ALIEN: COVENANT (2017) - Movie/Blu-ray Review
Another Alien film. I recall going to see Alien 3 in the theaters in late May of 1992. I just turned 13 and had gone with my father as we were both huge fans of the first two films; we also shared incredible disappointment once we left the theater, as we found the result quite unappealing, violent and nasty, with little to recommend aside from Sigourney Weaver. Aside from the fact the whole film felt patched together from left over spare parts and too much of it was reminiscent of the 1979 original, what upset my father and I (as well as many, many fans of the series) the most was the fact they killed off all of the survivors of Aliens, even Weaver in the shockingly bad final act. Some fans love Alien 3 in retrospect as a dark horse of sorts, but I actually prefer Resurrection in comparison, even if Winona Ryder had nothing to do and Joss Whedon (of all people) wrote a decent script which served the series well in surprisingly thematic ways. I never bothered with the Alien vs. Predator match-ups, but Prometheus...talk about ambitious and a real blast to watch even though plenty of online hate exploded in the aftermath. Unlike many franchise fans who were complaining endlessly about the notorious “black goo” and the film's many unanswered questions, I welcomed the change the series was going, even if it was all doubt concerned with the origins of not only the Alien itself, but also us as human beings. It was more in the spirit of 2001: A Space Odyssey, although it also contains what is the most heinous premature birth scene in cinema history. My disappointment with Alien: Covenant isn't nearly as strong when it comes to Alien 3, but it's odd how many parallels there are with my disappointment when it comes to both entries in this franchise. In one word, Covenant was okay; it was absolutely nothing special, although fans will find plenty to love with Fox's Blu-ray.
Let's first get out of the way the fact that Covenant is less a sequel to Prometheus then just another Alien movie, one which continuously alludes to the 1979 original almost out of desperation after all of the Prometheus backlash. A.I. David, played by Michael Fassbender, is featured in an intriguing prologue with creator Peter Weyland, who was only seen as a dying old man in the previous film. Then we cut to 2104, in which the spaceship Covenant is transporting over thousands of colonists and human embryos to inhabit a remote, yet unknown, planet known as Origae-6. There is a clone of David on-board in the form of Walter (also Fassbender) who is forced to wake the 15-member crew from deep space sleep when the ship runs into trouble and sustains damage. Among the crew is our new Ripley clone known as Daniels as a terraforming engineer, the new captain Chris Oram (Billy Crudup) who replaces the now-dead Jacob Branson, played by The Disaster Artist's James Franco, who only appears in flashback footage. At any rate, you know the drill from here: the crew investigates the planet (this time sans helmets), discover the Alien's ship and soon finds itself under attack of the slimy creatures and more, although they also encounter David, who has been living on the planet for several years along with Dr. Elizabeth Shaw, who is now unfortunately dead...but was David responsible? What is for certain is that David's mission is a lot deeper and darker than the Covenant crew realizes.
I know people hold a lot of respect for Ridley Scott as a director, although the truth is his overall master plan when it comes to this so-called “prequel trilogy,” makes me think of George Lucas when it came to making the same thing for the Star Wars universe. Forgetting density and sanity, Scott doesn't seem to be near as senile as Lucas, but otherwise seems to not really have a clue what he's doing and just seems to give an explanation as to why the Alien, specifically the xenomorph from 1979, came to be in the first place. Like The Last Jedi, the Alien story now seems to be going in dozens of directions, none of which are new, interesting, challenging, and arresting even though they entertain in spite of themselves while overdosing on familiarity and fan service. Considering I couldn't help but laugh at some of his commentary and his avoidance of excuses for ignoring what Prometheus merely hinted at; not to mention killing off and replacing Dr. Shaw (a character I actually loved and rooted for) as well as David continuing to be more diabolical in his quest to play God....it has only added more confusion and frustration as far as I'm concerned. The Alien action in Covenant is so negligible in its needlessness it takes away from the much-more interesting David-Walter dynamic while also contradicting the sheer mystery of its predecessor. Covenant never really bored me, although the final act feels so 1979 in its action and dialogue (and much less so than the tired CGI) it made me question my future loyalty in this franchise.
- BLU-RAY SPECS & EXTRAS -
Twentieth Century Fox once again delivers a Blu-ray on par with Prometheus in that the disc is packed with extras while also boasting superior picture and sound, although most die-hard fans will want to pick up the 4K Ultra HD version. Regardless of the problems with Coveneant, both personal and otherwise, the film looks truly awesome on Blu-ray, which also comes with additional copies on DVD and digital. The 2.40:1, AVC-encoded widescreen and 1080p transfer is crystal clear with plenty of visuals and effects delivering spectacularly, even when a great deal of modern CGI was employed unlike the 1979 original. The sequences both on the spaceship as well as the planet, while dark more often than not, are still blessed with rich colors and terrific beams of light courtesy of cinematographer Dariusz Wolski, who returns from Prometheus along with editor Pietro Scalia. Matching the visuals is the powerful DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 track: the various sounds, both mechanical and natural, provide a full surround experience, with dialogue clearly heard in every single scene. There are also optional 5.1 tracks in Spanish, Portuguese, and French Canadian, with subtitles in the aforementioned languages along with English (SDH), Danish, Finnish, Norwegian and Swedish.
The numerous extras begin with nearly 18 minutes of deleted/extended scenes, complete with a whole flashback with James Franco and a longer, even more interesting, prologue with Fassbender and Pearce. There is a humorous bit where Fassbender lets Waterson know that the ship's garden is ideal for growing cannabis. The meat of the bonus features lie within the 56-minute “Master Class: Ridley Scott,” which can be easily misinterpreted, as this is really just a collection of featuettes with a lot of praise for the director by the various cast and crew. Like the feature itself, it gets pretty tiresome and dull, with the director's commentary only marginally better; Scott is certainly an interesting speaker, but he also has the bad habit of just reminding us what is already on screen as well as all of the little connections to the 1979 original. Like Prometheus, there are also a series of promos and Weyland videos presented in two sections, one on the ship and the other on the planet. Rounding out the extras a are a pair of theatrical trailers and a production galleries broken down into a quartet of sections: Logos and Patches, Ridleygrams, Creatures and Conceptual Art. All of these extras are really for the fans to devour, as I took very little from them, pretty standard in terms of Fox Blu-rays.
- ABOUT THE AUTHOR -
Stone Gasman has been addicted to cinema ever since he was a child, becoming hooked on Chaplin, Hitchcock and Wilder by the time he was 10 years old. The film which changed his life was The Best Years of Our Lives, the 1946 winner for Best Picture and eight additional Oscars, which ultimately inspired him to join the US Navy. He is now a disabled veteran residing in New York City.