Tag Archives: patchy

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

FILM REVIEW: Creed

Ryan Coogler’s Creed is a mixed bag to say the least, extending the Rocky franchise to a seventh outing.

Whether that is a lucky or unlucky seventh is very much open to debate.

Ever since the Rocky motion picture hit the big screens in 1976, each subsequent sequel has wrestled to varying extents with attempting to emulate the key ingredients that made the original such a hit. Any gritty story of an underdog coming good will always be heading along the right tracks if it wants to sway an audience, it’s true, but very few, if any, have managed to produce anything remotely as genuine and whole-hearted as the original with Rocky II and Rocky Balboa arguably being the exceptions.

Creed on the other hand suffers, like each of the other sequels that preceded it, from wanting its cake and eating it; attempting on the one hand to tell a low-key, grass roots tale of a guy trying to discover his identity and path in life in spite of his lineage, whilst on the other hand, being seduced like all of the others into the irresistible temptation of the big-hitting, glamorous boxing showpiece event, and Creed really ought not to have resorted to the latter, even if that would have meant sacrificing the shameless Everton Football Club plug towards the end; centre stage for the film’s finale.

Yes, the big fight takes place at Goodison Park; and who said Robert Earl – the entrepreneur behind the Planet Hollywood chain – was just a name on Everton Football Club’s board of directors?!

Michael B. Jordan plays the film’s lead, Donnie Johnson, whose biological father, through an act of infidelity, was Apollo Creed, the late heavyweight champion of the world. Donnie never knew his father, but is tracked down at the young offenders institute that he calls home by Creed’s widow, Mary Anne – nice to see Phylicia Rashad of Cosby Show fame back on the screen again, and still looking gorgeous for that matter. She adopts Donnie (though why remains the pertinent question?), raising him to be a respectable young man with a respectable job and career path ahead of him.

But you can’t fight genetics!

Donnie, already engaging in under-the-radar bouts in Mexico, wants to be a professional boxer and dispenses with the ‘respectable’ life style he’s carved out for himself in L.A, ups sticks and heads for the City of Brotherly Love to seek out Philadelphia’s finest, Rocky Balboa; now living the quiet life and understandably reluctant to accept Johnson’s request to train him.

Of course, as the narrative dictates, he’s talked around into doing so, and much like the circumstances behind Rocky’s own original shot at the title, Johnson (a.k.a Creed) is invited, as a PR exercise more than anything, to fight the reigning World Light Heavyweight Champion, ‘Pretty’ Ricky Conlan, (actual professional boxer, Liverpool’s own, Anthony Bellew).

Sadly, Creed is all rather straight forward from there, and not in a good way. For all the thought provoking questions regarding identity, age and our place in the world that the film threatens to raise and explore, it can’t resist culminating in an inevitable, glitzy showdown that’s sadly, right up there with the worst aspects of Rocky film legacy.

It’s not without its positives though. There’s a tender performance from Tessa Thompson – Johnson’s girlfriend, Bianca – lots of tips of the hat and nods of the head to Rocky references of yesteryear and a genuinely uplifting training scene cleverly bringing Rocky’s famous running scene through his native Philadelphia up to date, with Johnson, flanked by a posse of Philadelphia biker boys, racing through the streets as though his life depended upon it. Heart pounding stuff.

There is of course little doubt that the Rocky franchise would have been a short-lived footnote in history without the presence of Sylvester Stallone. The original Rocky was his screenplay and he lived and breathed that part. The world fell in love with the big galoot with a slight speech impediment and an enormous heart. His ability to almost single handedly drag sequels kicking and screaming through some of the most excruciatingly cheesy and contrived content imaginable, is a great testament to the man and the esteem in which the public hold him. Pretty much the sole reason, I’d wager, why crowds continue to come back for more.

It’s genuinely good to see him back, reprising his most famous and endearing role, but once again, it’s Stallone’s input, this time in Creed, that provides the true saving grace for what is, if truth be told, a rather confused and patchy sequel.