Alien: Covenant — 5/10

ALIEN: COVENANT (2017, Ridley Scott)

Ruthlessly bleak, nasty, and mean-spirited — it may be the right time for a movie that assures us nothing good will survive, and entropy is an unstoppable fate for all species, whether their undoing is by their own hand or by the vast indifference of the universe; but even so, that doesn’t mean such a film is a success.

If anything, the intelligent nihilism running throughout this series and especially this entry is so much of a bummer that it halts narrative momentum and pacing. Ridley Scott has never been the master of the fleet-footed romp (everything from BLADE RUNNER to BLACK HAWK DOWN to THE COUNSELOR has been marred by an uneven flow, with only THE DUELLISTS and GLADIATOR as exceptions to the rule), but this one is especially murky and lugubrious. It has Danny McBride in it, and he’s playing a straight dramatic role! Come on, man. Even Idris Elba had some light-hearted moments in PROMETHEUS, but this thing is a humorless dead zone of single-minded philosophical preaching. It’s almost like Ridley was offended his last film THE MARTIAN was in the Golden Globes Comedy category.

Billy Crudup and Michael Fassbender are dialed in perfectly nevertheless, the former conveying Captain Pussy’s wishy-washy nervousness succinctly and unmistakably, while the latter carries over his sensational PROMETHEUS performance and adds another character completely. The best joke in the movie is that the two Fassbenders are named Walter and David, after the franchise’s producers Walter Hill and David Giler. (Yes, that’s how few moments of levity are in this). The rest of the cast, however, gets crushed under the weight of the script’s grandiosity, finding precious little room to build memorable characters. I can barely remember any other names at all aside from “Tennessee,” so what lingers beyond the credits are some isolated moments of spectacular action (the med-bay in act 1 and the cargo lift escape in act 3), and some cool touches like the help-beacon’s sound being integrated into the score. As for the rest, yeah some disgusting space insects burst out of people’s torsos.

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