Saturday, May 20, 2017

Alien: Covenant

Were there 3D trailers for Alien: Covenant? I feel like there were, although I can't see any credits for stereographers on IMDB. This will please the anti-3D people, I suppose, but it seems like a weird switch, considering how good Scott seems to be at this.

Speaking of Scott and trailers, the Somerville had one for Blade Runner: 2049 before this movie, and though it's pretty okay, the thing I may love most of all about it is that it apparently takes place in an alternate future where Atari is still a huge, important entertainment company.

But, anyway, I spent some time thinking on the walk back from the theater: Who would be a good person to direct the next Alien movie after Scott's Prometheus trilogy? The thing that makes it a tricky question is that I'd like to see Fox go back to what was going on with the first few, where they were putting people whom no sane person would put in charge of a signature series in the director's chair. Remember, this was Ridley Scott's second feature. Pretty much James Cameron's second. David Fincher's first. Jean-Pierre Jeunet's first solo feature, and his two previous ones with Marc Caro were peculiar avant-garde French things. Scott and Fincher weren't coming from genre backgrounds.

It's tough, right? Like, if you can think of a name, they're probably more well-established than any of the previous Alien filmmakers were. My first thoughts were Jennifer Kent of The Babadook (fun fact: All six of these movies have had female leads but none have been directed by women), which leads to Babak Anvari of Under the Shadow. John Maclean of Slow West seems like a good choice.

Any other ideas?

Alien: Covenant

* * ¾ (out of four)
Seen 19 May 2017 in Somerville Theatre #1 (first-run, DCP)

That the original Alien movies wound up being made by four different filmmakers, each of whom would have noteworthy careers, doing a distinct take on the material, was likely less the product of design than the studio looking for people who would work cheap on a series that had a moderate number of devoted fans. It made that series a fascinating, if uneven, anthology in retrospect, and this second return of original director Ridley Scott in an era when studios prize the predictable stability of a series that is now a popular brand is the opposite of the reinvention that characterized the series originally. So this is a new, fairly capable Alien sequel, but it's a predictable one, and maybe these movies shouldn't be that.

The Covenant of the title is a colonization spaceship with a crew of 15 - seven couples and synthetic Walter (Michael Fassbender) - plus two thousand colonists and another thousand embryos. Walter is the only one not in cryo sleep when a neutrino burst damages the solar sails, necessitating waking the crew, though a malfunctioning cryo pod causes their captain to burn up. The crew intercepts what seems like a human transmission from a nearby planet during EVA and new captain Oram (Billy Crudup) opts to investigate; they can get there in days versus another seven years in cryo, though the deceased captain's widow "Dani" Daniels (Katherine Waterston) thinks this is a little too good to be true. She, of course, is right - this is the planet where the Prometheus disappeared ten years (and one film) ago, and though the xenomorphs are dormant, a ship full of fresh meat and bodies to spawn in will take care of that.

We've seen this situation play out before, of course, five times over not counting the crossovers with the Predator franchise and the other-media tie-ins, and that in and of itself is not necessarily a bad thing: H.R. Giger's Alien still looks fantastic and comes across as believably unstoppable, and over the past 40 years, the Alien universe has built up a framework where one can have the aliens run amok without feeling trapped in a single box. The trouble here is that Scott and at least four writers put themselves in a box willingly; their pokes at grander themes are all either callbacks to Prometheus or foreshadowing of whatever the third movie in this trilogy winds up being. Alien: Covenant, itself, is a set of familiar sci-fi plays and frantic violence, not using the familiarity of its pieces to dig a little deeper.

Full review on EFC.

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