Monday, May 22, 2017

Looking At Movies - Alien: Covenant (2017)

Ridley Scott is a much better storyteller than Michael Boom! 'Splosions! Bay. While that does not sound like much of a compliment, the fascination the two share with grandiose productions shows that not every movie needs to blow up everything to be interesting. In Scott's case, he prefers to disembowel all of his characters as opposed to blowing them up. But Scott knows how to tell a story, and he is really just getting going with Alien: Covenant. When you review an Alien movie, you have to talk about the movie itself, and its contribution to the story line. So let's get to it.

I will not give out any horrific spoilers here, but I will tell you that Alien: Covenant is not the movie fans thought it would be. Ridley Scott indicated that, at some point, the story line will be bridged between Prometheus and Alien. But Scott is obviously in no hurry to complete his story line, and Alien: Covenant is not the direct bridge between Prometheus and Alien. Once you realize that, then it is easier to sit back and enjoy Alien: Covenant because you are not expecting something that will not happen. At the same time, it can be easy to be overwhelmed by whatever kind of story Scott is trying to tell.
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Scott's intention with the series is to show where the aliens came from, how they got to LV-426 where Ripley and her crew found them, and what happened from the creation of the aliens to the many face-offs with Ripley. But in his desire to expand his story, it is extremely obvious that Scott has added a lot of elements that we had never seen before. It is entirely possible that there will be another three or four prequel movies that will have sub-plots that will come and go. But Scott intends to develop his science fiction fairy tale completely, and Alien: Covenant is a big part of that story.

This movie contains the same format as every other Alien movie we have ever seen. There is a strong female lead, a lot of gross stuff happens, and the special effects are incredible to look at. While the effects in this movie are not quite as impressive as Prometheus, they still add a significant visual dimension to the story. There is a lot of CGI in this movie, and some of it takes some getting used to. But the entire presentation is done well, and this movie deserves to be one of the summer's biggest hits.

Michael Fassbender is amazing as he plays two very different roles in this movie. Fassbender, in my opinion, carries the movie on his back and even manages to make us forgive an extremely predictable ending. To the movie's credit, the ending does throw in a couple of twists that make you question whether or not you really know what is going on. But, unlike some of the other Alien movies, this one finishes its thoughts and comes to a complete end. Don't get me wrong, plenty of plot lines are left hanging and questions are not answered. But when this one ends, you feel like it can kind of stand on its own. I'll explain "kind of stand on its own" in a moment.

Here is the problem I have with the way Scott is unraveling his story; none of these movies are really self-contained. Other franchises like Star Wars and Pirates of the Caribbean had plot lines that wove in and out of every movie, but every movie had a distinct beginning and ending. It is almost impossible to watch an Alien movie without seeing all of the previous films. While that might make Scott happy, it can be incredibly frustrating for people who are picking up the series 20 years in between movies. If Scott wanted to do things this way, he should have been making these movies all along. As it stands, you really have to do your homework if you want to understand these movies.

But this film is self-contained enough to make it a fun night at the movies for people who enjoy this sort of thing. At the very least, you know what you are getting with an Alien film. It will scare the crap out of you, gross you out, and then leave you wanting so much more. The good thing is that Ridley Scott is more than happy to appease you.

Rating: 3 1/2 out of 5

George N Root III is a movie fanatic who supports the local drive-ins. Follow him on Twitter @georgenroot3, or send him a message at