Alien: Covenant (2017)

Hey, I wrote this review right after I saw ALIEN: COVENANT opening day but I didn’t post it because I thought it sounded a bit too much like an Annie Wilkes nerd-tantrum. Plus, the movie got some decent reviews and I didn’t want to be a wet blanket or something. As it turns out though, it’s really not all that negative especially now that I’ve edited out the part that made me sound like I belonged in a mental hospital. So here it is, here’s me being all disappointed…

RIDLEY SCOTT is one of my favorite directors. He’s got a keen visual style and his explorations into the horror and science fiction genre have resulted in two of my all time favorite films (ALIEN and BLADE RUNNER). I’m point-blank grateful that he has chosen to delve deeper into these mesmerizing worlds. No matter how many times he revisits these cinematic arenas you can bet I’ll be standing in line opening day, giddy as all get out. I couldn’t resist if I tried and wild Xenomorphs couldn’t drag me away. It will always be an honor and a privilege to be invited to witness what currently intrigues a great artist like RIDLEY SCOTT. That said, I’m not exactly over the moon with ALIEN: COVENANT. It may work a shade better than PROMETHEUS as a monster movie but it’s got nothing on its predecessor in the compelling character department and it sorely lags behind its elder sibling in delivering a profound sense of awe. Honestly, it left me slightly peeved. Perturbed even! Downright hexed! But mostly I feel mournful- surprisingly mournful.

Am I being a baby? I know I have to go in the direction that SCOTT points me but darn it, I really want to stay with (possible spoiler) Elizabeth Shaw (NOOMI RAPACE). The weird thing is, I was aware that she might not be present in this new outing and I didn’t give it a second thought. SCOTT decided to switch gears and drive the bus more into the original ALIEN zone and how could I argue with that? I guess I just assumed some new character would rise up (a’ la Ginny Field) and be equally interesting and that didn’t happen. Did they really think they could just shake a tall brunette with an unflattering haircut like a set of keys in front of my face and I’d coo, “Ripley!”? It doesn’t work like that. Really, none of the new crew registers fully and although most (or all) of them are couples they strangely don’t seem to click with each other properly either. I’m going to optimistically assume that future viewings (or an extended cut) will help them gel (BILLY CRUDUP is actually pretty great but he’s trapped in a sad sack Schleprock role). Of course MICHAEL FASSBENDER’s David continues to be an exquisite creation but I kind of resent him for taking over the whole show and for his being shoved down my throat like a rolled up magazine. (Hey, who’s the coldest, most sterile, least emotive character? Let’s double him!) An image of Shaw appears in the film and it’s like salt on a wound. I care about her. I don’t care so much about persnickety androids and people who are torched before they even have a line of dialogue.

That’s my beef. I don’t mind the wonky science or the dumb decisions made by the crew but I do care about the absence of good characters (and specifically Ellen Shaw). The good news is that ALIEN: COVENANT does indeed bring the horror so if you’re just craving monsters in space (nothing wrong with that) you might prefer this to PROMETHEUS. I have to say I dig the old-school shadowy stalking humanoid creature that lurks in the first two ALIEN films a lot more than the spazzy lizard-y beast that whips around in this newfangled flick. Maybe my eyes are too slow but the damn thing reminded me of HALLE BERRY in CATWOMAN and that’s never a good thing. I’m also not completely on board with a late in the game shower-kill that feels like it’s lifted from the phony slasher film at the beginning of BLOW OUT. It’s so out of place and shoehorned and what kind of person wants to have sex in a shower right after all of their friends have been slaughtered? Just like skin-job David’s claims that he loves Elizabeth Shaw while he attempts to exterminate all of humanity, it doesn’t pass the believable behavior/motive smell test.

But who am I kidding? I’m going to buy ALIEN: COVENANT on DVD and watch the heck out of it for years. I’m just going to have to file in my head in close proximity to the underwhelming ALIEN 3 (which is also visually stunning, has a few indelible scenes and heartlessly betrays beloved characters) and ALIEN RESURRECTION (which is also thought provoking, squirm inducing and fatally miscast. Sorry, WINONA ). Don’t go by me. I know a few folks whose opinions I trust who preferred ALIEN: COVENANT to PROMETHEUS, I myself did not. I know I’m supposed to be judging this flick on its own terms (as a hybrid mutation thinly connected to the animal that inspired it) but I just can’t seem to. Maybe I have an exaggerated sense of loyalty to go along with my heightened sense of betrayal. I don’t know, I’m really A-OK with judging a movie purely from an emotional non-technical level. It’s my prerogative as a red-blooded (as opposed to white) non-synthetic. I’ve already been a good soldier and suspended my disbelief; my common sense and my understanding of human behavior– do I really have to suspend my need for an engaging protagonist too?

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