Wednesday, 17 May 2017

Alien: Covenant (2017) - Sci-fi Horror Film Review

Alien: Covenant is a sequel to Prometheus which was an immediate problem for me. I know it's my fault but I never got around to watching that one, I think it was the ridiculous bit in the trailer when some people are about to be crushed by a rolling pillar but run straight ahead rather than off to the side. It also has to be said that I have never gotten into the whole Alien saga, the first time I properly watched any of them was around 1997 when I brought a VHS box set comprised of the original four films. Since then I have watched the trash that is AVP: Alien VS Predator which did nothing to warm me to the franchise. Still I had heard some good things about this latest movie and so decided I needed to check it out.

Alien: Covenant takes place ten years after the events of Prometheus. Covenant; a colony ship carrying two thousand people across space is midway through it's journey to a new habitable planet when an accident causes the crew to be awakened from cryo-sleep. The crew discover a signal coming from a nearby planet that also seems perfect for human life, so thinking they can cut down their travel time decide to check it out. On this planet they discover a crashed alien ship, as well as an android named David (Michael Fassbender who also plays another android called Walter) who is the sole survivor of the ship Prometheus which went missing a decade past. Before they know it the landing party find themselves assaulted by vicious alien monsters and must try and regain contact to Covenant so that the survivors can be rescued.

I was kind of hoping I would pick up the events of the first film in this new trilogy just by what characters were saying. Instead I got a vague idea of what happened but admit I have many, many gaps in my knowledge of that, I really do need to get around to checking it out! So some spoilers for that film in that it seems this android; David is pretty evil and has been working on creating the perfect alien, or 'Alien' for that matter, as his final creation is the black monstrosity that the series is very well known for. Initially this is a different film altogether as it is quite a while before David is introduced. Up to that point we get a pretty cool miniature Alien film, complete with albino looking creatures ripping themselves out of human hosts, and lots and lots of blood and violence. The special effects are pretty awesome, and consistently good, from the stunning Covenant parts that serve as an introduction to our cast (including Danny McBride as Tennessee, James Franco in a very minor role, and Katherine Waterston as leading lady Daniels) to some impressive explosions, and scenes of carnage. I love me some rain in films, and so it was delightful that it rains pretty much the entirety of Covenant. Most the film is set on the ground with only around a quarter spent on the titular ship, and so it was nice to see some horror taking place in the outside.

The acting was of a high standard throughout, I especially liked Fassbender getting to play both a good and bad guy, reminded me of the glory days of Jean-Claude Van Damme and his duel roles he had a penchant for doing. My problem wasn't with the actors themselves, but more with the characters they played. Especially early on before the body count starts to rise there were some really irritatingly stupid ones, I was very happy to see them go. A problem throughout was that aside from a few of the very main ones I struggled to remember who was who. This is confounded by a sequence that takes place in a large, pretty bland looking ruined structure that had many moments of people screaming and shooting their guns, and yet the sound never seemed to travel despite the close proximity of the characters to each other. There were some strong scenes here, certainly thrilling ones that looked awesome. There seemed to be a fair few call backs to the older films (I believe this takes place long before the original trilogy), such as the aforementioned incubation break outs, but also something that seemed a nod to the ending of Aliens. The plot wasn't anything too deep but it had it's moments, it featured a very obvious plot twist though, I wish more had been done to hide the predictability of this twist.

The most impressive thing about Covenant was it's high production values, this is a work of beauty, with so much care lavished on the sets to make it all seem right and fitting for the Alien universe. The special effects were great, especially on the alien creatures (just full of the iconic noises) while the sound design really stood out. Guns made huge booming noises, explosions felt powerful, my only gripe being that during some of the exterior storm sequences I did struggle to make out just what some of the characters were saying to each other. Director Ridley Scott states this to be his vision for what Alien3 should have been, take away the modern day abilities and I don't think it would have been a worthy successor to the original two, yet this is an entertaining slice of sci-fi horror that has made me quite keen to cast my eye over Prometheus.


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