I’d move Aliens a step up but your right on with the rest which are all garbage in their own way. Alien 3 had moments but not quite enough.
Covenant was a bit of a frustrating mess. As a horror movie it was generic. As another Alien prequel it was an awkward concession to what they thought think fans wanted to see. As a sequel to Prometheus, it was… well, kind of nothing, actually, because that stuff is so haphazardly spliced with those other aspects that the Prometheus story is left stunted or ignored.
There were bits I loved, though. I wrote a bit about all this on my blog, mostly about how well Alien: Covenant succeeds (well, mostly doesn’t) as a horror movie. I don’t want to copy-paste anything, but if you’ve seen the film I think you might find it interesting.
In my opinion, along with O’Bannon, a lot of credit for Alien’s writing has to go to Walter Hill and David Giller, who rewrote the script (but received no credit so people forget they did).
Their script is a thing of beauty, one of the bests I’ve ever read.
As a comparison:
[details=O’Bannon’s opening]FADE IN:
EXTREME CLOSEUPS OF FLICKERING INSTRUMENT PANELS. Readouts and digital displays pulse eerily with the technology of the distant future. Wherever we are, it seems to be chill, dark, and sterile. Electronic machinery chuckles softly to itself. Abruptly we hear a BEEPING SIGNAL, and the machinery begins to awaken. Circuits close, lights blink on. CAMERA ANGLES GRADUALLY WIDEN, revealing more and more of the machinery, banks of panels, fluttering gauges, until we reveal: INTERIOR - HYPERSLEEP VAULT A stainless steel room with no windows, the walls packed with instrumentation. The lights are dim and the air is frigid. Occupying most of the floor space are rows of horizontal FREEZER COMPARTMENTS, looking for all the world like meat lockers. FOOM! FOOM! FOOM! With explosions of escaping gas, the lids on the freezers pop open. Slowly, groggily, six nude men sit up. ROBY Oh... God... am I cold... BROUSSARD Is that you, Roby? ROBY I feel like shit... BROUSSARD Yeah, it's you all right. Now they are yawning, stretching, and shivering. FAUST (groans) Ohh... I must be alive, I feel dead. BROUSSARD You look dead. MELKONIS The vampires rise from their graves. This draws a few woozy chuckles. BROUSSARD (shakes his fist in the air triumphantly) We made it! HUNTER (not fully awake) Is it over? STANDARD It's over, Hunter. HUNTER (yawning) Boy, that's terrific. STANDARD (looking around with a grin) Well, how does it feel to be rich men? FAUST Cold! This draws a LAUGH. STANDARD Okay! Everybody topside! Let's get our pants on and get to our posts! The men begin to swing out of the freezers. MELKONIS Somebody get the cat. Roby picks a limp cat out of a freezer.
SOMETIME IN THE FUTURE: INT. ENGINE ROOM Empty, cavernous. INT. ENGINE CUBICLE Circular, jammed with instruments. All of them idle. Console chairs for two. Empty. INT. OILY CORRIDOR - "C" LEVEL Long, dark. Empty. Turbos throbbing. No other movement. INT. CORRIDOR - "A" LEVEL Long, empty. INT. INFIRMARY - "A" LEVEL Distressed ivory walls. All instrumentation at rest. INT. CORRIDOR TO BRIDGE - "A" LEVEL Black, empty. INT. BRIDGE Vacant. Two space helmets resting on chairs. Electrical hum. Lights on the helmets begin to signal one another. Moments of silence. A yellow light goes on. Data mind bank in b.g. Electronic hum. A green light goes on in front of one helmet. Electronic pulsing sounds. A red light goes on in front of other helmet. An electronic conversation ensues. Reaches a crescendo. Then silence. The lights go off, save the yellow. INT. CORRIDOR TO HYPERSLEEP VAULT Lights come on. Seven gowns hang from the curved wall. Vault door opens. INT. HYPERSLEEP VAULT Explosion of escaping gas. The lid on a freezer pops open. Slowly, groggily, KANE sits up. Pale. Kane rubs the sleep from his eyes. Stands. Looks around. Stretches. Looks at the other freezer compartments. Scratches. Moves off. INT. GALLEY Kane plugs in a Silex. Lights a cigarette. Coughs. Grinds some coffee beans. Runs some water through. KANE Rise and shine, Lambert. INT. HYPERSLEEP VAULT Another lid pops open. A young woman sits up. LAMBERT What time is it. KANE (voice over) What do you care. INT. GALLEY Pot now half-full. Kane watches it drip. Inhales the fragrance. KANE Now Dallas and Ash. (calls out) Good morning Captain. DALLAS (voice over) Where's the coffee. KANE Brewing. LAMBERT walks into the kitchen. Pours herself a cup.
The second one (those descriptions!!!) is much more evocative of the final film and really nails the atmosphere the final movie relied on.
Aliens is one of my top 3-5 movies of all time. Fucking love it.
Alien and Aliens are both great in their specific genres. Every other Alien and Alien adjacent movie, isn’t.
As it turns out this seems to be pretty much the case after watching Covenant tonight. I found the movie to be disappointing and a bit of a mess; I don’t mind the linkage to Prometheus, but I didn’t like how they trampled all over it to get there. And am not a fan of the pointlessness of it all, which I guess would sell it as a good horror movie, but not much else.
In both films Alien and Aliens the crew members found themselves in a shit show, but it was a fairly believable series of unfortunate events that got them there. You really believed these were post modern marines, behaving as they would under those conditions.
In Covenant the crew constantly break rules, and do all the wrong things all the wrong times and never adhere to any protocols, training, experience or education and care that advanced man-kind far enough to build colony ships and send them to other worlds.
I really liked this movie, ask me anything!
[details=Things I enjoyed about it]Because he was such a bad actor, Arnold Schwarzenegger was cast as an android. Because he is such a good actor, Fassbender got cast as an android – two different androids, in fact. That was so fun to watch Fassbender negotiate those two performances and play them against each other. (My favorite moment was when Walter hesitates to answer a question from Crudup: “Was that a questio-- Yes, Walter, that was a question”.) Covenant, like all the best Fassbender movies, makes a point of showcasing his physicality. Starting the movie with him going through all these little processes – pouring tea for Weyland, tending to the crew while they’re in cryosleep – was really enjoyable.
In fact, 40 minutes of this movie was devoted to watching people just have a job to do in outer space, and it made me think maybe I should start watching Deadliest Catch. The initial crisis that ends with the lander explosion was a really solid patch of turbulence to get you into the rest of the horror, and I thought Scott covered the chaos beautifully, pinging between the three chunks of the cast all trying to communicate while the situation spirals out of control on that lander.
The set design here is unreal. You know how in Battlestar Galactica it felt like you were watching people stride down the same 20 foot segment of corridor over and over? I felt like they built a whole goddamn spaceship here. And the design of David’s weird candlelit cell, with all his sketches flapping in the breeze, was just as good. I think Ridley Scott just enjoys architecture, particularly monumental architecture, and it was fun to see that craftsmanship in the background.
The gimmick of having every crewmember paired up was effective. That gave extra pathos when somebody got slaughtered, then we could cut to their partner for some Acting. Billy Crudup did great.[/details]
Late to the party as usual because I am seeing it in retail. It is just a terrible sci-fi and middling horror. Worst than Promethus, which is terrible sci fi but good horror. The Fass is great as both Walter and the psychopathic David (the real monster in the movie), but like people said, the crew are making decisions that make no sense.
Diverting the ship for a scouting trip may make sense, but changing colony destination does not. It is not their decision to make. If 2k colonists wake up and they realised that the crew shipped them to a planet they did not sign up for, there will absolutely be an uprising.
And the lack of biosecurity makes no sense. In Prometheus it is made a big thing that one of the scientists just take off his helmet, because it bloody is. Even if atmosphere is breathable, there is no telling what kind of airborne pathogen is in the air. In Covenant the expedition crew should have all been in biosuit. It is just common sense.
In New Zealand you can’t get in this country if you have muddy shoes, in the name of biosecurity. And then they just let in a violently sick man on board without full quarantine? What?
The crew may believe David’s cover story, but anyone who have seen Prometheus won’t. So it is just a matter of who gets it and who makes it out alive. That makes it a pretty by the book horror.
Ridley Scott needs to just stop. Take your bags of money and go. Don’t drag it out like making Deathwish 15.
Someone needs to tell Ridley you can make good horror flick where the cast aren’t all idiots.
Well, at least this wasn’t a complete disaster of a movie like Prometheus. It succeeded reasonably well on its own merits. I give it a 👍, not a raging giant “you must see this” 👍 but it’s solidly on the good side of the scale, and it does not embarrass the franchise like prometheus did.
I do wish Ridley Scott would give up on the whole prometheans aspect of the story, that still feels like pointless, masturbatory theological auteur wankery – the equivalent of Midiclorians in the Star Wars universe.
I have some basic questions, and I apologize if they are already answered upstream, but:
Spoilery, so if you haven’t seen the movie, don’t continue reading…
So the “viral” / spore infection is the original promethean created form of what became the Alien? And it creates a very human-like Alien with sort of different abilities? Like you could almost communicate with it? I am very unclear what was going on there.
The alien we know as alien… infected another alien race which was, like hella strong. And that alien race passed on the ability to, I dunno, have a queen and eggs and the facehuggers and all that stuff? Plus David was modifying that version of the Alien, somehow?
Just to elaborate on the prometheus / covenant divide (as @telefrog points out they oddly enough have almost identical Rotten Tomatoes scores at 72 and 71 percent, though the audience scores are way worse for covenant), I feel like covenant had some of the Star Wars: The Force Awakens vibe:
Ok fine, it is basically the exact same plot as the first Star Wars, but at least that movie didn’t blow chunks, so at least now we’re copying something we know works!
Prometheus was one giant hairball of WTF to me, whereas Covenant retreaded some ground, but it was ground I liked and understood.
This was my understanding:
The original creation is the black liquid bio-weapon, that rewrites DNA of living creatures for the purpose of cleansing them from planets, leaving only plants. The spores are one of the results of the liquid’s mutations, created after David drops the liquid (which atomises when hitting the air) on the Engineers’ city. It’s the first stage of the ‘Neomorph’ life cycle.
Presumably other animal life that existed on the planet also produced similarly varying mutations and different life cycles, as you see some of it in David’s lab including insects and small alien-like eggs.
The alien as we know it, is basically David hybridizing and modifying the different things produced on the planet over the 10 years he was there, to create his own ‘perfect organism’.
And then presumably:
He spends the next seven years on the journey to the colony using the facehugger and human embryos, and the sleeping human hosts, to add another life stage (in this movie the alien was ‘born’ fully-formed, with no chestburster form) and to make it not grow to full size in an hour… :P
Finally watched this. Mild spoilers ahead.
Frankly I’m not that bothered by the handling of the whole Alien creation myth to the point that I’m not even interested in poking holes in it. I’m sure it doesn’t hold up under scrutiny but I’m OK with Scott going the way of the midichlorians. The primal fear of the unknown was already tapped with the original Alien and I understand if these days the thrills must lie elsewhere. However, the amount of exposition is a killer. IMO, a good Alien movie should only use lore as background to the goods delivered in the right here, right now.
Much like Prometheus, Covenant starts really well. The plethora of small touches calling back to the original, glorious theme by Jerry Goldsmith included, made me hopeful. Casting was… okayish… I appreciated that they toned down a bit the crew’s overt 21st century quirks (I’ll take McBride’s hat over that douche in a hoodie and flip flops any day), even when it was pretty obvious most of the generic faces were going to be alien fodder by the end. Still, some of the less stereotypical characters deserved better. Sexy Chick™ got a nude shower scene, so that’s one off the studio checklist. Good thing I found Ripl… eh, the female protagonist (Maggie?) engaging enough.
The moment they touch down on the new planet everything goes downhill fast and soon it’s Prometheus all over again, with characters behaving irrationally and/or inconsistently. Suddenly things feel so cheap, they take me out of the movie. A deus ex machina; is that Michonne making her entrance? God no, it’s David. Good robot vs. bad robot = awful. How did he manage to plot those Giger drawings so accurately while living in the caves of this supposedly advanced civ? The little xenomorph doing the Sun salutation made me laugh, which I’m sure was not the point, while the CGI adult Alien was terrible in the way weightless, hyperkinetic CGI monsters usually are. The multiple endings, especially the slapped-on “homage” at the end, were especially pathetic in their attempt to mask the incredibly predictable and unsatisfying “twist”.
Ridley Scott has talked elsewhere about how the Star Wars expanded universe ultimately inspired his return to the Alien franchise with these prequels. With two movies released out of the three planned, I must say he’s doing a great job following on Lucas’ steps.
Not as utterly execrable as Prometheus, but not far off.
Some nice touches (David’s Victorian naturalist’s laboratory with him playing the recorder was wonderfully weird), grand visuals (the “Necropolis” - about which nobody seemed to evince the least bit of curiosity) and exciting bits of action - but Prometheus had those too. Otherwise, the same brick-through-the-screen asinine stupidity from the characters. One has to suppose that they hire random street people and low grade morons to crew colony ships in the future. Probably some kind of affirmative action.
What’s becoming of cinema? Everything seems to be a retread of a retread, with mimsy variations on what we’ve already seen a dozen times before.
All the quality content has moved to television.
I know what you mean, but in my view there are serious deficiencies. Could it knock up a sonata or plan a bus timetable? Could it remove a tight jar lid? If so, would it?
If David’s so impressed with Lawrence of Arabia, what role would a Xenomorph play in bringing such a work to the screen? It would hamper the production. At the very least, there be a lot of recasting.
I hope Scott borrows more from Lean. I’d like to see his take on the Ali’s well scene, where Lean expertly builds tension for an arrival. I imagine Ridley’s version would be like this, with a Xenomorph.
I saw this over the weekend and feel the exact same way. The buildup to the landing and then the unwinding of any good plot progress afterward was disappointing. Perhaps I’ve just finally tired of the alien kills everyone theme to the point it’s a boring play by numbers. I keep hoping for the franchise to have another hit, only to be burdened with something I was very thankful to not have paid full price at the theatre for.
There were some cinematic highlights and brief periods of anxiety at how things would go, but then it was followed by eye rolling and hand shaking at the stupidity of the characters. I guess overall I would rate this worth a watch on Netflix if you’re bored, but not a shining star, at all.
I just saw this on a cross-continental flight and +1 to these points.
The general plot points were fine, but so many characters acting completely irrational half way into the movie really takes me out of it. That said, I didn’t realize that this movie was a direct sequel to Prometheus going in and seeing how that played out was good to see.
Holy crap, that must have been edited to hell and back. And probably not in an amusing “find a stranger in the alps” kind of way.