Love and scandal are the best sweeteners of tea. —Henry Fielding

20 October 2017

Am I in Cryo Sleep or Is This Film Boring?

It's a shame about Alien: Covenant. It has two or three really awesome scenes, but mostly it just doesn't jell. The more I think about it, the more surprised I am that Ridley Scott directed this installment of the Alien franchise (this is #6, right?). The film seems to have been heavily edited and re-molded by producers. It is very clearly a big-studio film that the producers thought was too long or too slow or too confusing. What it is now is not too long, but it is definitely too slow, and it is way more confusing than it needs to be, on top of being so totally predictable that it actually began to bore me.

Honestly, the poster is cool
The trouble is, I think, that the alien that has been the subject of the previous five Alien films has ceased to surprise. These are prequels to the original 1979 film, and Prometheus was about the evolution of the alien, and in this film the alien is a kind of contagion that behaves exactly as we expect it to behave and know that it will behave. There is one really great sequence in which an alien hatches out of Benjamin Rigby's back – it's incredibly cool and the film's best scene – but otherwise the monster is totally predictable.

In fact, the entire film is predictable, from start to finish. The third act is supposed to have two really big surprises. These plot twists are tired, generic reversals that could only fool a viewer who'd never seen one of the other Alien movies. You'll see both "surprises" coming from a mile away.

This leaves the film's relationships as the real interest of the film... except that the film's relationships aren't at all interesting. Covenant skips all exposition about its central characters. There is absolutely none. We begin with the death of the ship's captain and the entire crew weeping for his death. We, of course, cannot share in their grief because we do not know him at all. This is a strange storytelling tactic, and I feel pretty certain that this wasn't the way the film was written. The captain – we find out in a recorded video – was played by James Franco, so presumably his part was larger in some earlier version of Covenant. In addition, there had been early press that Covenant was going to introduce a gay male couple into its storyline. They're there in the movie, but their relationship is completely unclear, as though entire sequences had been excised from the final cut of the movie.

Covenant's best sequence – Mr. Rigby's back
Which isn't to say there is not a long, boring, expository scene because there is one of those – one in which we see Guy Pearce talk to Michael Fassbender, not about things we needed to know for the film to work, but about whether or not there is a god or whether we all need a father or something. I didn't care, and it was a ridiculously static way to begin an action–horror movie.

The alien, as usual for these movies, is totally disgusting, and this film had two or three really gross, cool sequences that I enjoyed, but overall I think the Alien series doesn't seem to have any more surprises up its sleeve. I was bored for most of this movie. In fact, I thought the Alien knockoff Life was more fun than Covenant – and I think the reason for that is that I never really knew what the sociopath alien in Life was going to do. I never really figured that little motherfucker out. With Covenant, I knew all of the moves the alien was going to make. This plot was hatched a long time ago.

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