Alien : Covenant – Film Review

Rating : 2.5 / 5 stars

What’s it about?

Alien Covenant is the newest installment in the Alien series starring Michael Fassbender, Katherine Waterston, Danny McBride among others and is directed by Ridley Scott.

On their way to an Earth-like planet on a colonization mission, the crew of the spacecraft Covenant encounter a rogue transmission emitting from a hitherto undiscovered planet in an already mapped sector of space. Intrigued by the sudden appearance of this phantom planet, they decide to go and check the planet out and investigate the source of this transmission.

What does their expedition reveal to them? What is the mystery behind the rogue transmission? Can this phantom planet be the new Earth they were hoping it would be? or is there something more sinister lurking on this phantom planet? These are the questions that the film tackles during the course of its run-time.

What’s Good?

The film has a decent first act with the build up of  the crew deciding to go investigate the rogue signal. But it is in the middle portions of the film, when the crew lands on the phantom planet, that the film really comes into its own. The suspense builds up gradually as one can sense that something is off on the planet but cannot put a finger on it. Their expedition reveals more than they could have imagined, pitting them against dangers that they are ill prepared to face, and these are the best parts of the film. It also answers some of the burning questions raised in Prometheus satisfactorily.

The film makes use of the Xenomorph in a more satisfying way than in Prometheus.Visually the film is gorgeous to look at, with some breathtaking outdoor photography. The VFX is good in general, although the alien CGI looks a little substandard in a few places. The action is bloody and excellently shot for the most part.

What’s Not?

There is a change of tone in the third act of the film that undoes all the tenseness that the second act had built up. From sci-fi horror, it becomes a slasher action film, but the action here is not done well. The thrill of the first two Alien films were the tense build up and atmospherics created when the humans struggled to comprehend that they were being hunted by a ruthless killing machine, and try to fight back. Here however, one does not feel that thrill, mainly due to the execution of this third act, and the conflict gets resolved much faster than one would hope.

Also, one wishes that the makers had included the prologues that were used in this film’s ad campaign, as without watching them the characters in the film do not seem to have as much personality as one would hope for, which in turn does not invest the viewer in the outcome of their eventual fates. Another problem is that the characters do not react to any of the alien-world findings on this new planet. This film touches upon some of the Engineers mythology introduced to us in Prometheus, yet upon stumbling upon proof of these Engineers, the characters act as if they don’t seem to care all that much, which seems off as their expedition was based on the curiosity of a rogue signal emanating from this planet.

Another issue I had with this film was that minor but important sci-fi film basics were not followed. One example, and this is not a spoiler, is that when the crew touches down on the phantom planet the viewer is told that it is of near hospitable environment for humans, ‘near’ being the keyword here. As the crew have just learnt of this planets existence, they should have been cautious while venturing out on an expedition on this new planet. But the crew do not follow any protocols, they just open the spacecraft door and walk out without any oxygen helmets or any sort of protective gear, with complete disregard as to what kind of reaction this new planet’s atmosphere can have on them, or what alien pathogens they might carry back to their ship. Watching these scenes unfold were particularly frustrating because one expects these obvious things to be take care of in such a big film.

Performances

Michael Fassbender is absolutely amazing in this film. He  is stoic, dutiful, childlike, menacing and unhinged all at once. It really is great to see an actor of his caliber get to showcase this kind of range in a film. Danny McBride plays a serious character this time around and is surprisingly good. Katherine Waterston is adequate, but one sorely wishes she had more charisma to carry of this role. James Franco is in the film for five seconds in a blink-and-you-miss cameo. Rest of the cast pitch in decent performances but do not have much screen-time.

Final Word

A middling film that entertains and disappoints in equal parts, this is a one time watch mainly for Michael Fassbender’s electric performance.


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