciously designed to appeal to fans of the Alien franchise than Prometheus was. The clue is in the title.

Bursting at the seams.

However, Covenant is most interesting when it plays up the tension between what it clearly wants to be and what it actually is, when the script throws the concept of sequel to Prometheus into conflict with the demands of a prequel to Alien. There is a strong sense of disillusionment and frustration in Covenant, particularly as explored through the story of David. Michael Fassbender’s enigmatic android is the only major returning character from Prometheus, and in many ways the central character. He reappears after being lost in the wilderness, angry and resentful.

Covenant is a big ball of Oedipal rage. It’s clever, awkward, messy and disjointed, but also entirely in keeping with the themes of the larger series.

The wilderness years.

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My 12 for ’12: Prometheus, Faith, Treachery & The Great Beyond…

I’m counting down my top twelve films of the year between now and January, starting at #12 and heading to #1. I expect the list to be a little bit predictable, a little bit surprising, a little bit of everything. All films released in the UK and Ireland in 2012 qualify. Sound off below, and let me know if I’m on the money, or if I’m completely off the radar. And let me know your own picks or recommendations.

This is #5

In the year 7510,
If God’s a-comin’, he ought to make it by then.
Maybe he’ll look around himself and say,
“Guess it’s time for the Judgement Day.” 

In the year 8510,
God’s gonna shake his mighty head.
He’ll either say “I’m pleased where man has been”,
Or tear it down and start again.

-Zager and Evans, In The Year 2525

Faith is a funny thing. If you don’t have it, it’s impossible to explain. If you do have it, it needs no explanation. Ridley Scott’s Prometheus feels a little bit ham-strung by the Alien DNA” that it carries. As a prequel to the iconic film series, it’s hardly the most successful endeavour. Indeed, the film’s references to everybody’s favourite chest-bursting extra-terrestrial feel almost forced. Like the discussion about the Scientology influence on The Master, focusing on the instantly recognisable xenomorph tends to obscure the unique strengths of Prometheus as its own film.

Interestingly, the strongest connection to Alien is thematic rather than literal. Like Ridley Scott’s first science-fiction masterpiece, Prometheus postulates a cold and uncaring universe, one that is inherently alien, incomprehensible and hostile. The human condition causes us to question, but Prometheus suggests that there can be no answers – no satisfactory answers at least.

prometheus16

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Dancing on the Edge of a Blade (Runner): Prometheus & Hyper-Intertextuality

Prometheus arrived on blu ray last week. I’m a big fan of the movie, despite the palpable sense of disappointment generated on its arrival – I suspect that I was wise not to expect answers, and instead to enough the movie for what it was. I’m not alone in considering the film’s ties to Alien to be among its weakest elements, forcing the movie to tie into something that had been a massive movie mystery for decades, rather than allowing it to be its own thing. However, it has emerged that Ridley Scott apparently hoped the movie could go further than that. Reportedly, the director had hoped that it could serve as something akin to “connective tissue” to tie together two of his most definitive science-fiction universes. Apparently, the director wanted to set the film in the same world as Blade Runner.

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Non-Review Review: Alien vs. Predator – Requiem

To celebrate the release of Prometheus in the United States this week, we’ll be taking a look at the other movies in the Alien franchise.

Alien vs. Predator: Requiem is pretty close to indefensible. I’m not the biggest fan of the original Alien vs. Predator, but I’ll concede the film throws a few interesting ideas into a disappointingly generic and less-than-enthusiastic monster mash run-around. While the first film wasn’t original, it at least looked to acknowledge its hokeyness in places. In contrast, the sequel is just soul-destroyingly mundane, taking anything that had been unique or compelling or interesting about these two iconic movie monsters and rendering it all completely pointless as it devolves them to the equivalent of generic teenager slasher villains.

Death of a franchise…

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On Second Thought: Aliens (Director’s Cut)

To celebrate the release of Prometheus in the United States this week, we’ll be taking a look at the other movies in the Alien franchise.

It seems that James Cameron’s Director’s Cut of Aliens is the only alternate cut of an Alien film preferred by any of the directors. Ridley Scott has gone on record stating that he considers Alien: The Director’s Cut to be an “alternative” cut of the film intended for long-time fans. David Fincher has explained that the only way he’d produce a version of Alien³ that he’d be happy with was if he were to shoot it from scratch. Jean-Pierre Jeunet believes that the theatrical cut of Alien: Resurrection is his preferred version of the film. So it seems that Cameron is the only director who has been able to successfully reintegrate material to produce what he feels to be a definitive version of the film.

And, to be honest, I’d agree. Aliens: The Director’s Cut is probably the best example of how to enhance an already superb film through the addition of previously excised material.

On LV-426, everyone can hear you scream…

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Looking at it Sideways: 2012, The Year of Unconventional Franchise Narratives…

By now I think we’ve all become quite familiar with the cycle of Hollywood movie franchises. I’m not inherently opposed to the concept – I think that Sturgeon’s Law applies at least as much to original and independent films as it does to big-budget franchise films. The prospect of movie sequels, reboots, prequels and remakes isn’t a new thing, after all. Hollywood has always had a tendency to emulate financially successful movies, finding a way to exploit the movie property to maximise the profit off the back of it. It’s an inherently commercial prospect, but virtually any form of mass media must be in order to be viable. However, I’ve been fascinated with how the Hollywood franchise train seems to be working this year – it seems like we’ve been getting stuff that’s a little different than the conventional reboots, sequels and remakes.

It’s a whole other universe out there…

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Non-Review: Alien Resurrection (Theatrical Cut)

To celebrate the release of Prometheus this week, we’ll be taking a look at the other movies in the Alien franchise.

I always feel a little hint of trepidation when I return to a movie that I know I didn’t like the first time. Part of me is reluctant to watch it again, even for the purposes of examining what exactly went awry during production, while some small part of me holds out hope that the film might be redeemed – that I might somehow magically get it the second time around. So, completing a marathon rewatch of Ridley Scott’s Alien and the sequels it spawned, I left Alien: Resurrection until last.

Unfortunately, it was just as flawed and messy as I remember it.

Reflecting on his behaviour…

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