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biast | by maryann johanson

Alien: Covenant movie review: game over, man

Alien Covenant red light Benjamin Rigby

MaryAnn’s quick take…
A rote disappointment. There is nothing shocking or even mildly unexpected here. But there is an ironic weakening of the power of the xenomorphs to terrify.tweet
I’m “biast” (pro): love Alien and Aliens
I’m “biast” (con): wasn’t crazy about Prometheus
(what is this about? see my critic’s minifesto)

It’s difficult to imagine that there will ever be a movie scene as unexpected and as shocking as that bit in Alien — yeah, that bit — when a tiny horrifying alien creature, all teeth and slither, bursts out of poor John Hurt’s chest and slowly gawps around as if to say, “That’s right, meatbags: I, your worst nightmare, have arrived.” We sure as hell are not going to see a replication of the paralyzing terror those of us in the cinema darkness shared with the human onlookers onscreen if no one is even trying to stun us like this again. Not even Ridley Scott,tweet the guy who so masterfully created that bit in the first place, even as he returns to that universe.

Despite all best efforts, rappelling from orbit never really caught on as a sport.

Despite all best efforts, rappelling from orbit never really caught on as a sport.tweet

There are so many ways in which Alien: Covenant is a crushing disappointment — even more so than 2012’s Prometheus, to which this is a sequel — but the biggest one is how dull it is.tweet There is nothing in the least bit startling or shocking or even mildly unexpected here. (One big “twist”? The first incubated alien bursts not out of a guy’s chest but out of his back. Much innovative. So surprise.) Scott’s screenwriters — Jack Paglen (Transcendence), Michael Green (Logan, Green Lantern), John Logan (Spectre, Skyfall), and Dante Harper — have tossed out most of the pseudoreligious, pseudophilosophical gunk of Prometheus to return to the sci-fi horror nuts-and-bolts that drove the best installments of this series (Alien and Aliens), but they have no idea what to do except to borrow a bunch of beats and notes from those first two movies. The beats and notes are shuffled around a bit — and mixed with some other tired science-fiction banalities — but not in any way that disguises their familiarity. The most engaging thing for me while fidgeting boredly through Covenant was muttering all the lines of dialogue from Alien and Aliens that slot perfectly into the action here.tweet (“Well, we’ve got to get the other drop ship down from the Sulaco…”)

If only Covenant were an Alien retread that actually understood what made Alien so effective…
tweet

It’s not too many years after the events of Prometheus when the crew of the Weyland-Yutani colony ship Covenant is awakened from cryosleep long before they were supposed to be. Another “twist” from Alien: it wasn’t the strange transmission that awakened them; they were already awake dealing with mechanical trouble on the ship when they intercepted the signal, so that’s totally different then. So now their interstellar mission diverts to a planet it wasn’t supposed to be stopping at — probably not a good idea at all — and now they are wandering around on this other planet getting infected and dying. Twist! The room full of giant creepy facehugger eggs comes later rather than sooner, because the xenomorphs here haven’t quite yet developed into the HR Giger horrors to come (the events of Alien are still in the future).

Now, if Covenant were an Alien retread that actually understood what made Alien so effective, that might not be so bad! But instead if seems to be aping other sorry Alien retreads; this is yet another episode of “indistinct characters we never care about running around screaming and getting killed in various gruesome ways.” The reason that Alien and especially Aliens are so quotable is that all those amazing bits of dialogue are positively dripping with personality and individualized attitude: if you tried to give Hudson’s lines to Vasquez, or Ripley’s to Burke, it wouldn’t work; they would sound ridiculous. All those characters are so vividly drawn, and through the scantest conversations — the writing is sharp and clever and vibrant.

“I’ve gathered you all here to say this: Whatever you do, do not wake up Chris Pratt. That bastard stays on ice.”

“I’ve gathered you all here to say this: Whatever you do, do not wake up Chris Pratt. That bastard stays on ice.”tweet

Not so in Covenant: almost everyone is completely interchangeable, and their dialogue nothing but the blandest of infodumps and plot mechanics that could be delivered by any other character. And there’s too many of them for any single one to get any meaningful moments. You can’t blame the cast, which is mostly made up of terrific actors, including Billy Crudup (20th Century Women, Spotlight) as the mission’s captain, Katherine Waterston (Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, Steve Jobs) as his second in command, Carmen Ejogo (Selma, The Purge: Anarchy) as a scientist, and Demián Bichir (Lowriders, The Hateful Eight) as some sort of military officer. (Honestly, just try to figure out what everyone’s job is supposed to be, and why they are part of this mission. You mostly can’t.) Michael Fassbender (X-Men: Apocalypse, Slow West) is back as Walter, a newer edition of the android, David, he played in Prometheus, and his role is the juiciest and also the most distinct… but it’s also the one that descends into those aforementioned tired banalities that have absolutely no place in what is, I suspect, intended to be cutting-edge science fiction.

And you can forget the intense claustrophobia of Alien and Aliens: Covenant spends a lot of time roaming around in the wide-open spaces of the planet: a vast forest; a vast abandoned alien city. Even when it is trying to ape Alien’s corner-the-thing-in-the-ducts sequence and Aliens’ blow-it-out-the-airlock scene, which it will do later, there’s no feeling of dangerous confinement. How did Ridley Scott (The Martian, Exodus: Gods and Kings) forget how to do this?

You can forget the intense claustrophobia of Alien. How did Ridley Scott forget how to do that?
tweet

But probably the most regrettable thing about Covenant is that in attempting to expand the Alien story and its universe, the movie only ends up diminishing it.tweet This is extra ironic thanks to the flashback that opens the movie, dating from before the events of Prometheus, in which Peter Weyland (Guy Pearce: Holding the Man, Results), creator of David, speaks to David about his search for the origins of humanity. Weyland believes that everything that humanity does — such as create great art — is meaningless unless we know how humanity came to be. (Refuting that is an argument for another time.) Weyland finds it unsatisfactory to think that humans are an accident of evolution, the result of nature’s chance, and he is convinced that humans were created much as he created David. And, indeed, Prometheus vindicated this belief, with the introduction of the alien Engineers, who appear to have constructed humanity from the DNA up.

“I’m sorry you find me scary, but you don’t have to be so rude about it. I’m just as God -- or someone -- made me, sir.”

“I’m sorry you find me scary, but you don’t have to be so rude about it. I’m just as God — or someone — made me, sir.”tweet

It’s hardly a spoiler, because it was already hinted at in Prometheus: Covenant edges toward the idea that the Aliens, the acid-for-blood xenomorphs, are also the result of a deliberate creation, for a very deliberate purpose. That’s why they haven’t quite reached the form they will have in the future, when Ripley fights one on the Nostromo: the Aliens are not done being tinkered with yet. The sequel to Covenant that the ending of the movie promises would appear to be aimed at closing a circle that we didn’t even know existed: there are Big Reasons why the Nostromo crew will find what they find on LV426. And that is a diminution of the horror of Alien, which was about venturing in the unknown wilds of the universe and finding something mind-boggling by random chance in a big huge scary cosmos. (Yes, the Company knew something was there, but what was what the crew was supposed to find out.) There’s a wonderful presumption about what we might find Out There that is variously credited to astronomer Arthur Eddington and to biologist JBS Haldane: The universe is not only stranger than we imagine, it is stranger than we can imagine. What Covenant does is take something that had been beautifully inexplicable — unimaginable, if you will — and shove it into a box that makes it explicable, imaginable, and consequently smaller, even frivolous. By removing the awful incomprehensibility of the Aliens, Covenant makes them far less scary,tweet and far more ordinary.

After Covenant, I wanted nothing so much as to go home and watch Alien and Aliens again. They’re still fresher and way more fun, even upon a hundredth viewing, even once you’ve memorized them, than this blurry copy. Like a xerox of a xerox, Covenant has lost the sharpness of the original, its significance getting drowned out by meaningless noise.


red light 2 stars

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Alien: Covenant (2017) | directed by Ridley Scott
US/Can release: May 19 2017
UK/Ire release: May 12 2017

MPAA: rated R for sci-fi violence, bloody images, language and some sexuality/nudity
BBFC: rated 15 (strong bloody violence, gore, strong language)

viewed in 2D
viewed at a semipublic screening with an audience of critics and ordinary moviegoers

official site | IMDb | trailer
more reviews: Movie Review Query Engine | Rotten Tomatoes

If you’re tempted to post a comment that resembles anything on the film review comment bingo card (now updated for 2017’s trolls!) you might want to reconsider.

  • Rockstang

    First of all, thanx for spoiling details not needed for the article. There is no reason to talk about how the first alien bursts through the chest besides the authors own disappointment and wanting to disappoint others. I am not saying this will be a great or even good movie. However this article comes off more biased based on what the author wants. Maryanne seems to want something entirely new but exactly the same. Can the movie stand on it’s own credit without a history of two amazing interpretations? I don’t mean this to sound defensive of the movie. I haven’t yet seen it so I do not have an opinion. I felt a similar disappointment as she describes when I saw Prometheus. However, I personally think the movie stands on it’s two feet when you take out preconceived expectations. It just isn’t possible to have an innovative carbon copy.

  • Bluejay

    I haven’t yet seen it so I do not have an opinion.

    So on what basis can you judge the opinion of someone who HAS seen it?

    I personally think the movie stands on it’s two feet

    How do you know this, if you haven’t seen it?

  • Jonathan Roth

    “There is no reason to talk about how the first alien bursts through the chest”

    Alien was released in 1979. Spoiler season is over.

  • Jurgan

    “there are Big Reasons why the Nostromo crew will find what they find on LV426. And that is a diminution of the horror of Alien, which was about venturing in the unknown wilds of the universe and finding something mind-boggling by random chance in a big huge scary cosmos.”

    That’s what I was thinking. All these prequels seem to weaken the specialness of Ripley’s experience. I thought the events of Alien represented first contact, at least with this species, but saying Weyland-Yutani had already met these aliens and this was just another episode is disappointing.

  • Jurgan

    “Maryanne seems to want something entirely new but exactly the same.”

    How did you get that? I thought it was pretty clear that Maryann was asking for something different than Alien(s), and was disappointed that this movie didn’t deliver.

  • Mark Colit

    I hate to break it to you, and it’s such a cliché, but there is nothing new under the sun. No film today is going to have the same impact as Alien or The Thing did, or break new ground, either. It’s just going to be more of the same, with the occasional novel slant on things.

  • Rockstang

    I meant Prometheus with the stands on it’s two feet comment. Sorry if that wasn’t clear. My meaning overall was she sounds like a super fan based on the article. I’m sure it won’t be as good as Alien or Aliens, but if you set the bar at that level it will likely disappoint. Alien is probably my all time favorite movie, but I’m not expecting the same thing. Part of Aliens success was that it was innovative and moved the franchise in a different direction. I also feel the movie was prejudged on the authors opinion of prometheus. In one point she is calling it a bland retread and in the next bashing it for doing things new aspects like exploring the planet. So frankly based on what she wrote I’m not sure if I’m getting a bland retread, a direction for that franchise that is a misstep, or a decent movie reviewed by an overly critical author.

  • Rockstang

    Well wouldn’t the company have already known in the first place? The message Ripley retrieves from Ash and Mother is to bring back he alien life form, crew expendable. This happens before the alien is discovered, so it stands to reason the company knew about the life form well in advance.

  • Rockstang

    She is critical of basically anything new mentioned in the article and critical if anything nostalgic. It’s like the star wars fan who will never enjoy anything beyond the original trilogy because nothing will ever be as good as the originals. While there will likely never be as good as the originals (for both alien or star wars) it doesn’t mean new interpretations can’t be good in their own right.

  • Bluejay

    But there has NEVER been anything new under the sun — and that includes Alien, which takes inspiration from many horror and sci-fi tropes. (See here for instance.) EVERYTHING is a “novel slant” on what’s gone before, including the films that we consider “groundbreaking.” MaryAnn isn’t demanding that this film be completely original, merely that it do what the older film did well, and make us care about well-written, vivid, differentiated characters. And she feels it failed to do those things.

  • Patrick D

    Terrific review, MaryAnn. It sums up what I’ve thought of the post-“Alien 3” “Alien” movies. (Yes, I said “Alien 3”. Despite its flaws, I think it’s a good, character-driven film.) Without Ellen Ripley and Co. these are just snuff films in space.

  • Alphawolf

    Is this a review or just some lady complaining about everything? It’s hard to read with all the negativity and crying.

  • Bluejay

    She’s not criticizing this film for repeating old things or for trying new things, but for doing those things POORLY. It repeats the scenario of various characters getting killed, but because those characters are vague and interchangeable, she doesn’t care about them. It replaces confined spaces with vast spaces, but she feels we lose the claustrophobic horror and don’t get anything interesting in return.

    Of course new stories can be told about old material, and sometimes they’re good (read her favorable reviews of Force Awakens and Mad Max: Fury Road, for instance). That doesn’t mean they’re all automatically good. She feels this one isn’t.

  • There is no reason to talk about how the first alien bursts through the chest

    I think you mean the back (not the chest), but I promise you, I haven’t spoiled anything. When I say there is nothing surprising in this movie, I mean it. That moment is telegraphed a mile out.

    Can the movie stand on it’s own credit

    It should be able to, yes. But it doesn’t. It doesn’t even *try* to.

    It just isn’t possible to have an innovative carbon copy.

    No, that is not possible. Who said that? You seem to have misinterpreted by review. I don’t want more of the same. I want something different *that works.* This is not it.

  • if you set the bar at that level it will likely disappoint

    This is *literally* an *Alien* movie by Ridley Scott. You don’t think it’s far to expect something as fresh and as exciting as that movie was?

    doing things new aspects like exploring the planet.

    There is no “exploring the planet” here.

  • It’s like the star wars fan who will never enjoy anything beyond the original trilogy

    Maybe you should read my reviews of the *Star Wars* movies beyond the original trilogy…

  • All that stands to reason is that the Company *supposed* there was some sort of intelligent life on the planet, given that a beacon of clearly intelligent origin was operating. That’s all.

  • If nothing is ever new, then how was *Alien* fresh and exciting? And hey, Carpenter’s remake of *The Thing* was literally the same story, and it’s waaay better than the original. A movie works not just for its story but for how it tells that story.

  • Rockstang

    “Priority one
    Insure return of organism for analysis.
    All other considerations secondary.
    Crew expendable.” -mother

    Sounds pretty conclusive to me. And, to add to it the crew figures out the message is a warning on their own before finding the creature. They dont have instant communication in deep space, hence mother relaying commands. There is absolutely no reason to believe they weren’t sent there intentionally.

  • Chuck

    I hope you’re not talking about the 2011 rebooted abomination “The Thing”

  • Pig Farmer Bill

    Prometheus was a great Sy Fy movie. Just because your lame auhz did not like does not mean its “game over.” This is for the fans since 1979, were you even born? Articles like this shot not be published.

  • Rockstang

    “and now they are wandering around on this other planet getting infected and dying. Twist! The room full of giant creepy facehugger eggs comes later rather than sooner, because the xenomorphs here haven’t quite yet developed into the HR Giger horrors to come (the events of Alien are still in the future).” – your quote not mine. Wouldn’t wandering and exploring be synonymous?

    And again, Ridley Scott or not it, it’s hard to catch lightening in a bottle twice. You expected or wanted something different and you are disappointed. I get that, but your article does nothing to rate the movie on it’s own merit, just what you thought was most important.

  • Jurgan

    Her point is that they may have been sent there intentionally, and the company may have assumed there was probably an alien life form, but that doesn’t mean they knew what *kind* of alien life form it was. Presumably they’d never seen xenomorphs and had no idea what they were, and the Nostromo were the first humans who’d ever met them. If we know that plenty of previous humans have interacted with them, then it’s not nearly as impressive.

  • Rockstang

    >I think you mean the back (not the chest)

    You knew what I meant, don’t be pedantic.

  • Jurgan

    Pretty sure she’s referring to Carpenter’s movie being a remake of the 1951 “The Thing from Another World.” Some would argue that’s not a remake because it’s closer to the original prose story than the 1951 movie. The 2011 movie was definitely a remake/prequel to the 80’s movie- I didn’t think it was an “abomination,” but it wasn’t very memorable either.

  • Jurgan

    I don’t think it’s fair to try to rate this movie independent of the culture it was made in. It’s hard to say how someone who knows nothing about the Alien franchise would react, because such people are almost nonexistent. Even if you’ve never seen Alien, you probably know about the facehugger scene through endless references and parodies, so you can’t just use it again and expect it to have the same impact.

  • Jurgan

    Is this a joke? Maryann constantly and proudly talks about being part of Generation X, so I’m pretty sure she was born in 1979. Stop trolling.

  • Bluejay

    You’ve made a lot of comments defending a movie you haven’t seen. How about you go see it first, and then come back and tell us what you thought of it?

  • Rockstang

    I’m providing info that shows that it isn’t conclusive. It was left open enough that it doesn’t show the intentions of the company in the original. It could go either way. Just because it has gone in a direction you don’t like doesn’t make me wrong.

  • Jurgan

    But you just earlier said “sounds pretty conclusive to me.” Now you’re saying it isn’t conclusive? I’m not arguing that the story was set it stone or that you’re objectively wrong. I’m saying that I liked it being unclear and I wish they hadn’t taken away the uncertainty. I was stating my opinion, and you’ve spent three posts arguing that my opinion was wrong.

  • Rockstang

    I plan to. I’m not defending the movie, I’m questioning the relevancy of the review considering it sounds biased to me. I could say the same for your blind defence of the article.

  • Jurgan

    Of course it’s biased. Maryann is a huge sci-fi fan, including Alien in particular, and she happily admits it.

  • Bluejay

    What an auhzhole.

  • Rockstang

    I don’t disagree. You are kinda making one of my points. You can’t expect a great movie if what you are saying is true. It is a no win situation. You either stick with old and tired receiving criticism or get attacked for not staying true to the story. You can’t have it both ways and that is why I don’t like this article. Sure there are degrees… Was three great? No. But it took it in different directions. Some worked, some didn’t. Now the fourth installment was a complete fail on my part. If covenent is as bad as that, I will eat my humble pie. Different levels of expectations make a big difference if you like this movie or not.

  • Bluejay

    Of course it’s biased, it’s her opinion! I’m defending her right to her opinion when it’s being challenged by someone who hasn’t even seen the movie in question. You can go see it, come back, and then present YOUR opinion, backed up by evidence from the movie. Then you might actually have a substantive discussion.

  • Rockstang

    It was a poor choice of words on my part. The companies intent was obvious to me, but yes that was my interpretation.

  • Jurgan

    That’s probably true, which means you make a decision. There may be fans who are happy to see more of the same. Maryann is not, and I think she made it clear that she’d prefer the series do something new.

  • Rockstang

    Good use of caps. I’ll say it again for you, NOT DEFENDING THE MOVIE. So go and see it yourself and tell me if you think I’m full of shit. See how opinions work? You make it sound like everyone has a right to an opinion as long as it agrees with yours.

  • Bluejay

    You make it sound like everyone has a right to an opinion as long as it agrees with yours.

    That sounds more like you, actually. You’re the one who can’t let go of the fact that MaryAnn didn’t like this movie.

  • Chuck

    Yeah I know about “Who Goes There?” which it was based off, but I didn’t even know about “The Thing from Another World”. Yeah I meant to say the 2011 film was a prequel but I get it confused as a reboot often since it was literally the same movie except with no substance, atmosphere, dialogue, acting, or better yet just pretty much everything.

  • Jurgan

    Everyone has the right to an *informed* opinion. I have no need to respect your opinion if you haven’t seen the movie, because you have no first hand knowledge. It may be your opinion that it sounds good, and that’s valid, but it carries less weight than that of someone who has actually seen it.

    I hate this argument that all opinions are somehow equally valid regardless of whether they have support. I know it’s just a movie, but this is the same style of argument that leads to people saying climate change or evolution aren’t real- your opinion on these issues is not as valuable as that of experts who have spent years studying them. Movie reviews are obviously more subjective than science, but they still have to be based on some sort of fact- at the very least, you have to have seen the movie before I listen to what you have to say about it.

  • Rockstang

    Now you are just being childish.

  • Jurgan

    It was definitely a case of trying to have it both ways- feeding off the original for its action beats while throwing in a continuity nod to try to please older fans. It didn’t really work out.

  • Bluejay

    Projection is a fascinating thing.

  • Rockstang

    Wow Jurgan you are really taking a leap of assumption there. Think about the argument you are using. It is such a red herring. You lump me I with climate change deniers because I question the objectivity the reviewer had going in to seeing this based on her own comments? Maybe look in the mirror after making a comment like that.

  • Jurgan

    You keep insisting on “objectivity,” but Maryann has never claimed to be objective. Look at the “biast” meter at the top- it says straight up that she’s a huge fan of Alien and Aliens. No review is objective, nor should it be, because it’s all based on opinion.

    No one said “everyone has the right to an opinion as long as it agrees with mine.” Don’t put words in people’s mouths. The problem is you keep hammering Maryann for somehow being subjective with her opinion, but by definition all opinions are subjective. Neither of us have seen this movie, so neither of us have any grounds to offer an opinion on it, but you seem convinced Maryann’s opinion is flawed because she had certain expectations of a movie. The franchise is nearly forty years old, so *of course* she had expectations of it. How exactly is someone supposed to purge those preconceptions from their mind? Why should they?

  • Rockstang

    I’m sorry how am I projecting? Please explain specifically. I haven’t taken this to a negative level. I’ve simply defended my point that I believe the review lacked objectivity based on contained commentary. When did I personally insult anyone before you started going all caps and talking down to me? Tell me how you aren’t projecting? And just to make you feel better, the last word is all yours.

  • Wouldn’t wandering and exploring be synonymous?

    No.

    just what you thought was most important

    That’s how criticism works.

  • it sounds biased to me

    All arts criticism is biased. If you don’t see biases, it’s because your biases are aligned with the critic’s.

  • the review lacked objectivity

    There is no such thing as “objective” criticism.

  • Okay, you are getting on my last nerve now. I gave you the benefit of the doubt. That is NOT pedantry.

  • Of course they were sent there intentionally! But there is no evidence to suggest that the Company knew with absolutely certainty what they would find! It’s perfectly reasonable to presume that this was the first contact humanity would have with ANY alien species, and the Company wanted to be in on the ground floor of that, whatever was found there.

  • Bluejay

    When did I personally insult anyone before you started going all caps and talking down to me?

    When you called my comments a “blind defence” of her review. No hint of hostility, negativity, or condescension there, I’m sure!

    And just to make you feel better, the last word is all yours.

    Thanks! That does make me feel better.

  • John Carpenter had nothing to do with the 2011 film, so, no.

  • Rockstang

    I’m not “hammering” anyone. I didn’t accuse anyone of anything with malice or ill intention like your climate change comments. In fact, you complain about the lack of value of opinions as you try to force yours. I mean seriously. If opinions mean so little and my point so wrong why continually argue to the point to where you are making wild accusations? Sounds like something an antivaxxer would do IMO. /S You simply don’t like my critique and won’t let it go when I don’t agree with you.

  • Hmmm, mysterious. This movie is for the fans since 1979, and yet I’m a fan since 1979 who is down on this film. Hmm….

    But really, Internet, make up your mind? Usually I’m too old to understand the movies that all the kids are into these days, and now I’m now too young? Which is it?!

  • Rockstang

    Yes but there are degrees. How do you expect to like this movie based on Prometheus which you clearly didn’t like? That is my point, I understand opinion versus bias. What I’m alluding to is, how can you have such high hopes for something based on an extension of the story you clearly didn’t like? As for working on your last nerve, don’t post your opinion on the internet if you can’t handle someone’s response. Opinions aren’t a one way road. There are way bigger assholes than me and I wasn’t even trying to be one.

  • Chuck

    As mentioned below, I forgot the 2011 film is not a reboot but a prequel, my apologies.

  • JackTson101

    Nice review. And from what I have read it seems pretty on the mark. For some reason Scott is obsessed with this whole “Chariots of the Gods” concept and just won’t let it go. And he’s crammed into the “Alien” franchise and the two pieces simply do not fit. “Prometheus” was awful. Sometimes pretty to look at at, but awful none the less. And it was populated with the most idiotic people doing the most idiotic things in the most idiotic ways in the history of film making. How these characters manage to drive down the street in a car without crashing into something, never mind traveling in deep space, is astounding. And now we have “Alien: Covenant” which is “Chariots of the Gods Part 2”. And to boot, Scott is now Taking away (‘explaining’) all of the mysterious, imaginative & wonderful things that made “Alien” & “Aliens” true masterpieces of the Sci-fi / Action genre.

  • Bluejay

    As for working on your last nerve, don’t post your opinion on the internet if you can’t handle someone’s response.

    You’re distorting her comment to imply she can’t take dissenting opinions. She said that specifically in response to you calling her a pedant because she corrected a factual error you made. If you’re such a snowflake that you can’t handle your errors being corrected, maybe you’re the one who shouldn’t post comments on the Internet.

    There are way bigger assholes than me and I wasn’t even trying to be one.

    Admitting you’re an asshole without even trying to be one isn’t exactly a point in your favor.

  • So you really are trying to get banned? Keep it up. You are here are my forbearance, and nothing else.

    how can you have such high hopes

    Who said anything about high hopes? I didn’t have them for this movie. But that doesn’t mean the movie couldn’t have won me over. Such has happened plenty of times before.

  • I wasn’t even correcting an error, just attempting to respond to what I believed was the intent of the comment.

  • clayjohanson

    As a lifelong fan of the “Alien” series — it is my favorite franchise and “Alien” and “Aliens” come second and third only to “Blade Runner” as my favorite films — I find myself feeling like Fox Mulder: I want to believe that “Alien: Covenant” will be good, just as I wanted “Prometheus” to be good. I will see “Alien: Covenant” no matter what, and I know I will at least LIKE it — but I don’t know (yet) whether I will love it as I love “Alien” and “Aliens”.

    “Prometheus” was a beautiful disaster — it was beautifully shot, had great FX, and a story *concept* that was pretty cool — the search for mythical Engineers who created humanity. Sadly, the movie was full of stupid characters who acted rashly at every possible opportunity and who invariably made bad decisions. A trillion dollar expedition lands and they IMMEDIATELY send several crewmembers into the weird alien structure they’ve just found? Come on. “Prometheus” wouldn’t have a story if it weren’t for people being stupid. (One might argue that “Alien” wouldn’t have had a story if Dallas had listened to Parker and just headed on back to Earth: “I know we’re supposed to land, but screw THAT.”)

    “Alien: Covenant” SHOULD be a better film, simply because one hopes that the screenwriters and director would have learned from the mistakes of “Prometheus”.

    But here are my questions: Is no one back on Earth aware, at any given time, of the fates of the “Prometheus” and (one would assume) the “Covenant”? Are these missions just disappearing off into the void, never to be heard from again? Is THAT the reason why, at the beginning of “Alien”, Weyland-Yutani ships are directed to investigate mysterious transmissions whenever they are detected, because they literally have no idea what those other expeditions found and they want to try to set the metaphorical hook again?

    Ultimately, though, the whole concept of prequels is brought into question. Every prequel dispels the mysteries of the original movie(s) that preceded them, and so they diminish the original movies. It was true with “Star Wars” and so far it’s been true with “Alien”.

  • FriscoKid

    This sound like Force Awakens syndrome. Shameless fan service and rehashing all the greatest hits because it’s fiscally safer for the studio’s investors. Sad thing is, it seems to work, monetarily at least.

  • Rockstang

    Honestly, I am her because you came up on my Google stream and thought this was a credible review as opposed to fan response. Had I known this was from a thin skinned blogger who can’t deal with criticism, I wouldn’t have wasted my time. So please ban me. If you can’t deal, then don’t. I’ve done nothing but counter your points. In fact, I said didn’t attack anyone until I was attacked. If you want to live in a world of confirmation bias, stick to print, if you can get someone to print it.

  • FriscoKid

    To say nothing of the fact that the “back burster” is very obviously shown in the movie’s trailers and commercials.

  • Rockstang

    Intentionally being an asshole to defend someone else somehow makes you better? I didn’t think I was being an asshole u til I was treated like one. But go ahead play the victim and aggressor like the typical internet know it all. After all I’m a climate change denier which makes me a less credible person to talk to right? And why aren’t you the asshole for making such an assumption? I was never trying to be an asshole. Go back and look at the conversation. The only people I made any personal comments about attacked me personally first. You talk about snowflakes and the such, but you have acted like such a whiny child because I had an opinion that differed.

  • Adam Ross

    This is a truly excellent review.I saw the film on Monday and was extremely disappointed. All of MaryAnne’s points are extremely valid – Scott mangles everything from the Xenomorph’s lifecycle — they grow to full size within minutes, and who’s laying the eggs? — to basic filmmaking tropes that he created (where’s the dread? Claustrophobia?). This is the most flaccid and generic of all entries within the Alien saga. If the naysayers that went through Prometheus (an infinitely more ambitious film) with a comb did half of that analysis of Covenant they’ll discover its a hot mess of convenient plotting and non-existent motivations that no amount of poorly realized cgi blood and gore can fix. This is the Terminator Genysis of Alien films.

  • Adam Ross

    I loved Prometheus, I borderline hated Covenant. So much so, that I’m actually readdressing the former.

  • Jurgan

    You are Schrodinger’s Age.

  • Dr. Rocketscience

    The last time the Alien franchise was “kinda ok” was 25 years ago. It hasn’t been good in over 30.

  • Gone.

  • New rule: Using “social justice warrior” as an insult is now an automatic ban.

  • Danielm80

    Upvoting your own comments over and over again, while not cause for an automatic ban, should probably put you on some sort of probation.

  • Bluejay

    Impressive meltdown. Bye.

  • Jenette Vasquez

    You always were an auhzhole, sore man.

  • Grond Zilla

    This. Pretty much this. I left Prometheus briefly convinced that it was a decent film because it was so well made with regards to the technical matters of filmmaking (especially the visuals) but within a matter of hours it had soured to the point that I can now scarcely think of the film without a scowl. The writing was *terrible* with stupidity stacked upon stupidity until it collapsed in a heap of dreck. I’m done with the Alien universe for the moment.

  • RogerBW

    So: the film fails largely because it’s an uninspired rehash of the good films (which to me means the first two, with some occasional bits in #4). And yet when Scott tries to do something different (like opening up the landscape) that fails too.

    I don’t think Scott has simply lost his competence (The Martian is a counterexample to Prometheus), but I suspect he’s tried too hard to turn the handle and crank out an Alien film – and succeeded in making something that feels cranked out.

  • stocksyndrome

    right on target Friscokid..its all about ceo’s ,stocks and shares..Hollywood’s creativity is dead beacuse they dont have the balls to create something new

  • RogerBW

    I think it’s worth remembering that one reason Aliens worked was that it wasn’t “an Alien film”.
    The modern system values “a (series) film” more than it values the possibility of starting off a new series.

  • One might argue that “Alien” wouldn’t have had a story if Dallas had listened to Parker and just headed on back to Earth: “I know we’re supposed to land, but screw THAT.”

    And that is true here as well! Another beat picked up from *Alien*: the Waterston second officer lodges a protest with Crudup’s captain about the change of course, for which there is no justification as powerful as the one in *Alien,* in that everyone is afraid of losing their shares. *Alien* very quickly and succinctly drew its characters as working-class stiffs for whom money was their motivation for doing a shitty job. *Covenant* doesn’t do a good job of making us understand its characters driving motivations.

    Are these missions just disappearing off into the void, never to be heard from again?

    Not a spoiler: It is mentioned here that no one knows what happened to *Prometheus,* just that it disappeared.

  • Also, the studio hasn’t released many promo photos, and the one at the top of this review is one of them, and it’s pretty clear what is going on there.

  • It’s certainly a sign of the sort of immaturity that will quickly out itself here, and not be tolerated.

  • *The Martian* is terrific! But it had great source material that was fresh while also harkening back to stuff we know. That’s not impossible to pull off… but it requires great writing, which is in short supply in Hollywood.

  • stocksyndrome

    if ridley scott was so interested in going back in the alien universe why didnt he made a sequel to alien in the first place?Its almost feels that these Hollywood ceos forced him to go back because it fits in their rehash nostalgia money making trend.

  • stocksyndrome

    this rehash nostalgia money making trend is just ”easy money”
    its like saying to a kid …here you have a cookie and be a good boy

  • Danielm80

    I was joking about the probation, but it is a huge warning sign. So is laughing at your own jokes, in print (ha!)—though thankfully Rockstang didn’t do that.

  • RogerBW

    Yeah, and even when a good script does get written it’s usually mangled by rewrites and focus groups before it makes it out into the world.

  • stocksyndrome

    exactly!

  • clayjohanson

    So apparently a follow-up expedition to LV-223 was never sent and no one (yet — see NB) heard Shaw’s final “log entry”, which is narrated at the end of “Prometheus”.

    NB: She warns the listener “do not come here”, which implies that it was a transmission — if it were an actual entry in a log, the listener would have to be there to hear it, and her warning would make no sense. But as LV-223 is 34 light-years from Earth, any conventional transmission would not reach Earth until 2128 — six years after “Alien” — and might never be received. I think we can assume that she did not have access to FTL transmission equipment, or that it did not yet exist.

  • Santiago Novillo

    Couldn’t agree more.

    Were they trying to resemble Ripley with Katherine Waterston?

  • stocksyndrome

    of course!

  • Probably.

  • stocksyndrome

    even the chestbuster scene in convenant was based on the first draft of prometheus..
    https://alienseries.files.wordpress.com/2012/11/blu-2.jpg

  • Pig Farmer Bill

    I’m not a psychiatrist. My advice is don’t read into it.

  • Pig Farmer Bill

    Says the punk!

  • Pig Farmer Bill

    Look who’s trolling, been around since the 50’s. I don’t care when she was born.

  • Craig Forshaw

    It’s even harder when you don’t have Dan O’Bannon and HR Giger, the guys who’re far more responsible for the success of Alien, and the longevity of the franchise, than Scott. Heck, you even mention the chestburster, which was based on O’Bannon’s chronic bowel problem that he picked up on Dark Star, and which eventually led to his death.

  • Bluejay

    I’m not a punk. I’m a Social Justice Warrior. Go ahead, insult me. DO EET.

  • You are gone.

  • A reminder: If you are not interested in having a grownup conversation, don’t post here.

  • Jim Mann

    I was there watching Alien when it premiered in the theater in 1979, and frankly that’s why I disliked Prometheus. Alien had set up big expectations for what to expect in a film like this from Ridley Scott, and Prometheus was a mess, with characters behaving stupidly, with parts of the plot that didn’t make sense, and with very little tension.

  • Dr. Rocketscience

    Maybe it’s (long looooooooong past) time to admit that Ridley Scott is, at best, a wildly inconsistent filmmaker.

  • Tue Sorensen

    A statement like: “What Covenant does is take something that had been beautifully
    inexplicable — unimaginable, if you will — and shove it into a box that
    makes it explicable, imaginable, and consequently smaller”

    Well, this is precisely what science and good science fiction does. It defines things so we can understand them and begin to manipulate them; so we can interact more efficiently with our environment. It is the core principle of evolution, and therefore of survival, growth and wisdom. You clearly expected a horror movie, and are disappointed that you got a sci-fi movie instead. If you were a dyed-in-the-wool science fiction fan, you would feel differently. What matters in this story is what David does and what this means for the whole universe and the interconnectivity of all the movies in the franchise. It’s called world-building, and it builds a base for what happened in the other movies, granting them a firmer foundation – much like what Cabin in the Woods did for Evil Dead type movies, and what Mad Max Fury Road did for its predecessors. Expanded and explained the whys and wherefores of the fictional universes, making them much better.

  • Bluejay

    MaryAnn is an avid science fiction fan and knows perfectly well what world-building is. But world-building is not enough if it’s not done within the context of a compellingly told story with well-drawn characters. And “expanding and explaining” isn’t a virtue in itself; like all storytelling tools, it can be executed well or poorly. A mystery that’s judiciously and skillfully allowed to remain mysterious can be more powerful than an “explanation” that takes all the air and power out of it; the concept of “midichlorians” didn’t do the Force any favors.

  • Agreed.

    This movie left a bad aftertaste in my mouth.

    Literally.

  • I agree with you. The cinematic of Alien3 is captivating. The characters connects with me, and the thought of an alien running amok, being indestructible and with a murderous intent, is how the Xenomorph should be portrayed as.

    In Covenant, (I’ve watched it), you don’t get any of that. The Xenomorph is just easily tricked into being killed.

  • For a movie (Prometheus) that has philosophical elements and the quest for Truth, it does lack realism in the part of the characters.

    Really a let down that one.

  • Oh, I am so saddened by this movie.

    I walked out of the theater feeling all depressed at the poor execution of the plots. It has one of the dumbest characters I have ever seen (reminds me of B Movies from the 80’s).

    Is this how it will all come to?

    A movie that seeks to explore the grand answer to mankind’s existence but yet, there was no realism in it.

    Why Ridley, why have to take something phenomenal and take it by its tail and smash it onto a wall and hoping to call the mess you did a masterpiece.

    This, is my subjective criticism.

  • If you were a dyed-in-the-wool science fiction fan, you would feel differently.

    Oh, I most certainly *am* a dyed-in-the-wool science fiction fan, I assure you.

    It’s called world-building

    Thanks for the condescension. But in this case, I’d call it retconning.

  • Tue Sorensen

    I almost used the Midichlorians as an example myself. I am one of the few who love them – mystery for the sake of mystery is a bad thing. Knowledge and understanding is always superior to ignorance. Knowledge unleashes greater wonder than mystery ever could, but most people can’t understand that, because they are so ignorant they’ve learnt to love it and wallow in it. Such a pity. Allowing things to remain mysterious is the kind of thing a long-running TV crime show does in order to keep people glued to the screen for purposes of selling soap. Giving a wholesome, clear and enlightening ending and closure to a story, on the other hand, is called art. “Mystery” is utter bunk; it helps no one, but only keeps people in the dark. Clarity, insight and reason – in short: science – is what it’s all about. And that’s why good science fiction is the most progressive of all genres. SF is idea-driven where mainstream fiction is character-driven, and SF must be appraised by the quality of its ideas, not its characters.

  • Tue Sorensen

    Appreciating mystery over knowledge is what religious people do. If you are an SF fan, why is all your criticism about the movie’s failures as horror? All the Alien movies are sci-fi/horror, but three of the four good ones (Aliens, Prometheus and Covenant) are far more SF than horror, and most SF fans should appreciate that.

    Sure, this is a sort of retconning, but it’s good retconning. My take on the first two movies was that the Aliens represent the hostility of space to humans, and I thought this symbolism was very artistic. I am also a little bit annoyed that they replace this element with a rogue AI being responsible for the Aliens in the new movie, but I also think it’s a great science fiction element, providing a proper explanation which also works well. It also tied excellently into the theory that the whole religion of the Engineers and their worshiping of life was caused by their own first invention of artificial intelligence, which almost wiped them out, and led them to control other cultures in a direction of primitivity so no one would invent AI again. This is why they tried to wipe humanity out, and why the Engineer in Prometheus goes for David first, considering him an abomination. It all fits very, very well.

  • Danielm80

    She spent a large portions of the review talking about the quality of the movie’s ideas. She thought the ideas were trite and kind of dumb. More information is not always a good thing. Knowledge doesn’t unleash wonder unless the ideas are actually wondrous. YMMV, which is why there are so many different critics in the world. (A few of them even like midichlorians.) Just because you don’t agree with this one doesn’t mean that her review is “wrong.”

  • Bluejay

    Look, I’m an atheist (as is MaryAnn) and a fan of science and its advocates (like Sagan and Tyson), and I agree with every word of Tim Minchin’s “Storm,” so you don’t have to sell me on the value of science. (Though I will note, on behalf of some smart and progressive religious commenters here, that one doesn’t need to be an atheist to appreciate science.) So, yes, in real life we try to solve mysteries to increase our understanding of the universe and improve people’s lives.

    But we are talking about art and storytelling, in which explanations can enhance a story but unnecessary explanations can ruin it. I don’t need to know why Mary Poppins’ umbrella is sentient, or how her flight is powered, or the specific metaphysical restrictions that compel her to leave when the wind changes. I don’t need to know whether Matilda’s genetic lineage led to a mutation that allows her to access telekinesis. I don’t need to understand the exact molecular process by which Sauron transferred a portion of his essence into the Ring. And I don’t need a technobabble overlay of “midichlorians” on a perfectly clear concept (“an energy field that binds the universe together”) that was already working very well on its own. The notion that it’s all microbes does nothing to push the story forward, and instead of clarifying, it just muddles things by opening a confusing new can of worms about how the microbes operate — which, again, adds nothing to the story itself.

    SF is idea-driven where mainstream fiction is character-driven, and SF must be appraised by the quality of its ideas, not its characters.

    False dichotomy. Good SF must be BOTH idea-driven AND character-and-story-driven. If a story has good world-building ideas but a sluggish plot and dull characters with unrealistic motivations or emotional reactions, then it will still be a badly-told story that fails to engage its audience or communicate its ideas, and wastes its potential.

  • Tue Sorensen

    Mary Poppins, Matilda and Lord of the Rings are all works of fantasy, where magic is the whole point. That’s inapplicable to science fiction. “Technobabble”, in many ways is the heart and soul of science fiction; it is the speculative (and often necessarily nonsense) reasoning behind technology in the far future; stuff that we have no chance of understanding how works, but which we must pretend to know the workings of by theorizing about how it may work. Technobabble is, in principle, identical to theorizing about new things or mechanisms that we do not yet understand, and this is the soul of scientific practice. Technobabble is one of the single most important elements of science fiction.

    And, in good science fiction, the ideas that require technobabble could very well be important analogical or allegorical representations of something real – which in turn could begin to be described in more scientific detail by way of technobabble, and so bring us closer to a scientific understanding of it. Because good SF, like theoretical scientists, also theorize about ideas in science, and all the elements of the genre can help getting such theories across and help the development of actual science. SF is, as I mentioned, the most progressive of all genres, because it specifically identifies science as the most important tool for interacting with and understanding the world around us.

    I grant that the characters in Alien: Covenant aren’t great, and I grant that this hurts the overall quality of the movie. But I see the repetitions and the clichés as something endemic (and pulp fiction inspired) to this corner of the genre and the franchise, while the actually ideas are the real meat of the movie. And as such I enjoyed the movie a lot, and particularly liked that it was much more sci-fi than horror, as opposed to this reviewer.

  • Bluejay

    Technobabble is one of the single most important elements of science fiction.

    I disagree. The most important moment in The Empire Strikes Back was NOT Han yelling at Chewie, “Horizontal boosters… alluvial dampers… bring me the hydrospanner!”

    Even in Star Trek, the quintessential science fiction TV series, the technobabble wasn’t the point. For all the talk of photon torpedoes and teleportation, the show at its best was about the drama of characters interacting with each other and struggling through moral and philosophical dilemmas. It did indeed present allegories to its audience; but the allegories weren’t in whatever technical terms Scotty used to describe engine repair, but in bigger ideas about how we relate to each other, organize our society, and resolve conflicts.

    The best science fiction, like all the best fiction, is first and foremost about people. Of course, YMMV. If you like reading about technobabble, you have every right to enjoy it. :-)

    SF is, as I mentioned, the most progressive of all genres, because it specifically identifies science as the most important tool for interacting with and understanding the world around us.

    I’m not so sure that SF’s glorification of science automatically makes it the “most progressive” genre, when many of its creators and fans still fail to question their regressive attitudes on race, class, gender, and the like. Imagining astonishing scientific advances is not enough if we are not also able to imagine a more equitable and compassionate society. Science alone will not save us if we do not also undergo a revolution in our philosophies, politics, and personal priorities.

  • Tue Sorensen

    Oh, but it will. Because with enough scientific knowledge, the subjective becomes objective. Know enough about neurology, and you’ll know yourself completely, understanding emotion, motivation and consciousness in full. From that, all the people and society related revolutions in thinking will follow naturally. Science is our only god and ignorance is the only darkness. Even today, most areas of philosophy has long since been pre-empted by science. Of course, very few people today understand these things to any significant degree. But that will change in time.

  • Bluejay

    From that, all the people and society related revolutions in thinking will follow naturally.

    Oh dear. I suppose it’s comforting to believe that.

  • Mystery for the sake of mystery is no better than solving a “mystery” for the sake of making a story neater and easier than it could have been.

    My issue is not with mystery or explanation, or with science and knowledge. It is with how this particular story is being constructed.

  • Appreciating mystery over knowledge is what religious people do.

    I agree. But that is not what I’m doing.

    why is all your criticism about the movie’s failures as horror?

    That is so blatantly wrong that I have to wonder if you even read the review.

  • So, yes, in real life we try to solve mysteries to increase our understanding of the universe and improve people’s lives.

    And the uncomfortable, antiscience ideas that are now percolating behind the Alien movies (with *Prometheus* and now *Covenant*) are more about promoting intelligent design nonsense. It’s literally the only thing these stories are about — it’s not being used, say, as a metaphor to build other stories around. I find it extraordinary that anyone who is a fan of science would embrace that.

  • I just want to be clear on this: You think an intelligent-design origin for humanity is a good science fiction idea? A satisfying one? One that helps us understand the universe?

  • Tue Sorensen

    Heh heh, good point. Except that that was the point of Prometheus; the point of Alien: Covenant is that David created the Aliens as we know them, and that’s an interesting expansion of the universe of this franchise.

    A story in which aliens created humans on Earth is not an explanation for how life was created, because how did those aliens come to be? It just removes the question one step. I am not concerned with “who” created life, or what its “meaning” is; I’m a scientist. But in science fiction it’s interesting to speculate about alien civilizations and their cultures, going back millions or billions of years, using all of cosmic time and space as a playground. In so doing, it will always be an obvious idea to say that some intelligent life forms created others, just as humans will create others over deep time if we spread to many extra-solar planets and evolve to new forms. It’s evolution more than any version of religious “intelligent design”.

  • Tue Sorensen

    It’s comforting to know that. Human nature results in certain social developments being practically deterministic.

  • Bluejay

    Human nature results in certain social developments being practically deterministic.

    And you’re certain that this will lead to positive developments, are you?

    You’re arguing that, once we know enough science, then science will eliminate all subjectivity and we will all hold hands and agree on what’s “good.” You’re basically saying that science can dictate our values. You’re siding with Sam Harris, while I tend to agree with Sean Carroll. And since that debate has played out exhaustively elsewhere, I’d rather not dive into that can of worms here.

  • Tue Sorensen

    It’s not about “eliminating subjectivity”, but about explaining and understanding subjectivity, so we can use it far better and more like nature intended. It will unleash completely unimaginable levels of wonder and happiness and cooperation. We’ll all be geniuses.

  • Danielm80

    One form of science I believe in is Poe’s Law.

  • angela89mcguinness

    You can never judge until you see a movie. I am and always will be a Ridley Scott fan but sadly, like my heart that always wants England football to do well but can never understand how such promise turns to jelly, I came away with a gut wrenching broken heart of disappointment after covenant. Really let down. Awful script ( some lines seriously made me pmpl) characters with no depth so I cared less when they died or cried alot. And when , because I have a brain, I could see fassbenders character morphing into a Sci fi of Brando in apocalypse now, with Suggestions that turn the original alien story’s allure into just a madmans invention. Tbh like watching England , I nearly walked out or shout “nooooooo” dont make me have to believe thaaattt!!!! ..still Ridley, like England , I will always love you…please do better next time. Ax

  • the point of Alien: Covenant is that David created the Aliens as we know them

    So, evil AI is out to kill humanity? So original! And more than a bit anti-science: another thing in which man was not meant to meddle backfires on us. *yawn*

    It’s evolution more than any version of religious “intelligent design”.

    Not the way that Scott is handling it. And it’s not original, either: it’s more *Chariots of the Gods* crap.

  • Lee Wormy

    I’m not a ‘fanboy’ by any stretch, but I have to agree here.
    The characters in Alien/s are great, they made good decisions but still got out smarted. The characters in Covenent made irritatingly annoying decisions, but it didn’t really matter anyway because they were so unlikable!
    I still enjoyed Covenent and look forward to the following in the series.

  • Dent

    It’s just like you to throw around globalist buzzwords. Get your ad humus arguments out of here you curtain!

  • Dent

    Creative freedom is one thing, creative license is another altogether. From George Lucas to the Wachowskis to Mike and Brian, some people need a good writing team to tell them when they’re being foolish.

  • Dent

    At least TFA knew what to rehash. Covenant couldn’t even do that.

  • samunder rang

    Scott’s screenwriters — Jack Paglen (Transcendence), Michael Green (Logan, Green Lantern), John Logan (Spectre, Skyfall), and Dante Harper. What do you expect?

  • samunder rang

    Scott is a senile old fool making same movie again and again and expecting different result. It’s perfect stupid sequel of Prometheus, wait he is making another one LOL!

  • Oliver Scott

    Spot on review. This is the worst ALIEN movie, closely followed by Prometheus.

  • I don’t understand your comment. Do you have something coherent to add to the conversation?

  • Danielm80

    I think samunder is saying that those four screenwriters have a terrible track record. In John Logan’s case, I actually agree, although I’ve enjoyed a couple of the movies he wrote.

  • Harold Hill

    I haven’t seen the movie yet, but when you talk about “closing a circle”, all I could think of was the Star Wars prequels, and how those watered-down what was yet to come.

  • But “What do you expect?” adds nothing to the conversation, even apart from the fact that many screenwriters (like many directors) have very mixed track records. “What do you expect?” is a copout, for audiences and for Hollywood. It’s a capitulation to crap. And I’m tired of fans who do that.

  • Agreed. Elsewhere in the comments there is mention of how the concept of midichlorians was an unfortunate development for the series. If the mystery of the Force needed some scientific underpinning, for development of the story perhaps, “midichlorians” added nothing, and we never saw a need for it. The *precise* same purpose would have been served by everyone simply commenting on how unprecedentedly strong the Force was with Anakin.

  • RogerBW

    I applaud your lack of capitulation.

    I think there are two approaches one can usefully take:

    (1) try to break down who’s to blame for what going wrong. Sometimes that’s easy: a lousy script with great performances, or vice versa. Sometimes it’s harder, as when a complex story is edited down into incomprehensibility. This is hard work and I think worth doing.
    But there’s also (2), which is to keep an eye on names that come up in an unusually high proportion of clunkers (by one’s own standards for “clunker”, obviously). These days Ben Kingsley is a big warning flag, and M. Night Shyamalan has been so much of one that people groaned in cinemas when his producer credit for Devil came up in the trailers. And then there are the serial offenders like Akiva Goldsman: I don’t know whether he’s intrinsically incompetent, or whether they only bring him in to rescue a script that would otherwise be even worse, but his name is a huge red flag for me. (He’s the main reason why I’m not excited by The Dark Tower.)

  • Harold Hill

    It seems so common today to have “closed circle” moments just to be cute in sequel after sequel. But when used in classic movies, like Star Wars or Alien, it can wreak havoc and destroy the classic nature of the original film(s). Think of shudder, surprise you felt when you first heard, “No, I am your father” from Darth Vader, or, the confirmation from Luke realizing “Leia, Leia’s my sister”. Well, once Lucas decided to “close the circle” in the prequels, all that suspense and shock is blown out of the water. We already know from Ep 1-3 that Anakin/Vader is Luke’s father and that Leia is his sister. Boom: Suspense and shock gone, watered-down in the original SW films.

    So when a writer or director decides to close a circle, it better be for damn good reason. Otherwise it just comes off as lazy writing and filmmaking. In my mind, the only one who kinda pulled it off successfully was Robert Zemeckis’ Back To the Future Trilogy, and that only worked because of the time travel element.

  • Bluejay

    The problem with the Star Wars prequels in particular is that they attempted to play to two different audiences: the older generations who had already seen the original trilogy, and the younger generations who hadn’t. So Lucas told the story in a way that tried to expand on revelations that the older audience was already familiar with, while numbering the episodes to suggest to younger (and future) audiences that the saga should be viewed prequels-first (thus ruining the impact of the revelations in the original films). I think perhaps Rogue One does a better job of expanding the SW universe without stepping on the toes of the previous films; while there are several callbacks to please existing fans, it’s possible to watch the film fresh and not have it ruin any of the moments from the other films if you haven’t seen them.

    The Back to the Future trilogy works because the sequels weren’t actually prequels; even if time-traveling back to the original setting was involved, the actual story was still moving forward, not trying to overexplain the events in the first film.

  • anandrajan0

    Being a dittohead here but “[Alien] was about venturing in the unknown wilds of the universe and finding something mind-boggling by random chance in a big huge scary cosmos” is exactly right. I blame Damon Lindelof who pitched the idea of exploring the origins of the xenomorph to Scott in the first place. Prometheus and Alien: Covenant have not only diminished the original Alien (with its core idea that an utterly indifferent cosmos could dispatch you in the most unimaginably frightening way possible without feeling, caring and any witnesses) but have completely neutered it (and I don’t want to spoil this further). After watching Alien when I was 17, I would wake up sweating from facehugger dreams. After watching Alien: Covenant, I wish someone would do a comedic mashup with Xtro. It’s that bad.

  • They could have explored the origins of the xenomorphs in a way that could have retained all that “huge scary cosmos” stuff. Imagine how hellish a planet would have to be to have evolved the xenomorphs!

  • anandrajan0

    A long time ago in a universe far far away, I had this (entirely unoriginal) idea of the xenomorphs resulting from first contact gone horribly wrong. An alien species mistakenly gives genetic enhancement tools (upon first contact) to a civilization at the fight or flight stage. Fast forward a million years……

  • Still better than what Scott is doing.

  • Yarberger

    Game over, man! Game over!

  • Dr. Rocketscience

    I don’t think that necessarily follows. There are numerous examples of well made films when a single person acted as writer-producer-director. And Scott has made plenty of bad films from other people’s material (see: Exodus)

  • RogerBW

    The more power at the top is concentrated, and the less money is involved, the more a film can get away from the well-worn tracks and do something different.
    Sometimes that’s very good, sometimes it’s very bad, sometimes you could hardly tell it’s happened at all. But the wildly divergent films very rarely happen when the director can tell the writer “that’s just not working” or the money men can say “that won’t play in Peoria”.

  • Vardulon

    Excellent review. Just watched the movie today, and was startled at the plot hoops they decided to jump through all in an attempt to make the Aliens universe smaller and less interesting.

  • Vardulon

    I recently rewatched Alien, and you’re dead on about this point – the company considers any living alien organism more important than the crew or the hugely valuable cargo they’re towing. There’s no indication that they have the slightest idea what Ash is going to bringing back to them. That only comes up in Aliens.

  • CB

    Prometheus was “mystery for the sake of mystery” — or rather “random mysterious stuff for the sake of mystery but with no real mystery behind it, it’s just random unexplained nonsense” as is apparently the calling card of Lindelof.

    I guess they thought the problem audiences had with Prometheus was that there was all this “mystery” with no answers… not that the mystery was trite nonsense with the only real meat in it being an old chicken nugget in the shape of Space Jesus.

  • CB

    Ridley Scott is very consistent in making technically exceptional and visually stunning movies whose ultimate impact will be largely based on the script he’s putting to film. One could certainly ask for more than that from a director, but nevertheless I think he’s a very good, and consistent, director.

    Just not from the standpoint of “is this movie any good?”, so given that’s what I think you meant we aren’t disagreeing. :)

  • CB

    Read a book with that premise many years ago. The Space Marines go to the xeno home world to take the problem out at the source. They don’t even land before they realize they’ve screwed up big time, and the xenos don’t live in underground hives where they blend in with the walls because it makes them scarier.

    It wasn’t a terribly good book, but it did have that idea going for it.

  • CB

    “Prometheus wouldn’t have a story if it weren’t for people being stupid.”

    It certainly could have, though. A careful, deliberate exploration of the alien structure with people acting like the world-class scientists they were (instead of the exact opposite of the specific type of scientist they were) could have been interesting and suspenseful. Then when things go south in unexpected ways it would have been justified. Instead of them wandering face-first into death like a toddler let loose in the Brightly Colored Uncapped Household Cleaners Store.

  • Dr. Rocketscience

    Just so long as we acknowledge that the same defense could be made for Zach Snyder, M. Night Shyamalan, and Michael Bay (among others). :)

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  • LA Julian

    It would have been even MORE terrifying & had more of the original Alien moral: not only can you be competent professionals and still get iced by the terrible implacable realities of the universe that you encounter unexpectedly, you can be EXPERTS at the top of the game in your fields, going warily into a situation where you expect trouble, and STILL be overmatched by a Perfect Storm of terrible.

    Because that happens. And all the precautions in the world aren’t always going to be enough. Mortality awaits us all, and the Sea is always hungry…

  • LA Julian

    Scott himself is guilty of that – he’s the one mangling good scripts with rewrite after rewrite as with Robin Hood aka Nottingham, or even making mediocre hack scripts worse (Spaihts to Lindelof) by sending them back for change after change, and he gets, or at least got away with it, because of his reputation as a Grand Master.

  • LA Julian

    Getting ‘too big for editing’ is a terrible thing when it happens, whether it be in writing fiction or in film making.

  • LA Julian

    I saw this joke yesterday: what if Akiva Goldsman and Alex Kurtzman are ‘Alan Smithees’ for directors?

  • LA Julian

    Like Australia, only raised by an exponential factor…

  • CB

    Sure, in as much as one finds merit in their directorial styles. Promethus, like most Ridley Scott movies, was beautiful but dingy, and felt like a real universe in which things lived. Too bad the characters didn’t. But without the added gravitas of the scenes those characters were standing in it would have sucked even harder.

  • CB

    Oh no, it wasn’t as dangerous as Australia!

  • JackTson101

    Hi MaryAnn. In the future, you may want to check the history of a commenter that seems to be a Troll (Rockstang). If there are few or no comments in their disqus history and they just opened a brand new disqus account to post on your site, then they are either a studio plant, troll or both. You gave that rude, aggressive, Troll way too much attention & patience. It has 48 comments in its history and almost all of them used on your site. That you should tell you something right there. Cheers!

  • Danielm80

    Most trolls are obvious from the start, because of their insulting comments and because their logic is insane and happenstance. MaryAnn is unusually patient with trolls, and she tends to let them keep posting until they become genuinely abusive. Other people would be less tolerant, but I admire her belief that they might redeem themselves, or at least provoke an interesting discussion.

  • I understand how Disqus works, thank you!

  • Walter S.A. Iego

    Scott is not a good director anymore.

  • rs

    Great review. You captured my gripes so eloquently. Bravo.

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