Alien: Covenant (2017)

When one Michael Fassbender just isn’t enough…

The crew of a colony ship, bound for a remote planet, discover an uncharted paradise with a threat beyond their imagination, and must attempt a harrowing escape.

Ridley Scott’s next instalment in the Alien franchise, Alien: Covenant, has made its landing. While being ominously atmospheric yet beautifully shot, this sci-fi thriller is a welcoming return to a series that unfortunately seems to hold a majority of people questioning whether we really needed the reboot? Remake? Prequel? Prequel sequel? Whatever you wish to call it.

I may be in the minority here, but I’m rather enjoying the expansion into the Alien universe. Covenant successfully builds upon the franchises core themes; science, religion, man, myth, life, death and creation. It never feels like the creative team have dove in for a quick cash grab that most sequels/prequels fall prey to. Covenant cleverly peppers us with new information on the mythology of its monsters, whilst gifting us with a new kind of evil.

Covenant is far from perfect though. Its major problem is its characters. From a crew of around 15 (?) there are only a handful of memorable personas, the rest remain completely non descript. There is zero time spent building the minor characters any story or depth, and before I could even grasp who’s who they are dead.

A major disappointment to comprehend was that the theatrical cut of the film seemed to drop the essence that this crew was to be made up of couples in relationships, which seemed heavily implied in the films earlier marketing. A curious aspect that that would have worn well, but for reasons unbeknownst it is hardly mentioned and therein these characters lose some edge and depth and any interest in whether they live or die drops away.

Those few characters that do happen to stand out, stand out strongly. Fassbender gracefully plays both parts of good versus evil, and has a completely mesmerizing on screen presence. Katherine Waterston is a fine Ripley-esque female lead. But, the biggest surprise was Danny McBride, who for once refreshingly downplayed his usual caricature playfulness with a much more dramatic turn.

Alien Covenant is grungey as hell and no doubt an upgrade from Ridley’s previous 2012 entry, Prometheus. Covenant is gritty, well crafted, with dry almost campy humour. This new generation isn’t as much about the monsters, but rather a chilling saga for the character of David. Which sits absolutely fine with me. For the next instalment, I expect only a whole orchestra of homo erotic Fassbenders playing musical instruments.

7.0 / 10

“Serve in Heaven or reign in Hell?”

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Life (2017)

When will people in space learn to keep that shit on lock down?

 A team of scientists aboard the International Space Station discover a rapidly evolving life form, that now threatens the crew and all life on Earth.

Slick. Suspenseful. Solid sci-fi. These are just a few of the words I would use to sum up Daniel Espinosa’s first venture into the creature feature horror sub genre. Taut and tense from the get go, Life’s rich atmosphere and striking visual style, mixed with grounded performances delivers an ultimately rewarding experience.

Sure, there may be moments that are reminiscent to previous sci-fi wonders, but it is hardly fair that Life has been so heavily compared to Ridley Scott’s 1979 classic, Alien. My personal problem I have with the sci-fi genre to begin with is I believe they all tend to follow the same format – Astronauts on spaceship. Alien on spaceship. Alien kills. The end…

Unfortunately, the only problem with Life are the characters never feel fully fleshed out, which is sadly a missed opportunity with such a talented cast. Every character felt rather paper thin, it was as if each character was given one and only one personality trait. If only Espinosa gave us a few extra scenes to really delve into a little more character depth, because Life has everything, except an emotional impact.

The monster itself is a creative gelatinous nightmare, it is completely unnerving and ensues an extremely memorably stomach churning death scene. Life indeed has some flair, the chilly visual aesthetic is crisp, clean and the camera work is handled with elegance. Despite its character flaws, Life is terrific thriller with the perfect ending.

7.0 / 10

“Every single cell is a muscle cell and a nerve cell”

Area 51 (2015)

That is NOT how you sneak around a top secret military base, you noisy fuckers!

Three young conspiracy theorists attempt to uncover the mysteries of Area 51, the government’s secret location rumoured to have hosted encounters with alien beings. What they find at this hidden facility exposes unimaginable secrets.

I totally get why Area 51 has been sitting on a shelf for 5 years… From the director of one of my biggest guilty pleasures, Paranormal Activity, Oren Peli decides to follow it up with this? Really? It felt like two very different filmmakers made these movies. PA created such fear and tension in a single frame, so much so it resurrected the found footage genre into the twenty first century. Area 51 is… well… crap.

There are so many flaws with Area 51 I don’t know where to start. It is visually unsatisfying, poorly acted and narratively disjointed. The majority of the film is spent in a very boring build up of the break in and the characters themselves aren’t the slightest bit interesting nor are they even likeable or provide any motives for their lame break in. It all falls apart even more so with outdated action sequences of night vision and shaky cam.

The scariest thing about Area 51 was the severe lack of security that joint has!

2.0 / 10

“Something is pulling me towards the base”