Alien: Convenant (2017) - Review
by Bryan Mero
It's that time of year for the flood of blockbusters and sequels coming our way. That includes a little film called ALIEN:COVENANT. Maybe you've heard of the franchise? Back in 1979 Ridley Scott made this great film that changed sci-fi and horror forever. ALIEN(1979) is on many lists for one of the best films ever made. Incredible visuals, great characters, shock, awe, questions unanswered...I could go on and on. It was then followed up by ALIENS directed by James Cameron who took the same idea and care and dropped our heroes into a nest of aliens. "This time it's war!" was the tagline and most people will say this is one of the best sequels ever made. This is one of the reasons when I heard Ridley Scott was coming back to do some prequels to ALIEN, I was right on board and waiting with a motion tracker in my hand.
After several other sequels to ALIEN that were subpar or downright awful (I'm looking at your Alien 4), a couple of Alien vs Predator movies, Prometheus(2012) was released and was a disappointment. That would be review I could right now and then just change the names to the characters in ALIEN:Covenant. A lot of the things we complained about in Prometheus carried over into Covenant. There is an exception; there are xenomorphs in the movie this time.
Let's get on with this...The Covenant is a transportation ship for 2000 colonists, 1000 embryos and all the supplies that goes with them on a journey to a new planet. It is 10 years after The Prometheus as been reported missing. Our crew of 15 includes 7 couples and Walter (Michael Fassbender). Walter is an android and takes care of everyone in cryo-sleep until there is an emergency. He wakes the crew and they weather the space storm, but not without a death. This starts moving people up into commands when they probably shouldn't and decisions are made that lead our ship to a different planet, an unknown planet, that is more convenient to get to since it will only take a week or two compared to 7 years to the planet they were planning to colonize. They journey down to the planet and it doesn't take long for all hell to break loose when a couple of the crewmembers get infected.
Ok, that's enough of a description of the story. I wish I could go on a full spoiler review because that would give me paragraph upon paragraph about what's wrong with this movie. Here's what I can say without spoilers. The way this movie is written there is no reason for us (the audience) to care at all for any of the characters. From the first to the last death, you know so little about these characters that when they die, there is no emotional reaction or attachment. Just because a character has some sort of quirk or accent, doesn't give them character. Covenant gives us none of this...unless you start talking about Walter and David. Yes, David is back and some of the best scenes are the interaction between two androids! That's how bad the dialogue is in this movie.
Decisions...decisions...anyone who has talked to me about Prometheus knows that I have a very hard time understanding how so many scientists can all be so dumb. This includes the geologist who maps out the entire lair digitally but someone later get's lost. Wait, what? The same illogical thought by scientists shows up on Convenant. You are about to visit an alien planet, never charted before, never explored...it has an atmosphere so we might as well just jump on on the planet with no protection to the airborne pathogens, virus', toxic fumes...right? Yep, that's just what they do. The only precaution they take are guns and when they are used they are highly ineffective. Normally we'll send our brightest and best into space...nope...not in these movies.
I've been a bit negative. Let me give you a positive. This is a beautiful movie. The spaceship scenes, space and the planet...all incredible, breath taking and amazing. So I'm thinking about making my own video called ALIEN:Landscapes and take just the beautiful scenes from Prometheus and Covenant together into one video. It may only be 10 minutes long but it would be more satisfying that watching this movie again.
There's also an underlying tone of religion and creation but it never really pays off. One of the characters in charge complains because he's a man of faith he is never taken seriously. Yet in the course of the film, it's not is faith, it's his lack of good decisions or compassion for his fellow crewmates that makes me believe that's the reason people don't trust him. Not his faith. From paintings of the nativity, the statue of David, symbols of different religions (Jewish and Christian) throughout the film, it's amazing how non-religious this movie really is. The closest thing we get is a conversation about who creates the creator.
As you can tell I didn't enjoy the movie. I found myself yawning for the first 20 or so minutes. I think it was supposed to be a tension builder but that flew out the window in the first five minutes. All the Alien kills are CGI. I'm pretty sure all but one alien were CGI. The CGI was bad at times, like ALIEN 3 bad. The actors are reacting to nothing and try their best to play scared. The xenomorphs are different than in ALIEN/ALIENS, the gestation period varies depending on when the best jump scare should occur. Jump scares are seen from a mile away. This was not a scary movie...this was a dumb movie.
I could be wrong. You might like it. I heard one person (out of the 12 from last nights showing) that it was a great setup for the next film. Ugh...can we just cancel the next film and go with Neill Blomkamp's Alien 5 movie? Let's bring back Ripley, Hicks and Newt. I'd much rather see that then another movie with dumb people doing dumb things in the ALIEN universe. I'm sorry Ridley Scott, you’re a great filmmaker but no longer a good storyteller. Please give this over to someone else...it's like I'm seeing the Star Wars prequels all over again. The ALIEN franchise deserves so much better than this.