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Movie Review: Alien: Covenant (2017)

Article By: Alice-Ginevra Micheli

 

When a movie has a tagline as vague as ‘Run’, it’s difficult to determine whether it’s trying to entice you, or whether it’s warning you of its quality. Jokes aside, a tagline like that is all the more ominous when the film is the new installment in a tumultuous franchise, if ever there was one, a franchise that has seen its height of acclaim and its lowest point of derision. The question then is: Should you go see Alien: Covenant? My answer: yes, but don’t expect too much.

Coming from the franchise’s original director, Ridley Scott, the film follows a colony ship’s crew, as they discover a seemingly perfect world which soon unveils a harrowing threat to both them and their species.

From the outset, let me just say that the visuals in this film are stunning. Having a visionary eye like Scott’s behind the camera again has allowed for some truly breathtaking imagery. He manages to combine the awe of discovery and opportunity with a constant tone of threat and unease with every shot and every angle. Through this, the tension constantly builds, creating an atmosphere of nervous excitement throughout the cinema, as you cling to your chair and cover your eyes in anticipation for what could suddenly happen.

That’s what most people going into this film would expect and want. As the umpteenth installment in the Xenomorph saga, it’s safe to say that a disaster of a mission and a slew of slain individuals would occur at some point. However, it’s in the building anticipation throughout the story that the mastery reveals itself. In fact, I’d consider these early, tense scenes to be some of the most exciting of the whole film.

Having great tension building scenes is all well and good, but when the pay off is seldom satisfactory it can lead to disappointment, which is what’s happened here. Most of the action seems to have been recycled from previous iterations, with an update in CGI being the only difference. Its attempts to call back to the original Alien film have lead to a lot of repetition in its action, and, most importantly, its story. There is excitement to be had, but toward the end of the film audience members may find themselves waiting in anticipation for the credits to roll more than anything else, as the surprises come few and far between, especially following the film’s explosive beginning.

The cast are perfectly serviceable, all being as naïve or intelligent as the film requires. Katherine Waterson delivers a good performance as a Ripley Clone, imbuing her character with both strength and an emotional vulnerability that can be connected to by most if not all audience members. Danny McBride also delivers a surprisingly subdued performance, acting as the country pilot who deals with emotional and physical scars with a good amount of tact and heart, bringing levity to a dark film.

However — unsurprisingly — Michael Fassbender is the one to look out for. Playing two drastically different forms of AI, his expert characterization makes both of them believable as completely different beings. As David, he’s a broken shell who’s dealing with his constant loneliness and destructive past, and as Walter he’s a duty-driven warrior whose sole purpose is to protect the lives he is responsible for. In fact, some of the most fascinating scenes are when the two meet and discuss their existence, bonding and conversing through their shared state of being and their different points of view.

All in all, this is a diluted version of the 1979 classic, using a lot of the same story beats and character motivations, and then twisting them for a more modern audience. This leads to is a predictable and, at times, boring, film that will leave you rolling your eyes more often than covering them. In quality it’s about halfway there, just missing out on some aspects that could have led to a truly terrifying and exciting ordeal.

 

Alice Ginevra Micheli
Her love of film, novels and all things media led her to study Screen and Cultural Studies at the University of Melbourne. Fascinated with the culture of entertainment today she keeps up to date on all the news and going-ons within the industry. When not traversing the internet and cinemas, she spends her time catching up on whatever TV or book series she's currently obsessed with.

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