A human eye fills the screen.
A voice asks, “How do you feel?”
An A.I. portrayed by Michael Fassbender (12 Years a Slave, Steve Jobs) obeys his creator’s commands in a pale-white room, looking out onto a gorgeous mountain range. His human “father” monologues about his ambition to discover where we came from; since there must be more out there past our own present knowledge. No music plays, just the cold voices of these two men with no real blood in their veins. Fassbender delivers a robotic performance appropriate to his character’s emotionless state, offering what we expect by now from his two Oscar nominations.
Once the familiar opening title slowly dissolves into frame, Ridley Scott has concluded perhaps the most meticulously crafted opening of his long career. But once Alien: Covenant gets the ball rolling, no artistry sustains as he straight-up abandons those crucial points about existentialism.
Then we meet a crew transporting 2,000 human embryos to another sector to house future generations (basically Interstellar). Good luck trying to keep track of everyone, as they each have too little likability to give a hoot. Take out the government-funded mission, and their maturity levels would make you believe they were teenagers. Do not even bother asking me to point out the lead protagonist, because I am stumped; my guess goes to Katherine Waterston, (Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, Inherent Vice) who to be fair is pretty solid in her performance. She may be the closest thing to “Ellen Ripley” we got here, yet she never causes enough action to entertain both men and women. Sorry ladies, no female empowerment to be found here.
We now made it to the eighth installment of the Alien franchise; Ridley Scott gladly back on the helm. You’d think after thirty-eight years, he should know by now that the future may see different racial struggles not predominantly ruled by White heroes. Nope! He calls too much attention to the White actors while all other ethnicities fall victim to the alien invasion problem started by government-funded programs.
However, Scott also successfully brought the franchise back to its refreshing hard R-rating like in the early days, even if he sometimes abuses his creative freedom. (Some unnecessary sex foreplay in the shower comes to mind) Otherwise, 20th Century Fox fulfills its promise: after a crew member touches a spore, he goes coughing in his own blood.
But beyond the intense gore, every “scary” moment mishandles the tiresome scare tactics we are sick of by now: jump scares, throwing us into the killer’s perspective, an annoying girl runs away while tripping over her own two feet, etcetera.
Thus, the best moments take place within the planet’s familiar yet evocative greenish mountain views, disguised behind a dense fog. In moments that utilize the atmosphere to tell the story, anyone can sense the contrast between man and alien. Deep inside an abandoned ribcage-shaped ship, Fassbender’s A.I. lives. Although the crew keeps a similar version of this same A.I., correspondingly played by the same Fassbender. As the cybernetic twins bond through a flute lesson, they generate most human moment in Ridley Scott’s desire to alter society.
Too bad though, his continued exploration of man’s relationship with technology has no proper footing inside our own reality; these themes seem too stuck in 1979 to strike fear into our hearts. While the added concept of intergalactic recolonization works to its advantage, other recent films, simply put, explored it better, such as Scott’s recent instant-classic, The Martian. It seems nobody behind this talky sequel/prequel to Prometheus/Alien could settle on whether to put together a straight-forward horror flick or a psychological metaphor on Trump’s immigration ban, so it instead varies scene-by-scene.
So why care about humanity’s near-extinction? Sounds like way more fun to be a Xenomorph!
If there is a specific movie you’d like to see graded, or if you are interested in guest blogging for my site, please email me at Trevor@TrevorsViewOnHollywood.com for your recommendations.
Have a great weekend, and happy watching!
Alien: Covenant. 20th Century Fox. Web. <http://www.foxmovies.com/movies/alien-covenant>.
Eaton, Benjamin. “Alien: Covenant – The Engineers Didn’t Create the Xenomorphs.” Digital image. ScreenRant. Date posted. 8 Mar 2017. <http://screenrant.com/alien-covenant-engineers-create-xenomorphs/>.
Haar, Kara. “'Alien' Franchise: Watch the Trailers for All 8 Films.” Digital image. The Hollywood Reporter. 17 May 2017. Web. <http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/lists/alien-franchise-watch-trailers-all-8-films-1002735/item/alien-1002730>.