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PostPosted: Sun May 07, 2017 12:20 pm
User avatarGeneralGeneralPosts: 1388Joined: Mon Sep 18, 2006 6:19 pm
'Alien: Covenant' Review: Sympathy for the Devil
6 May 2017

A haunting descent into hell


Like 'Blade Runner' and the eye that reflects the Hades landscape, 'Alien: Covenant' begins with David's eye opening for the very first time. His creator Peter Weyland is there in the sanitary-white room with him. Observing Michelangelo's statue of David, the synthetic gives himself a name. Weyland asks David to play him a tune on the piano. "Dealer's choice". And David chooses Wagner's 'Entry of the Gods Into Valhalla'. It's a gorgeous, intriguing, unsettling start to a film that takes a turn toward gothic horror, the haunted-house movie that critics believed 'Alien' was, a film that drags its characters to hell, or perhaps a place described in screenwriter John Logan's 'Penny Dreadful', the demimonde: "A half world between what we know and what we fear. A place in the shadows, rarely seen, but deeply felt". Ridley Scott's 'Alien: Covenant' (co-written by Logan and Dante Harper) is a film that got under my skin and took hold, not unlike a little rogue chestburster.

Set in 2104, Covenant is a colony ship carrying 2000 people and over 1000 embryos. A neutrino blast wakes the crew up early, and the ship's captain Branson (James Franco) is set on fire in his cryosleep pod. Branson is the husband of Katherine Waterston's Daniels, and it's a traumatic way for her to start her journey. With Branson dead, Oram (Billy Crudup) takes over, and she's second in command. While fixing damage to the ship, they catch a rogue transmission from a nearby planet, and Oram thinks they should investigate. The planet is only a few weeks away — as opposed to Origae-6, their original destination, one that they've thoroughly vetted, which is about 7 years away. The rogue transmission sounds just like John Denver, that siren song 'Take Me Home, Country Roads'. Who could resist? Well, Daniels could — she does her best to argue against an obviously bad idea, but she loses.

The crew finds David here, and they find aliens. All it takes is a few spores to make their way into the body for infection. They can be inhaled, they can float into your ear. The neomorph grows fast, and it's a skittering, coltish, brutal thing that erupts from the body with spikes and bolts like a feral cat. It breaks open one poor crew member's back, another geysers blood from his mouth. As it turns out, the mystery planet is a world once inhabited by Engineers, now David's "dire necropolis," with Shaw nowhere to be found, although it's her voice they hear singing John Denver on their ghostly transmission.

Turns out David dumped all their ship's black goo — the biological weapons intended for humans — on the Engineers, whose mummified corpses fill their town square, and he tells the crew of Covenant that Shaw died when they crashed. The interactions between new android Walter and old android David (both played by Michael Fassbender) are some of my favorite moments in this movie — tense, poignant, compelling. It's Walter who suspects something's off with David. And David seems disappointed by Walter, and sad for him, a model designed after David because he was "too human" and disturbed people. Walter is incapable of creation — he can learn to play an instrument, but he cannot write the music. Sadder still, he only comprehends duty, not love, even though David recognizes that Walter loves Daniels.

Michael Fassbender's and Katherine Waterston's performances are the highlights of this film, though every single cast member is wonderful, particularly Danny McBride, Amy Seimetz, and Demián Bichir. I would've been content just to see Danny McBride's Tennessee take on a xenomorph for the duration of Covenant's run time. Daniels is maybe not as tough as Ripley, but her vulnerability and her backstory might make her more a little more sympathetic, and she manages to rise to the occasion. Meaningfully, Daniels is in charge of terraforming — of making a planet habitable for humans. She's certainly more compelling than Shaw, and she's kind to Walter. And like Ripley, Daniels is another heroine who has to contend with the hubris of man and its fallout. After a million stories where the death of a woman is a major plot point in some dude's quest, it's refreshing to see this reversal: a heroine whose backstory is the loss of a male partner. As the horror around her unfolds, she's still trying to figure out whether the dream she shared with her husband is worth pursuing alone, whether her life is worth fighting for.

Making movies to explain the Alien mythos is a bit like creating '2001: A Space Odyssey', and then deciding you need a prequel to explain the star gate. Thanks to 'Prometheus', gone is the mystery of the Space Jockey: now we know he's a big white dude who made us and then wanted to kill us. But the power of 'Alien: Covenant' is that it made me see 'Prometheus' in a new light, to enjoy it more in spite of its issues. I finally forgave myself for being totally uninterested in Noomi Rapace's Dr. Elizabeth Shaw, to accept that she wasn't "new Ripley," and that it was okay that my sympathies were with David, as treacherous as he was. I could have watched an entire movie about David alone on 'Prometheus', peering into the crewmembers' dreams, learning new languages, watching 'Lawrence of Arabia' forever.

And I believe now that Ridley Scott agrees: David should be our focus, the film's central character, that he's as fascinating as he is terrifying. The crewmembers mistreat and underestimate David, reduce him to a second-class citizen. Even Shaw calls him "a fucking robot". No one seems to understand that he feels. David was the true protagonist of 'Prometheus', and he may be the villain of 'Alien: Covenant'. If you're really diabolical, like me, you might still feel that David is just as much the protagonist of 'Alien: Covenant' as Daniels is. Imagine giving 'Blade Runner''s Roy Batty the extended life he wanted, and his own planet, and you get David in 'Alien: Covenant', Batty's brother in spirit. He's Frankenstein's creature, he's Victor Frankenstein, and he's Satan. The devil exists, and we created him.

'Alien: Covenant' is a film equally gorgeous and grotesque, and sometimes its dialogue is like poetry. It blends the first science-fiction novel, Mary Shelley's 'Frankenstein', with one of the greatest horror stories ever written: the Bible. And the end result is something like John Milton's 'Paradise Lost' with androids and aliens. ... -the-devil

"what we're dealing with here is a total lack of respect for the law"
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PostPosted: Mon May 08, 2017 7:45 pm
GeneralGeneralPosts: 1276Joined: Sat Sep 02, 2006 2:52 pm
'Alien: Covenant' gets 3 out of 5 in Empire's review. ... nt/review/

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PostPosted: Mon May 08, 2017 10:48 pm
User avatarGeneralGeneralPosts: 1388Joined: Mon Sep 18, 2006 6:19 pm
'Alien: Covenant' Review: A Franchise Renewed
6 May 2017

A major creative reset on a level with the series' best


There's life in the old bugger yet. And, as always, plenty of death. After the Alien series looked as though it had hit the rocks creatively (not for the first time) with the last entry, 'Prometheus', five years ago, savvy old master Ridley Scott has resuscitated it, and then some, with 'Alien: Covenant', the most satisfying entry in the six-films-and-counting franchise since the first two.

Gripping through its full two hours and spiked with some real surprises, this beautifully made sci-fi thriller will immeasurably boost fan interest in the run of prequels which Scott has recently said will consist of at least two more films until the action catches up to the 1979 original. This Fox release is a lock for major early summer box-office worldwide.

Is there a director who has ever been artistically committed to a franchise as long as Scott has to the Alien series? None comes to mind (Steven Spielberg made his first Indiana Jones adventure, 'Raiders of the Lost Ark', in 1981, two years after 'Alien' was released). It's a matter of record that Scott will turn 80 later this year, and Clint Eastwood will be 87 when he starts his new film; from the evidence on the screen, 80 may well be the new 50 where some top helmers are concerned, especially those who, like Scott and Eastwood, make a new film almost every year.

It also helped to recruit a couple of very good writers, John Logan and Dante Harper, to dig the series out of its hole. No matter that these aliens have been around far longer than most of the viewers who will see this film opening weekend have been alive; this entry feels vital, freshly thought out and keen to keep us on our toes right up to the concluding scene, which leaves the audience with such a great reveal that it makes you want to see the next installment tomorrow.

The elegantly spare opening, in which a "synthetic", Walter (Michael Fassbender), engages his "father" (an uncredited Guy Pearce) in a pointedly philosophical conversation, simply and effectively frames the thrust of the film's central interest in human life's origins and its prospects for survival. Casual viewers may assume that Walter is the same character Fassbender played in 'Prometheus'. But, no, Walter, who sports an American, not British, accent, is an updated version of that all-purpose butler, factotum and technical wizard — a far friendlier iteration of the know-it-all computer Hal in '2001: A Space Odyssey'.

And as in 2001, 'Alien: Covenant' involves a long outer space voyage during which the 2,000 human passengers, along with 1,140 embryos, will linger in a deep-freeze sleep for several years while the humanoid plays watchdog. The giant ship, called Covenant, is headed for a very distant planet, Origae-6, which is considered a promising new home for humanity to settle. For this reason, not only the slumbering immigrants, but the crew, too, are composed of prospective parents meant to propagate and establish a new homeland for homo sapiens.

This couples-only orientation lends a fresh feel to this group of space travelers, and definitely cranks up the emotional distress quotient as partners start splitting open and giving birth to the wrong kind of offspring. When a space storm hits and damages the ship's giant wind sails, the first to perish is the ship's captain (James Franco, seen ever-so-briefly), which devastates his mate Daniels (Katherine Waterston), assigned to oversee terraforming on humankind's new planet.

This accident promotes second-in-command Christopher (Billy Crudup) to run the show, but he's portrayed from the outset as uncertain and lacking in confidence; more than that, he's a "person of faith", which puts him at great philosophical odds with most of the others. Unfortunately, once this element is introduced, the writers don't do much with it, so it feels like a missed opportunity to engage in some pithy religion vs. science debate. Worse, the character's overriding weakness as a man won't go over too well with faith-based audiences.

Not only that, but when the crew discovers a nearby "hidden planet" that seems potentially compatible to human life, it's Christopher who makes the fateful decision to land there rather than to continue with their seven-year-long voyage. Farris (Amy Seimetz), the flier wife of the Covenant's main pilot Tennessee (Danny McBride), goes down for a peek and it looks pretty darn good, just like New Zealand, in fact, where half the world wants to move to right now.

But as inviting as are the beautiful landscapes, mountains and lakes, there's trouble lurking in the magnificent flora and fauna and, given the particulars of this bloody franchise, it doesn't take long for humans to fall ill and start bursting with nasty and ferocious critters they never imagined could spring from their innards. This is not the sort of propagation the earthlings had in mind when they set off.

In a brilliant stroke, the voyagers also encounter David, Walter's double, the very same "synthetic" who co-starred in 'Prometheus'. Distinguishable from his supposedly new and improved relative by virtue of his long hair and British accent, this lone survivor of the previous voyage, who lives among the ruins of a great civilization wiped out by the aliens, gives Fassbender the delicious opportunity of a double performance. The actor makes the most of it, subtly delineating two nearly identical characters as they enact a contest for dominance, the details of which touch in clear but unpretentious ways on the notion of playing God. What goes down between the two remains uncertain right up to the fabulously diabolical twist ending.

Scott and the writers have achieved an outstanding balance in 'Alien: Covenant' among numerous different elements: Intelligent speculation and textbook sci-fi presumptions, startlingly inventive action and audience-pleasing old standbys, philosophical considerations and inescapable genre conventions, intense visual splendor and gore at its most grisly. The drama flows gorgeously and, unlike in many other franchises in which entries keep getting longer every time out, this one is served up without an ounce of fat. It provides all the tension and action the mainstream audience could want, along with a good deal more.

Stylistically, the film is a thing of cool beauty, with superb effects and a lovely score. Creatively, it's a major reset on a level with the series' best. ... ew-1000832

"what we're dealing with here is a total lack of respect for the law"
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PostPosted: Wed May 10, 2017 12:22 pm
User avatarCorporalCorporalPosts: 336Location: The NetherlandsJoined: Thu Dec 14, 2006 5:38 pm
Nice to see that some topics on this forum are still active :P
Was listening to the prodigy (after a long time :oops: ) and remembered that I regularly visited this site back in the day!
Really loved it here!

But to stay on topic:
REALLY looking forward to this movie!!!!!
The trailer looked really promising!!! :-D

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PostPosted: Sun Jun 04, 2017 7:18 pm
GeneralGeneralPosts: 1276Joined: Sat Sep 02, 2006 2:52 pm
So "the spitfire" did you like the film? I've not seen it. Too many bad reviews. I'll see it when it's on TV.

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PostPosted: Thu Jun 29, 2017 10:01 pm
GruntGruntPosts: 3Joined: Fri Jan 27, 2017 6:27 pm
This was....

A step up from the absolute faceplant that was Prometheus.
There's an actual story arc in this film at least and
none of the characters are as horribly written as those in Prometheus.

Reminded me of the good old 1930's/40's RKO films like "I walked with a zombie"
with its blend of horror thrills but with villains and characters
that are recognizably human and have a sad romantism about them.

There were lots of nods to classic gothic horror, too.
A crew of heroes gets stranded in the wilderness /
They have to escape into the castle of a mad man where they get picked off one by one...
Ridley drops lots of references to classic paintings like Isle of the Dead and even Ophelia
that give a dark beauty to the film.

All the creatures were cool with a special shout out to the pale "Neomorph".

The biggest "problem"?
Ridley is using the aliens here for cool action scenes and gross out moments.. and never manages to create true horror with them. In fact, the true focus of "dread and horror" here is on the android David.
Fassbender saves the day, yet again.

There's a big reveal of "lore" of the alien universe in this film.. that DOES change the perception that the audience has of the first Alien film and the first encounter with the Space Jockey and the Alien..... i wasnt bothered by it.. but there's been a LOT of people who have. In fact, that change in the lore has been the centerpiece for many negative reviews of the film. Your mileage may vary.

As far as i'm concerned, this is the ultimate ranking:

Alien Covenant
Alien Resurrection

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