Review Alien: Covenant film review by CW Gortner
Written By CW Gortner on 2017-05-24 00:00:46
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I saw ALIEN: COVENANT tonight. Being a huge fan of the Alien franchise with the exception of the execrable Alien / Predator movies - after many re-watches, I've even grown to like the much-maligned "Alien Resurrection" for alien-hybrid Ripley's sarcasm, while "Alien 3" is perhaps the darkest, saddest installment of the saga, with Ripley staking her last human stand to defeat her savage nemesis - I had high expectations of director Ridley Scott's return to his classic film. The first Alien remains, in my opinion, one of the most unexpectedly unnerving and horrifying films ever made: a true classic.
That said, there's a lot to love in the new movie. You can never have too much of Michael Fassbender or his bubble-android butt in a Lycra space jumper. And the new film has some truly terrifying moments. However, it's too fast paced to allow the suspense to build, which is what made the first Alien so compelling. And you can't help but miss Sigourney Weaver's courageous, space-weary heroine; in fact, at one point, you're desperate to see her. It's not just the monster that made this series works: it's the battle between its amoral imperative to survive and Ripley's self-sacrificing determination to thwart it.
In "Covenant", we get plenty of gore and creatures bursting out of places they should never burst from, with the scene in the wheat field with the velociraptor neomorphs being one of the scariest. Yet we never get enough sense of the characters to care when they're messily dispatched by a toothy grinning jaw. Where the first Alien succeeded so admirably was in making us care about the ragtag crew being systematically decimated by a stowaway alien on board. With Ripley emerging as the sole survivor stalked by the alien, we became invested in her. In "Covenant," that investment in a character is lacking, unless you want to take David's side (and if so, you need therapy). We're bombarded by too much in too little time to do anything but gasp and cringe as spines rip apart, people scream and die. And the mystery of the first Alien - what is this thing? Why is it so hostile? - has been reduced in its menace by too much exposition on its origin. It was much scarier when it was just an unexplained parasitic life-form unlike anything we'd seen, something that was so inexplicable, it defied us.
Overall, I did enjoy Covenant for the nostalgia of it. It has the first Alien vibe and look. And I think the character of Daniels - a softer Ripley-prototype - holds promise, if she's developed in subsequent installments as the malevolent android David's antagonist. But it ain't the first Alien. I guess, nothing can be. Without Sigourney Weaver, you've no one to root for, and thus, the humanity in the film, which made the first Alien so memorable, is missing.