The scariest movie I watched in my childhood was definitely “Alien.” As I grew up, I watched it several more times, and although I still enjoyed it, it did not seem as horrifying as when I was a kid. But anyways, “Alien” is an acknowledged classic science-fiction movie, and a must-watch for all fans of space and thrill.
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There were sequels, each prominent in its own way (the third part is my favorite). But all of them were filmed a rather long time ago, so when in the 2000’s Hollywood continued the franchise, I gladly watched all the trash it produced. Yes, trash, because in my opinion, neither both parts of “Aliens Versus Predator,” nor the more recent “Prometheus” did not get close to the atmosphere, plot, and thrill of the original movies. “Prometheus” at least had an intriguing idea and a chance to expand the universe of the “Alien” franchise, but it failed. So, you can imagine my cynicism when I saw advertisements promoting “Alien: Covenant.”
I knew in advance that the movie would exploit the material from “Prometheus,” and it indeed happened—but in a way that completely crosses out the few positive moments in the new movie. It is strange how Ridley Scott manages to make every new movie worse than the previous one—considering that it was he whom who created the original “Alien” masterpiece; I can only speculate that he has to listen to big film industry bosses telling him what he has to do and how to do it, or else I don’t know how to explain such a drop in quality. But let’s make the analysis more constructive.
Warning! If you are planning to watch “Alien: Covenant” (I do not recommend it), there are spoilers ahead, so you might want to skip the following several abstracts. Although, the movie is so bad that you won’t lose anything if you read the spoilers anyways.
The new “Alien” starts with a scene in which a spaceship with about 2,000 colonists aboard, all of them in cryo-sleep, suffers an attack from a solar storm. The android present on board, Walter, wakes up the crew—around 15 members (I don’t remember how many of them there were; trust me, you won’t remember either) to deal with the situation. The captain of the ship died in the incident, so the crew chooses a new one—a religious guy with self-esteem issues, whatever his name is. The religious guy and the crew do not want to go back to cryo-sleep, so when they detect a radio signal from a nearby planet, they decide to colonize it instead of Origae-VI—the planet they originally were headed to. On this new planet, they meet aliens, meet another android, and die one by one in the most stupid ways I ever saw in “Alien” movies.
I have so many questions for this movie that I don’t even know which one to start with. Perhaps the most important one is: “How is a group of hysteric, stupid, and unprofessional teenagers trusted to colonize a planet?” No, of course they are not teenagers—at least they do not look like teens—but they definitely behave like ones. In difficult situations, they scream and thrash around, shoot firearms in a room full of explosives, split and walk in small groups or one by one instead of staying together (this is after they learn the planet is mortally dangerous), and trust people they obviously should not trust; in other words, they do everything to put their lives at risk—as well as the lives of 2,000 colonists they were trusted to deliver to Origae VI.
Now there are going to be some major spoilers.
Like, is it professional to walk around an alien planet without space suits, gas masks, or any other protective gear? Why do crew members, supposed professionals, stick their unprotected noses wherever they want? When they meet David, an android living alone on the abandoned planet in an empty city filled with mummified corpses of Engineers (obviously alien humanoids), why don’t they care about what this city is and why are there piles of bodies lying everywhere? David said that “It’s safe,” and what, they trust him? The religious captain understands that David is a killer experimenting with alien DNA (it would be hard to not understand this, with a severed head of one of the crew members lying in plain sight, and a xenomorph whom David tries to communicate with right in front of the captain’s eyes), but he still listens to David, follows him to a room full of alien eggs, and gets himself infected with a facehugger.
Or, is it professional to have been studying a planet for several years, learn everything about it, launch a spaceship with colonists to it, and then suddenly change your decision in favor of an unknown planet with suspicious radio signals coming from it? This is like, “Hey, we have Origae VI which we know everything about and which is where our mission is supposed to take place, but let’s forget about it, because we don’t want to go back to cryo-sleep for another seven years, and because there is an uncharted planet three weeks away from our current location.”
Not only do the characters act strange, but also the movie’s creator. Obviously, Ridley Scott attempted to connect “Alien: Covenant” with “Prometheus.” As I have already mentioned before, despite its flaws, “Prometheus” introduced an intriguing idea of searching for the creators of humanity. These creators turned out to be the Engineers: a race who had first designed humanity, then decided to destroy it with the help of a bioweapon. This storyline had potential, and even though “Prometheus” failed, it does not mean the ideas from it could not be used in the following movies. What Ridley Scott did with these ideas in “Alien: Covenant” is disappointing, to put it mildly: he chops off loose ends, showing (in flashbacks) how David uses the Engineers’ bioweapon against their city—the one in which he later hosts the crew of idiots. This supposedly means David destroyed the civilization of Engineers with their own weapon. But is the entire civilization of technologically advanced ancient beings as small as one city on one planet? Why did David do it? How did he get into the aliens’ airspace undetected?
This is not to mention more technical drawbacks. For example, the direction of the action scenes. My favorite example is the one when a woman locks another woman and a guy in a quarantined zone (sorry, I can’t remember their names, I’ll explain it a bit later), because the guy is infected with an alien. What the woman does is illogical: after locking them up, she grabs firearms and decides to go and shoot the alien. I would understand this if she was a professional soldier, a marksman, or a cold-blooded space marine from hell, but her character is a scared 12 year old in the body of an adult woman—so she breaks into the quarantined room, slips in blood, and starts firing in all directions and blows up the entire shuttle after hitting a gas cylinder or something like that. It feels like the director of the action scenes hated his or her job.
And yes, the characters. They are flat. With the same result, Ridley Scott could cut human figures out of cardboard, write names on them, and film them in the movie—I guarantee no one would notice. The only character I remembered and liked was Walter/David (both androids played by Michael Fassbender). The scenes when David teaches Walter to play a flute, or when they recite poems, or when they fight each other, are probably the best in the movie. Too bad “Alien: Covenant” is about dumb colonists, not about these two androids. Fassbender acts well, both Walter and David possess motivation and distinct behaviors, and thus become the most vivid and memorable characters in the movie. Everyone else is cannon fodder, whose only purpose in the movie is to die in the most bizarre and stupid circumstances.
I could rag on the flaws of “Alien: Covenant” for hours. This is a total fail, a bad movie that will satisfy neither the fans of the original “Alien,” nor those people who were intrigued by “Prometheus.” Hopefully, one day Ridley Scott will make a movie worth its predecessors, and we will witness the comeback of the horrifying “Alien” from our childhood, but so far the franchise is only rolling downhill with increasing speed.
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