Alien Covenant

(In our Spoiler Reviews, we take a deep dive into a new release and get to the heart of what makes it tick…and every story point is up for discussion. In this entry: Ridley Scott’s Alien: Covenant.)

In 1979, Ridley Scott unleashed Alien on unsuspecting moviegoers, creating something that would end up becoming iconic in the process. Scott, a filmmaker with a background in graphic design, took what was essentially the type of B-movie that cluttered up drive-in theaters and turned it into something greater – a haunted-house picture set in space, dripping with atmosphere and dread, heightened by grotesque creature designs from nightmare-expert artist H.R. Giger.

Alien would turn into a franchise, although Scott stayed away for most of it. He returned for the sort-of prequel Prometheus, one of the most polarizing films of his career. Fans expecting another Alien were sorely disappointed, as Scott no longer seemed interested in the simple, dread-inducing terror of his 1979 film. Instead, the filmmaker wanted to use the Alien mythology as a framework on which to build a more complex, existential examination of the origins of humanity.

Scott could’ve walked away from the Alien franchise after Prometheus, but instead he seems committed to riding this out to see how far it will go. He has returned with Alien: Covenant, which loaded its trailers and promotional material with the familiar xenomorph alien that fans are familiar with. This film, Scott seemed to be saying, would be the Alien-type film Prometheus was not. It was a trick, though. The filmmaker had more complicated, complex ideas in mind. They don’t always work, but you have to at least appreciate his willingness to experiment with them at this stage in his career.

Spoilers follow.

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Alien Covenant

After questioning where human life came from in Prometheus, director Ridley Scott continues the narrative in the prequel sequel Alien: Covenant. But the trailers have indicated that this is an Alien movie that also goes back to the monstrous roots of the original 1979 movie that introduced audiences to xenomorphs. The truth is that it’s both. The question is whether that results in a cohesive, thoughtful, suspenseful sci-fi flick that’s worth your time.

After the jump, those of us on the /Film crew who saw the movie already offer their own thoughts. Read More »

ridley scott director's cuts

Few filmmakers have embraced the extended director’s cut as much as Ridley Scott. Plenty of other directors dabble in the form, but results vary. When George Lucas revisited the original Star Wars trilogy, adding new special effects and splicing in scenes that were originally left on the cutting room floor, fans grew irate. When Steven Spielberg digitally swapped-out rifles for walkie-talkies in a re-release of E.T., it was viewed as pointless. In the cases of Lucas and Spielberg, the filmmakers were attempting to improve on things that perhaps didn’t need improving, leading to the age-old question, “If it ain’t broke why fix it?”

But for Scott, the director’s cut is something of an art form. The Post-Impressionist artist Paul Cézanne was famous for frequently not signing his name to his paintings, because he didn’t want to admit the work was done. He recreated the same painting again and again, sometimes even destroying canvases, in an elusive quest for perfection. Perhaps this is what Scott is doing as well; leaving the corner of the frame blank, delaying the final signature.

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Alien Covenant

(Because of the mixed reactions to the film from critics across the internet, we are running two reviews of Alien: Covenant. Here’s a negative take on the movie. For a different take, you can read Karen Han’s positive review.)

Ridley Scott has made two great films: Alien and Blade Runner. In spite of the sequel to the latter coming this fall, Scott has chosen to cross-breed these two science-fiction classics in making Alien: Covenant. Based on that title, you might hope that this will right whatever wrongs were incurred by his 2012 film Prometheus, which professed to start the origin story of the feared xenomorphs while populating that story with some of the dumbest characters in recent memory. You would be wrong. Alien: Covenant is basically the answer to a question that shouldn’t have been asked: what if Roy Batty was the lead of an Alien movie?

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alien covenant

(Because of the mixed reactions to the film from critics across the internet, we are running two reviews of Alien: Covenant. Here’s a positive take on the movie. For a different perspective, you can read Josh Spiegel’s negative review.)

The planet upon which most of Alien: Covenant unfolds is not unlike the movie itself: it’s a vast and beautiful thing, though not without its share of dangers and unexplored territory. Covenant is an epic that sprawls across genres and ideas, some of which are better addressed than others, but in its final act, it shines just two beacons through the darkness. There’s its base DNA in the self-contained drama and horror of 1979’s Alien, and there’s the near-biblical story that director Ridley Scott now wants to tell about man and post-humanity, and the creation of life. The resulting mix is a thrill, in no small part because — for a franchise that seems so determinedly nihilistic — it’s surprisingly earnest.

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Jordan Peele header

In this edition of TV Bits:

  • Get Out director Jordan Peele is making an HBO show with J.J. Abrams’ Bad Robot Productions
  • AMC’s Preacher gets an explosive new season 2 trailer
  • The Young Pope gets a second season and a new name
  • ABC heads under the sea for The Little Mermaid Live!
  • And more!

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in defense of prometheus 7

(Welcome to The Unpopular Opinion, a series where a writer goes to the defense of a much-maligned film or sets their sights on a movie seemingly beloved by all. In this edition: a defense of Ridley Scott’s controversial Alien prequel Prometheus.)

Like most of you, I walked out of my first screening of Ridley Scott’s Prometheus in some combination of confused and angry. That was the Alien prequel we’d spent the past two-plus years anxiously anticipating? The film that absolutely wasted Charlize Theron and Idris Elba, featured some of the worst character beats I’ve ever seen in a science fiction narrative, and bled all over the memory of Scott’s original Alien film? No matter how I approached the film – how charitable I tried to be in my interpretation of its story – all I saw was a barren wasteland where a promising Alien franchise might’ve stood. My hatred of Prometheus ran deep and pure.

And then a funny thing happened. A few months ago, as 20th Century Fox began to roll out new footage from Alien: Covenant and people in my social network started talking about Prometheus as if it wasn’t the worst thing since death and taxes. A few friends even argued passionately on the film’s behalf, suggesting that Prometheus, despite its flaws, was one of the boldest science fiction films to hit theaters in a good long while. This put me in an awkward position. I had spent more than four years nursing my grudge towards Scott’s film, and while I remained convinced that the film would only get worse on a re-watch, I knew it would be disingenuous of me to argue against the film without at least giving a second shot.

So I popped Prometheus into my Blu-ray player again, and wouldn’t you know it? That movie grew up a helluva lot in our four years apart.

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Alien Covenant clip

If I’ve learned one thing watching Alien movies, it’s to never, ever go to space. I’ll keep my feet on terra firma, thank you very much. But if I’ve learned two things, the second is that coming face to face with a facehugger is the first step in drastically shortening your lifespan.

So when one of those nasty little creatures zips around and introduces itself to a couple of crew members in this new clip from Alien: Covenant, it’s a safe bet that things aren’t going to turn out well for them.
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alien sequels

Ridley Scott admits that he was “wrong” on Prometheus.

The much-maligned Alien prequel was a stumbling block for the renowned director, who had planned to launch a second coming for his Alien franchise to flesh out the origins and backstory of the terrifying Xenomorphs. His upcoming film Alien: Covenant continues the thread that Prometheus started, taking place long before the 1979 Alien film. Scott had intended to make at least four more sequels which would lead up to or take place concurrently as the original Alien movie. But negative reactions to Prometheus has him rethinking his plans.

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Cool Posts From Around the Web:

Alien Covenant Spacesuit

The set of Alien: Covenant was explored by Adam Savage as part of a sponsored series of videos from the folks at Tested, and today brings another glimpse behind the scenes of the sequel to the prequel that was Prometheus.

This time, the former Mythbusters co-host checks out one of the new Weyland-Yutani space suits that our intrepid cosmic explorers will strap on in the movie. In strapping on the gear for this suit, it’s impressive to see what a sleek and well-constructed piece of wardrobe this suit is. You know it’s good when even someone like Adam Savage, who has built stuff like this for a living, is floored by how flawless the design is.

Watch the Alien Covenant spacesuit featurette after the jump. Read More »