ALIEN:Covenant Film Review & Thoughts 2017

*There may be some spoilers ahead…

In the cinema nobody could hear me scream. I didn’t scream at all, but then I didn’t laugh or moan either.

Yes this weekend I finally got down to one of my local cinemas and caught a showing of ALIEN:Covenant. This has been very hyped up and one of the film of 2017 I have very much been looking forward to personally. It almost did not happen after the sharp and often very negative and critical reactions to Prometheus a few years ago. Director Ridley Scott had plans and thoughts of quickly following up that film with a new series of films which would lead to the first ALIEN film chronologically. The fans did not warm to much of what Prometheus had offered us, and it had not made as much money as may have been expected at the box office.

So for the last four or more years I feel like I have been one of the few people on planet Earth willing to give Prometheus the time of day and observe some redeeming things in among the numerous plot gaffs and more.

Was Prometheus just too confusing? Did it make any sense at all? Was it far too pretentious as it considered space Gods while most ALIENS fans may have simply wanted to see classic bloodthirsty Xenomorphs?

ALIEN:Covenant picks up the Prometheus storyline a decade later. A new crew are travelling to a potential new home planet across the galaxy on a seven year hyper-sleep trip. They are woken early after some unexpected damaged affects the spaceship. When working to repair the damage on the outside of the ship they pick up a unusual signal which seems to be human. Decoding the message eventually reveals to them coordinates for a planet which seems at first to have almost perfect balance of ecology, land, sea and gases for human life. After arguing they decide to follow the signal as it may lead them to a perfect new planet years soon than they were due.

When they reach the planet they land and go out on foot to explore the landscape around them. They see familiar plants, fields, trees around them. Only a short while later, one of the crew having stopped for a smoke becomes ill. His is taken back to the grounded ship but among the rest of the exploring group, another stumbles and falls, coughing and the group is slowed down. Before reaching the ground ship he spasms and a savage embryonic creature bursts from within him. The thing runs out trying to attack the group and they shoot at it. On the grounded ship the other crew member also has a creature burst forth from him and it runs off inside the ship. Out on the land, as the crew try to shoot at the fast moving thing, a figure comes out and shoots it down instantly. The figure is David-the android from Prometheus.

This is where it connects up with the previous film. Covenant is very much where the story becomes about David. He was saved by Prometheus crew member Elisabeth Shaw as they stopped the Engineers and took control of their spaceship with setting course for the Engineer home-world which is where the Covenant crew have landed now.

At the start of ALIEN:Covenant there is a brief prelude scene with Mr Wayland and David. Wayland asks David how he feels as a new android. Even at the start David seems to have been unbalanced.

Is ALIEN:Covenant the non-nonsense bloody gorefest with many wild Xenomorphs that many fans had hoped they would get with Prometheus?

We do get this but much of the philosophical musings about God, mankind’s origins and creation from Prometheus continue on in this sequel. This is no bad thing, I personally did enjoy much of that previously but at least in this sequel it is balanced out against more action sequences and actual recognizable Xenomorph creatures on screen. Did audiences really only just want to see a simple copy or retread of James Cameron’s ALIENS all over again?

ALIEN:Covenant on the whole feels like a mix of the first ALIEN movie with some degree of ALIENS. We get some fast paced shooting and chase scenes this time around, there are a number of very large spaceship machinery and equipment, guns and pulse rifles familiar to die-hard fans of the series. Also unlike Prometheus, after only around half an hour we see the first nasty little alien creature racing around and biting at the crew members.

Now lets just think for a moment-what did we not like about Prometheus? How many dumb mistakes were made by the Prometheus crew? Did that film really have to leave so many questions unanswered?

It may have been a flawed film, but in my opinion it did have some great things going for it. Some suggest that we can now see ALIEN:Covenant as the real prequel to ALIEN and this may be true but it does not mean that we should all together forget Prometheus. In some ways Covenant now makes us understand and appreciate Prometheus much more.

It is obvious that Ridley Scott has heard some of the criticism for Prometheus-not that he should only makes films to please fans at all-and he has made a film here which does give many nods what the loyal ALIEN fans remember well and have loved over the years. The Covenant crew are a more interesting and real group of characters this time around. There are several moments and ways in which Covenant reminds us of ALIEN and it feels good and right it this is to all lead right up to connecting with that film.

Like I have said, this film focuses on the android David-he is very much now a new distinct monster of modern science fiction. Tragic and calculating, Scott has decided that David is at the very centre of the creation of the Xenomorph species. Michael Fassbender can be applauded for his dual performances in Covenant is both David and new android Walter.

The other strong performance comes from Katherine Waterson as Daniels-very much a precursor to Sigourney Weaver’s iconic Ripley of the ALIEN franchise. Waterson really takes the character all the way, and goes through many great scenes of emotion and frantic action trough to the very end.

Again like Prometheus there are a few dumb moments early on, characters peering into places they really shouldn’t and things which obviously just exist to move the narrative along. We can go with this, let it go and sit tight for the right. It is a good one. Some of the CGI creatures may not look entirely convincing every time they appear on screen. This does not ruin the film on the whole. As it ends, we have seen a very pleasing addition to the ALIEN series of films. I may have expected to see the Engineers again, more of their planet and their ways but I think that just will make me appreciate Prometheus more.

Ridley Scott seems to have wanted to make something special here, and it has moments where it looks much like 2001:A Space Odyssey and with androids David and Walter it shares some themes with his own Blade Runner movie.

Was this the sequel to Prometheus first intended? Will there be more films leading from this linking it all to the original ALIEN movie? If so, how many do we need?

If you are an ALIEN fan, do go and see this film now. You will not be let down, but again go with an open mind and enjoy.

 

James E. Parsons is author of Orbital Kin and Minerva Century both available now from all good bookshops-amazon, WHSmith, Waterstones, Barnes & Nobles- in paperback, ebook, hardback. His first horror novel Northern Souls is published late 2017.

Flares and scares-1970’s Horror

We passed the ‘Summer of love’ but the long hair and flares were there with the prog rock and changes in filmmaking and what we could be scared by on the big screen. This period in time was during and through to the end of the Vietnam war and I believe this did have a strong effect on the films which came to us at this time. With indie film directors like Francis Ford Coppola and Dennis Hopper revolutionizing what could be a film and how it could be made, horror films soon followed in the same steps.

Over here in the UK we had the regularly successful Hammer studios still putting out their gothic flicks of macabre dread such as Countess Dracula but soon others would take things into our modern and urban homes.

Of course in 1968 George Romero gave us his first horror classic Night of the Living Dead which did seriously change horror films forever. Low budget, black and white, on the move. It seemed to feel like a live news television report almost. Even to watch it today that movie is very powerful in a number of ways.

So into the 1970’s we had Mario Bava and Jesus Franco overseas continuing with their arthouse styled horror and erotica suspense chillers but it would be Wes Craven with The Last House on the Left, The Exorcist and The Wicker Man in 1973, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre in 1974, David Cronenberg starting his run of body-horror movies with Shivers in 1975, Carrie, The Omen, To The Devil a Daughter from Hammer in 1976, in 77 Wes Craven and Cronenberg again along with Argento’s masterpiece Suspiria from Italy.

1978 was a big year when we had Romero return with the classic Dawn of the dead, but also Carpenter gave us the first Halloween. This was the one which I believe really got practically everything right on spot for a horror movie.

1979 gave us Ridley Scott’s ALIEN movie, science fiction melded into space horror. The Brood, Amityville Horror, Phantasm. There were many more in this decade but the films mentioned above each added something which made a focused change to what we were afraid of on screen and also said much about what we no longer feared.

It was this decade where the big studios were confused and afraid to take serious risks and indie filmmakers were getting serious with very creative physical special effects and props, shooting all kinds of almost radical and lurid scenes which none had dared do before. The fears of the president Nixon years and nuclear war were truly present and this was manifesting into cinema screens, even if at midnight showings. Film horror was no longer set centuries of decades in the past, in had reached the present and it was savage and on the loose.

 

James E Parsons is a SF/Horror author. His first horror novel is published later this year. His previous books Orbital Kin and Minerva Century are now available in all good bookstores, Barnes & Noble, Waterstones, Amazon.

 

 

THE ALIEN AND THE GIRL-ALIEN5

Another week, or even another day and another change of title for film directing living legend Ridley Scott. Now that we know his continuation of the Prometheus story is go, and set to begin shooting early next year he has change the title from Prometheus 2 to ALIEN:Paradise Lost, and now it has change again to ALIEN: Covenant.

The other big news in recent days is that the Blomkamp sequel could very likely see a return of the Newt female character from ALIENS as a grown woman. Who would play the role, and what would the character be doing years later?

So ever since Prometheus was release in cinemas a few years ago now, there have been so many divisive opinions and views about the success of it, the reason for it, and the meaning of it. So who did create the aliens Xenomorphs we know? Why were they created and how did they get loose?

With Prometheus, we were simply given a whole load more questions, which confused some of us, and enraged a great deal more of us. Back then Scott did suggest that it would be the first in a trilogy which would connect up with the original ALIEN film.

Many fans were left feeling very short-changed and cheated, with Prometheus offering us possibly a weaker imitation of the events from the original movie, and some contradictory or confused space philosophy and Theology which not many fans seemed interested in.

Many fans have been on a new high in recent months knowing that contemporary sci-fi movie director Neil Blomkamp will now be directing a brand new ALIEN sequel, which does seem to be involving many elements which fans would be much more delighted to see on screen. He seems to be a real fan, and also keen to put something out there which would holds more of the fan-popular marks of the SF series and the actual Xenomorphs.

Now with yet another official name change for the Ridley Scott project, what does this suggest to us about the plot? He has stated that yes, this will now be the first in a trilogy connecting into the first ALIEN film. So does Prometheus not actually really count in the series at all? (I know many of you may be very pleased with that).

Despite the second name change (or is it third or more?) ALIEN:Covenant is still a continuation of Prometheus in terms of plot and characters involved. I personally and happy to know this, and am still very interested to see more of the surviving characters and how their journey continues on through space after the events of Prometheus. Even with the numerous plot-holes and contradictions, the ideas and themes do still have the potential to offer what could be a very stunning science fiction epic movie series on the scale of Avatar(but with hopefully better scipts than that particular film as well.)

With the hope that the new Blomkamp ALIENS sequel will not be delayed by too much time, there is room in cinema for both of these strands of the ALIEN universe to be explored and connected over the next few years and please fans of all the previously related movies.

James E. Parsons is author of Orbital Kin sci-fi book, out paperback/ebook from all good bookshops/retailers. New SF book Minerva Century out 2016.

 

The ways of space travel…

Now you may have noticed that the new Ridley Scott sci-fi movie The Martian is out in cinemas from last week, it has recieved mostly postive reviews it seems. It is a film adapted from an already quickly respected and well recieved novel from only a few years previous.

I may go and see this flick, as I am both a sci-fi film and Ridley Scott fan equally. This does though now have me thinking about the number of SF movies focused on exploring Mars, the Red Planet. Are there too many of these kinds of movies? Why always Mars?

I understand that this mysterious planet is possibly one of the most close to our own in a number of ways, but should we not consider and explore some the other known planets around us which are regularly ignored and forgotten?

Another question which comes to mind now-are science fiction films becoming far too serious again? This may be due to very interesting continuing research and investigations from NASA and other international space missions and tests, but in some ways I yearn possibly for just a little more fiction and imagination.

I understand also that films such as The Martian, Interstellar and Gravity from the last few years were partly made thanks in some ways due to the ground-breaking filming techniques and camera and CG overlap, allowing effects on screen never previously available to such stunning levels.

Such we still expect aliens and first contact in SF movies on the big screen? Are we just far past that time now?

PROMETHEUS: FILM OF THE YEAR?

Right then, yes that most certainly is a very bold statement or just question. Who has seen it already? Hey, anyone not seen it?

So with so many reviews coming along now, from practically everyone, every magazine, blog etc. I right now am just going put out some thoughts on how I saw the film, my view, some of my opinion.

So then, I saw it in 3D, which I usually do keep well away from most of the time, but after keeping AVENGERS safely a 2D experience, and knowing how visually stunning RIDLEY SCOTT movies are, I just decided to try it. Thankfully, my experience was not absolutely ruined, and thought the 2D did not massively enhance the viewing, at times-definately the first ten minutes- it did make it amazing, or just more so.

So we have a film that was probably more highly anticipated than any or film for such a long time, yes much more so than THE DARK KNIGHT RISES, however great that might be when it comes. This was RIDLEY SCOTT’S first sci-fi flick in decades. That is an absolute neccessary thing worth heading to the cinema for. On top of that, he was returning to the ALIEN franchise, which many people have wished that he had done long, long ago.

There were so many hopes, so many rumours about this vastly important science fiction movie for many months leading up to the release.

Did it and could it please us?

I personally, have to say that yes, I am very pleased with the movie that I saw. But remember, so many people were hoping that this would be such a huge thing, a total revelation and specifically a huge link and connection to the ALIEN movies. Would it reveal many things alluded to in the very first movie? Did it?

PROMETHEUS is a huge film. In many ways, obviously. It is epic. A very amazing, impressive film, probably the best SF movie in a very long time for sure.

The question is, with all the trailers, teasers and rumours suggesting many possibilities, many directions it might have gone in, did it explain ALIEN? More specifically-the origin of the ALIENS?

Well, did it have to do that? Really?

It did certainly give some kind of answers, and information, but like many good tales, or sequels, (and prequels) it then provided a number of more questions once again. Guess, that makes us think about some sequels to this kind of prequel then.

There is now much space ahead, a long way, narratively leading up to the time of the original ALIEN movie, leaving space for more to come, more answers, or more questions. Either way, if RIDLEY SCOTT is involved in more to come, it will continue to be worth waiting for.

UPCOMING GENRE THRILLS OF 2012…

So then, right now as we look ahead further into 2012, what are the most interesting or anticipated movies, books or games that we are all just so desperate to encounter?

Well, for starters of course, there are the mega huge blockbuster movies THE DARK KNIGHT RISES, the final closing part of the CHRISTOPHER NOLAN interpretation of BATMAN. Much before that, in fact only a matter of days away now (Hoo yeah) there is the colossal super movie that is THE AVENGERS, or terribly renamed AVENGERS ASSEMBLE in the UK. I just have to see this bringing together of IRON MAN, THOR, CAPTAIN AMERICA, HULK and others of the MARVEL world in what so far does thankfully look  to be a stunning huge beast of a film.

Then of course, the next big mysterious huge movie is probably PROMETHEUS. The first real return to science fiction for RIDLEY SCOTT, and we are led to infer so kind of return or link to the world of the ALIEN films, this movie looks mindblowing to put it simply.

TIM BURTON will be giving us two dark delights this year. Yes, highly unusual I know. Firstly the remake film of DARK SHADOWS with JOHNNY DEPP and many other respected actors. Spooky, bizarre, dark comedy chills in heaps expected. Then there is also a new reworked feature length version of one of BURTON’S early short films-FRANKENWEENIE. A tale of one boy and his dog which is brought back from death, again darkly funny and strange in classic BURTON manner.

In the world of video games, right now there is a kind of add on/sequel teaser with ALAN WAKE’S AMERICAN NIGHTMARE. A couple of years ago ALAN WAKE stood apart as a unique, challenging stylish interactive thiller game, and this continues the tale in some way, as a link toward potentially a real sequel some time soon. Another game out around now, SYNDICATE could be a real interesting one to try out. It does honestly look admittedly most definately stunning, and with a plot very close and style possibly too reminiscent of the previously hugely impressive cyber thriller DEUS EX: HUMAN REVOLUTION. SYNDICATE might look much better than it plays, but some say it depends what you want out of it.

With future books, I personally wish to read to latest part of CLIVE BARKER’S ABARAT, his children’s fantasy series, so creative and original as his work always ever is. Then there is possibly new CHINA MIEVILLE up ahead, always to be sought after. ANNE RICE has just released her first werewolf novel and many a claiming that is a very inventive, fresh and very rewarding good read from a writer still with new kinds of tales to show us.

This years does seem still a great time for the most fantastical, horrifying, futuristic, and bizarre entertainment imaginable…