April 28, 2018

A Brief Review of Alien: Covenant (2017)

Alien: Covenant coverI'm a big fan of the original Alien trilogy, and I didn't hate Alien: Resurrection either. On the other hand, I didn't care for the Alien vs. Predator films. They were entertaining but didn't have nearly enough of what made the original films so good. When I heard Alien: Covenant was coming out, I knew I'd see it eventually because I was curious to see how they'd approach it. I finally got around to doing so, and I thought I'd share some impressions.

The film got off to a painfully slow start. In fact, I nearly turned it off about 15 minutes into it. It seemed to be going nowhere, and I was second-guessing my decision to watch it. I'm glad I didn't turn it off, though. It took too long for it to pick up, but it did pick up. And once it did, it turned out to be worth watching.

The film was set in the familiar universe of the previous films, and it was cool to have an opportunity to revisit it. The casting was decent, but there were not any stand-out performances. The characters were too forgettable and did not seem as well-developed as I would have liked. I think that's important for this type of film because the audience needs to care about their survival in order for the film to produce the target emotions. That was somewhat lacking here.

Going into the film, I was curious about whether they'd approach it as a reboot, and I think it was good that they didn't. In some ways, their approach reminded me of some of the more recent Star Wars films. It took place in the same universe as the original Alien films but involved a new storyline and new characters. I think that was the right decision. Unfortunately, it also meant that there was little suspense. Having seen all the other Alien films multiple times, it was easy to see what was coming. The crew leaves the ship to explore an unfamiliar planet that seems too good to be true, encounters the familiar aliens, and so on.

One of the things Alien: Covenant made me realize is that my love of the original films largely came down to Sigourney Weaver kicking ass. I'd never claim that the franchise could not find an effective replacement, but they haven't done so yet and did not even attempt it here. I think that's okay because this film was designed to introduce us to a new cast and somewhat new story, but I did find myself missing Weaver or a suitable replacement. Nothing here came close to what she brought.

The biggest problem with Alien: Covenant was that it seemed to revisit the Alien universe without adding anything particularly compelling. In the end, it seemed a bit unnecessary. It wasn't that it was a bad film. I enjoyed watching it, and I could easily imagine wanting to see it again. Had it not had Alien in the title and not involved the familiar monster, I think it would have stood on its own fairly well. But by putting us back in the Alien universe with another group of people encountering the familiar monsters, it fell a bit flat. I wanted more.

I've heard rumors of a sequel, and I hope they are correct. But if they are going to make a sequel, I think they need to give us something new. It could be a break-out character like Weaver, or it could be a new take on the now-familiar story. I think it is going to take more than nostalgia for the originals to get people to turn out to see it.