Film and TV

Alien Covenant trailer reaction (better late than never!)

by on 13/01/2017
 

Alien Covenant trailer reaction (better late than never!)

This is going to be a relatively similar to an article that I wrote just over a year ago, sorry! But that’s what happens when you’re an Alien megafan,and obsess over every tiny piece of news/footage that’s released.

At that time, the buzz around the Alien franchise had been peaked by some sneakily released concept design photos of Chappie director Neil Blomkamp’s vision for a new Alien sequel. Fanboys (like myself) went into meltdown – Ripley and Hicks were back, Alien3 and Alien Resurrection were being ret-conned, and a mass of futuristic weaponry were on show – this seemed to be the type of sequel that we all deserved, and it was in the hands of a director whose recent movies show that he truly understood the sci-fi cinema of today.

Unfortunately, as we all know that movie has now seemly disappeared back into Development Hell, and we now have Alien Covenant on the horizon – as Ridley Scott tries his best to bring the franchise back in line with the rest of the Alien universe, while removing the remaining bad taste of his misfiringly bland Prometheus

The red-band trailer of Covenant has recently surfaced, and before I go into my general thoughts about the trailer, or my critical opinion on Prometheus (spoilers!) and Scott’s direction with the franchise, I thought it best to put into context my adoration of Ridley Scott as a director.

As a massive film fan, Scott’s work has been a huge constant in my life. While I consider the original Alien to be his true masterpiece, it was actually another movie that first brought him to my attention – his early 80s twisted take on fantasy/fairy talesLegend.

Legend is a perfect representation of Scott’s body of work: visually stunning, able to take relatively low budgets and make the movies seem astronomical in scale and ambition, but at times they suffer from being quite empty in both plot and characterisation.

He is a director that has always (up until recently) refused to repeat himself – from the beautiful fantasy of AlienBlade Runner and Legend, to the Asian film noir of Black Rain, his reinvention of the historic action blockbuster with Gladiatorand the superb sci-fact’ thriller The Martian, he can never be accused of getting complacent.

But Prometheus has been in-my-opinion his most divisive movie. Lured back into the Alien Franchise by its producers Brandywine, with the promise of free reign in which direction he wished to go – Scott took a chance to tell a different type of Alien movie, one that would hopefully pull the franchise back from the abyss of the pathetic and childish Alien Vs Predator series.

His movie would be a mature attempt to tell the origin story of the iconic Xenomorph and its Space Jockey handler (a character/creature that long held a specific fascination for Scott since he first saw HR Giger’s initial designs), while bringing in aspects of religion and philosophy, and embellish it with relatable characters. 

While he certainly sought to include the aspects of horror and suspense that had made his original movie so successful and ground-breaking, the traditional gore that had been a massive part of the later movies in the franchise would be removed (allowing the movie to have a lower classification rating) – thus opening the film up to a much wider audience. Also missing from this movie would be the traditional Xenomorph design, with Scott stating that he thought the design had been played out through the many sequels.

Ultimately, this approach didn’t work. Prometheus was a critical disappointment, drawing mainly lukewarm to negative reviews, and a general rejection from fans of the Alien franchise. 

Prometheus was a flawed movie – there’s absolutely no disputing that fact – but I certainly wouldn’t say it was a bad movie, I just feel Scott misjudged what the fans wanted: that they expected him to replicate the majesty of Alien, rather than taking the film off on his own cinematic tangent.

My biggest criticism of Prometheus was the fact that they didn’t just cleanly tie it directly into Alien, in the same way that the recently released Rogue One  did so successfully to A New Hope.

Just set the movie on LV-426, and have the storyline develop as per the current version (discovery of the alien temple, the infection of Holloway, impregnation of Shaw and subsequent birth of her Trilobite ‘offspring’, the discovery and awakening of the Engineer, the sacrifice of the Prometheus ship to stop the Engineer ship in its journey to attack earth, etc..) right up to the impregnation of the Engineer.

Have him crawl back to his crashed ship, crawl into his chair, and have the ‘Deacon’ alien burst from his chest – thus confirming the detail behind the fate of the Space Jockey creature, and what had laid the eggs that the unfortunate Kane stumbles into at the start of Alien. Nice and neat! You could then have Shaw and David blast off in another ship and continue the franchise into a totally separate narrative.

While reports state that the above was very similar to the direction that had originally been planned, prior to filming 20th Century Fox requested that aspects of the story be changed, and the ‘origin’ story elongated into a planned trilogy of films instead of one. Whether this was due to concerns around Damon Lindelof’s script, or a wish to maximise potential profit, we’ll never know. Perhaps Scott will divulge more information about Prometheus during the promotion of Alien Covenant.

Returning to the Covenant trailer, first of all I was extremely glad to see it released in the ‘Red-Band’ format. I believe this was a deliberate act – one of the major complaints about Prometheus was its toning down of horror and suspense, and the easiest way for the studio to assure fans that this would be resolved is to show off some flashes of both gore and flesh. And show it off it did – with the quick flash of what appears to be the birth of the new ‘Back-burster’ proto-alien, which has long been rumoured, being the highlight of the trailer – as well as a bloody encounter in a shower between a couple mid coitus and the new ‘Neomorph’ creature

The setting of the movie appears to be shifting back to the ‘truckers in space’ aesthetic of Alien – the Covenant ship appears dirty and lived in, rather than the pristine scientific exploration ship of Prometheus.

More dark spaces for a creature to lurk in – another hallmark of the Alien franchise sorely missed in Prometheus. Also, from this small glimpse, the movie looks as visual stunning as you would expect from a Ridley Scott movie – the ship and alien world look evocative – and it certainly looks action packed, with plenty of explosions, gunfire and running away from whatever Neomorphs/Xenomorphs end up in the film. But I do have my concerns…

After watching the trailer, the thought that immediately popped into my head is that Alien Covenant looks suspiciously like it could be another Force Awakens – i.e. a film designed to re-energise a tired franchise, but ends up being an almost carbon-copy of the original movie. I mean, look at some of the scenes in the trailer: the crew of a star-ship explore a strange unexplored planet, one or more of the crew becomes infected by a parasitic organism, the organism gestates within the individual’s body before bursting out as an alien creature, the creature hunts down and kills the remaining crew. It’s just a bloody rehashed Alien

Even the casting and characterisation looks similar to Alien – with Katherine Watterson’s new heroine Daniels straying dangerously close to Ripley (short hair, vest, big gun, and questioning authority!).

I mean, doesn’t her “we don’t know what the fuck is out there!” conversation with Billy Crudup’s Captain seem almost identical to Ripley and Captain Dallas’ scenes in Alien? I could be totally wrong (I am basing this on a 2:11min teaser trailer, a few rumours that I’ve heard, and nothing else haha), but sadly I don’t think I am.

Certainly more intriguing is fact that Michael Fassbender will be playing two roles in Alien Covenant – firstly the android from the doomed Prometheus crew ‘David’, last seen blasting off into space with Noomi Rapace’s Shaw in a second Engineer ship; and secondly ‘Walter’, a more advanced model of David. Will there be some sort of conflict between the two androids? Will Walter share David’s at-times morbid curiosity around the humans in his crew, and the alien race that they come into contact with? Where have David and Shaw been in the rumoured 10 years between Prometheus and Covenant? Is Shaw still alive? I’m looking forward to seeing how these play out.

To sum up, the trailer suggests that the tone of Alien Covenant appears to be very much darker, which is definitely a step in the right direction for myself and fans of the original movie. The aspects of body horror look to be back, as is the ‘haunted house in space’ dynamic that made the original such an essential movie for horror and sci-fi fans. I just hope the final film isn’t a paint-by-numbers (kinda) remake, and that Scott is able to finally resurrect the Alien franchise to the heights that it so obviously deserves.

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