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The UnPopular Opinion: Alien Covenant

04.19.2018

THE UNPOPULAR OPINION is an ongoing column featuring different takes on films that either the writer HATED, but that the majority of film fans LOVED, or that the writer LOVED, but that most others LOATHED. We're hoping this column will promote constructive and geek fueled discussion. Enjoy!

****SOME SPOILERS ENSUE****

Ridley Scott just cannot catch a break when it comes to ALIEN. The revered filmmaker who started the ALIEN franchise has received nothing but mixed reviews for his return to the series. First, PROMETHEUS divided audiences who nitpicked the shit out of everything from how Charlize Theron ran to how the film did or did not fit into the Xenomorph saga. Personally, I loved PROMETHEUS and wanted to explore the storyline more. If anything, I was disappointed when the movie forced the alien into an appearance towards the end of that film. I had high hopes until the announcement that the follow-up would not only knock Neil Blomkamp's ALIEN film out of pre-production but would also forego what Scott started with PROMETHEUS in favor of a movie more directly connected to the titular franchise. Upon first viewing, I enjoyed ALIEN: COVENANT despite readily apparent flaws. After some time and repeated viewings, I have come to truly love the sixth entry in the ALIEN saga.

While not as good of a film as either PROMETHEUS or the original ALIEN, Scott's ALIEN: COVENANT is a by the numbers follow-up that meshes both the old and the new to deliver a rousing and entertaining science fiction thriller that showcases a great ensemble cast led by the brilliant dual performances from Michael Fassbender. As the only returning cast-member from PROMETHEUS, Fassbender chews the scenery as both the mad scientist villain David and his robotic successor, Walter. Replacing Noomi Rapace as the female lead is Katherine Waterston whose performance echoes Sigourney Weaver's iconic Ripley from the original film. All together, ALIEN: COVENANT may not be Ridley Scott's best film, but it is definitely at the top of his recent output. Unlike PROMETHEUS, ALIEN: COVENANT serves as a true prequel to the classic ALIEN film and gives us the origin of the Xenomorphs we never knew we wanted.

The UnPopular Opinion, Horror, Science Fiction, Alien: Covenant, Katherine Waterston, James Franco, Ridley Scott, Danny McBride, Michael Fassbender

What makes ALIEN: COVENANT such an underrated success is the fact that it doesn't give fans what they want. In an age where films like STAR WARS: THE FORCE AWAKENS and JURASSIC WORLD ride to box office records on nostalgia, ALIEN: COVENANT turns in directions that defy what fans of the franchise have theorized or wanted for decades. PROMETHEUS was as far from an ALIEN film as possible which gave it a distinct appeal and style which I had hoped would carry on into this sequel. Instead, Ridley Scott presents fans with the more direct connection to his science fiction horror classic by returning to the roots of claustrophobic body horror that made the 1979 film so legendary. But, instead of giving us an origin for the Xenomorphs as a species of unstoppable killing machines, he made David the madman who genetically designed them. In so many ways, ALIEN: COVENANT spits in the eye of those who loved PROMETHEUS and twists the origin for the ALIEN saga in such a way that you cannot revisit the classic film or it's sequels without being influenced by the story in this movie.

All of this hinges on the cast. Katherine Waterston plays a much more appealing and relatable protagonist compared to Noomi Rapace and she is joined by a cast that includes an understated Billy Crudup, a dramatically competent Danny McBride, along with the sexy Callie Hernandez, Jussie Smollett, the great Demain Bichir and a subdued cameo from James Franco. Everyone here is infinitely more relatable than any of the characters from PROMETHEUS and echo the crew of the Nostromo from the original ALIEN. As the characters are picked off, one by one, I could not help but feel anxious on their behalf and horrified by the actions of the malevolent David. In fact, it is a testament to the work of these actors, many of whom have limited screen time, that they manage to make such a lasting impression on the viewer.

But, no one is more brilliant than Michael Fassbender himself. David was far and away my favorite character in PROMETHEUS and his duplicitous actions in that film left me with countless questions as to his true motivations. I never expected him to end up being the maniacal Dr. Frankenstein he is portrayed at in ALIEN: COVENANT, but I applaud the risky direction taken by writers John Logan and Dante Harper. In what may be the most awkwardly brilliant moment in any modern film, genre or otherwise, Michael Fassbender manages to imbue the playing of a phallic musical instrument into an incestual and darkly erotic metaphor for self awareness and independence. Fassbender manages to play two identical characters as wholly unique creations and steals the show from his entire supporting cast. Already one of the best actors working today, Fassbender elevates ALIEN: COVENANT from a genre film into a lot more. You may be saying that is an overstatement, but ALIEN: COVENANT is a deep allegory about what it means to be human and the desire to find out creator. Where PROMETHEUS was a hopeful quest for discovery, ALIEN: COVENANT becomes a dark hunt for vengeance.

ALIEN: COVENANT manages to be more visually appealing than PROMETHEUS and harkens back to the set design and style of Scott's 1979 original while maintaining a much more modern sensibility. The dark frames and flooded color palette of blues, greens, and blacks gives ALIEN: COVENANT a haunting visual appeal. The foreign landscape of the Engineer's planet is at once familiar to Earth and eerily alien which is enhanced by the location shooting and subtle use of CGI. Ridley Scott does a damn fine job of making this movie look and feel as scary as possible. Aided by the cinematography of Dariusz Wolski and the music by Jed Kurzel, ALIEN: COVENANT is a much smaller scale film than I anticipated but one that packs every bit of the punch of it's predecessors.

The UnPopular Opinion, Horror, Science Fiction, Alien: Covenant, Katherine Waterston, James Franco, Ridley Scott, Danny McBride, Michael Fassbender

ALIEN: COVENANT had the thankless job of trying to outperform PROMETHEUS which turned many fans off of the prequel franchise but also needed to pay fan service to those who felt left cold by that movie. Thankfully, it appeals to both sides and manages not to feel like it is riding the coattails of what came before or after. Yes, the origin of the Xenomorphs feels a bit heavy-handed, but ALIEN: COVENANT is not a movie about aliens but rather humanity. The David/Walter dynamic here seems like it was intended to be a subplot to the ALIEN story that the studio wanted, but in an act of subterfuge, Ridley Scott made a movie that is ALIEN in name only. This film stands up very well to repeat viewings and can be dissected in so many ways. ALIEN: COVENANT is scary, fast-paced, sexy, gory, and haunting but it is also lyrical, poetic, and very transcendental. This is not just a Ridley Scott ALIEN movie but a Ridley Scott film that deserves to be watched and watched again.

Oh, and if you have any suggestions for The UnPopular Opinion I’m always happy to hear them. You can send along an email to [email protected], spell it out below, slap it up on my wall in Movie Fan Central, or send me a private message via Movie Fan Central. Provide me with as many movie suggestions as you like, with any reasoning you'd care to share, and if I agree then you may one day see it featured in this very column!
Source: JoBlo.com

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