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ALIEN: COVENANT

“…a film that tries far too hard to be everything for everyone, and consequently, on balance, falls short in all departments.”

Wayward Wolf.

Oh how I long for simplicity.

There are a handful of set pieces within Alien: Covenant that hint at what a decent film it could have been, but so buried are they within an over-cooked, rambling backstory, that any impact they may lend the film is fleeting, to say the least.

It was Ridley Scott who took charge of the much-hyped, but ultimately quite frankly poor, Prometheus, and in Alien: Covenant, he once again looks to rediscover a bit of that old Alien magic in the latest chapter of this most patchy of franchises.

Sadly, long gone it seems are the days when we cowered in horror and bit our nails down to the bone in fearful awe of the most excellent Alien, not to mention it’s excellent James Cameron-directed sequel, Aliens. Whilst Alien: Covenant does have its moments, it’s a very pale imitation of what’s preceded it.

Another 2017 release, Life, made no pretence to be anything other than something of a homage to some of the great science fiction films of the last half century, yet despite its relatively unoriginal concept(s), it delivered a tight, neatly packaged and thoroughly entertaining finished product with both considerable impact and laser-sharp precision.

Ridley Scott’s Alien: Covenant, in contrast, struggles somewhat for identity. There’s clearly an ‘epic’ vision at play behind the scenes here. The director tries manfully to engage his audience on far more of an expansive scale and cerebral level than simply throwing rampaging aliens in numbers at unsuspecting space travellers (although there’s plenty of that to be getting on with), but the general impression is that this is a film that tries far too hard to be everything for everyone, and consequently, on balance, falls short in all departments.

Part thriller, part thought-provoking science fiction piece, part action-packed white knuckle ride, part philosophical lament, you name it, this is a film that struggles gamely yet ultimately fails to weave these and other disparate threads together into something resembling a coherent whole.

Alien: Covenant is not helped by both momentum-sapping, drawn-out scenes of unnecessary ponderous self-reflection, and by fairly weak characterisation.

Although Michael Fassbender (playing both David & Walter) and Katherine Waterston (Daniels) turn in strong performances, and as whole-heartedly as all other parts are played, there’s something of a disconnect here between viewer and character, and I doubt that there will have been too many tears shed by the viewing public as the cast are predictably whittled down in number via various grisly means, leaving the remaining few to battle it all out in overly exaggerated bloated fight sequences.

Where Alien: Covenant does however score highly, is in the ‘memorable, hard-hitting set pieces’ department. Indeed, never let it be said that Ridley Scott doesn’t know how to shock, or to sear disturbing imagery into our collective grey matter.

There are certain franchises that tend to garner a generous tidal wave of goodwill regardless of the true quality of their output, attracting something of a blinkered, head-in-the-sand devotion by the masses. The Alien franchise is one such example. But the truth is that there have been just two truly excellent Alien films in the series, and the rest, no matter how much you dress them up, or who’s been pulling the strings, have largely been regurgitated re-hashes of the original, admittedly excellent concept.

There’s no doubt that there were good and very grand intentions behind Alien: Covenant – this is a film not without its positives, rest assured – but it’s probably all  best summed up by the rather sign-posted ‘twist’ at the film’s conclusion. Well executed, but rather predictable and ultimately all a bit unnecessary.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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FILM REVIEW: 10 Cloverfield Lane

Michelle (Mary Elizabeth Winstead), wakes up lying on a mattress, hooked up to a drip in an underground concrete bunker. If that isn’t worrying enough, she’s additionally chained to a pipe that’s fixed to the wall in there.

The last that she remembers, she was driving along a main road at night, so quite how she’s gone from the one state of affairs to the other she’s unable to say. Understandably though, she has an overwhelming desire to escape.

Her ‘captor’ is Howard (John Goodman), a larger-than-life character who, according to him anyway, is going to be, along with an additional bunker-dweller, Emmett (John Gallagher Jr), her only form of company for the next year or two.

For you see, there has been some kind of ‘attack’ on the U.S home soil, the fallout from which will render any hopes of leaving the bunker’s secure casing most fool-hardy indeed.

Through an exterior window, two mutilated pigs and the sudden appearance of a traumatised, facially disfigured woman appear to back up Howard’s far-fetched story.

To add further legitimacy to proceedings, Emmett admits to actually having asked Howard to let him into the bunker when it all kicked off outside.

So, what does one do? Take the word of a strange man who saw fit to create and kit out a survival bunker in his backyard and potentially lose a couple of years of one’s life in the process, or remain sceptical and look for a way to escape?

This is the conundrum facing  Michelle and for three quarters of the film, though not brilliantly done, the suspense and slow unravelling of the truth of this unusual predicament makes 10 Cloverfield Lane perfectly engaging and decent viewing…

…which is what makes the film’s absolutely wretched, bolted-on, dumbed-down car crash of a conclusion such a massive disappointment.

Somehow director Dan Trachtenburg has managed to snatch defeat from the hands of a modest victory here with an absolute smacked-about-the-face stinker of a finale and in doing so, successfully undoes any good work that had preceded it within a most lamentable final fifteen minute spell.

The whole shebang is left wide open to an almost inevitable sequel, though quite what that would entail and more importantly why it would be even be deemed necessary is another thing altogether.

Gord bless Hollywood.