Seen May 12th
In space, no one can hear you scream. It’s probably one of the most iconic taglines in cinema history from one of the most iconic movie’s of all time. It’s sequel was just as iconic, some would dare to say it’s better than the original. It was followed by a few more sequels, then a couple of team ups, and then a weird semi-prequel called Prometheus… each of these films are not exactly remembered fondly. This is a standard problem in the horror genre, the first few movies are good but after a while the series gets bad. Alien: Convenant is one of those rarities… a sequel that’s about 6 films deep into a series that doesn’t suck!
From the get go this film is unnerving, just the opening few notes of the score is enough to really set the mood. The opening scene is a great way to reintroduce David who we last saw 5 years ago in Prometheus where he was possibly the only good thing in that movie (Oh, I thought Prometheus was shit BTW. I saw it on the same day I saw Dark Shadows and I enjoyed Dark Shadows more) and it’s also visually gorgeous. Last week I saw Beauty and the Beast and bitched about everything being one color, the opening scene of Alien: Covenant is evidence of just how to do a scene where it’s a majority single color. There’s splashes of other tones, a pure white room has slightly off white costumes, a large black piano, creative lighting, it’s gorgeous to look at but there is something about it that feels off. From then on it’s a brilliant exercise in tension and release, they build up every scene so we get to explore the characters or the situation that they’re in before throwing a good intense moment in to give everyone a release before building the tension again.
To this film’s unending credit, it’s cast is insanely lovable. There’s a truly great cameo early in the film that surprised me once I realised who it was and what they did with them, Katherine Waterson plays the lead character Daniels and sure enough, she is as strong and as instantly captivating as Sigourney Weaver is. It’s big shoes to fill but she really does make it work, portraying a character who goes through the worst possible moment of her life early in the film and somehow keeps strong and fighting throughout the film. She’s a real treat to watch. Also a treat is Michael Fassbender who reprises his role of David but also takes on a new character called Walter who is just like David only with a few upgrades, a different accent and the inability to be creative (One of the upgrades). Fassbender also just owns every minute he’s on screen no matter what character he’s playing. One of the most fascinating scenes (Albeit one that feels a little superfluous) is a long single take scene where David teaches Walter how to play a recorder. It’s a really interesting scene for the relationship but on a film making level it’s gorgeous because they keep touching, passing the recorder about, and it’s a long take that moves around. It’s a truly special scene that is a testament to the skill of Fassbender as a performer and to the crew who put that scene together. The rest of the crew is really fun too, Tennessee might be my personal favourite of the crew although special mention to Lope and Hallett, the first gay couple in the Alien’s franchise (That I know of anyway) and the exact kind of gay characters that I love… the kind where they’re characters first, sexuality second. Oh, and they don’t reveal that they’re gay right away, when they do it’s pretty obvious but it’s also beautifully done and I love that.
The aliens are still goddamn creepy, I think this movie got them to their peak creepy. There are a few moments with the small versions of the alien that’re a little funny, baby aliens aren’t scary guys. However once it’s grown and taken it’s final form, that mother is a motherfucker. They don’t fuck around trying to hide it, we all already know what the alien looks like so they have fun with it. It pops up everywhere with little warning, a very familiar sound is all you get and it’s there and it’s going to have fun. Once they bring the aliens themselves in the movie kicks into high gear and it stays there for the rest of the movie. Also they have a genuinely dark backstory thrown in about how the Xenomorph’s were created, a tie in to Creation which is a recurring theme in this movie.
There are some moments in this movie that I do think are less than good. There’s a few moments when trained astronauts who’re trying to terraform a planet do something remarkably stupid and while “People do a stupid” is a pretty big part of the horror movie genre, it feels weird when characters who are smart and trained specifically to handle themselves in this sort of situation decide to do something obscenely stupid. There’s also a shower scene that’s somehow more pointless than shower scenes in horror films often are. I don’t know about you, but after I have several hours trying to escape a space monster, my first thought is not “Sexy shower time”. The film also has a few moments of drag, like the aforementioned “Recorder teaching” scene. Scenes that could’ve probably been snipped out to make everything run a little smoother. Also I will say that the big twist at the ending, I saw it coming. I won’t spoil it but I saw it coming about 10 minutes before it happened. It’s a good twist, it still had tension, but I always hate when I can go “Called it” during the first viewing.
In general it’s a good film that redeemed the one before it and makes me genuinely excited for the next one. It’s certainly better than the Alien’s Ripoff film Life I got to see earlier this year. If anything it’s kind of the reverse because that film was saved by it’s ending that came out of nowhere, while this one has an ending that can be guessed ahead of time but the rest of the film is good enough to make up for that.