Richard and CP24 anchor Jamie Gutfreund have a look at the weekend’s new movies, “Alien: Covenant,” the return of one of the most fearsome alien species ever, the Xenomorph, the continuing adventures of Greg Heffley in “Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Long Haul,” Liev Schreiber as the real-life Rocky in “Chuck” and the edgy rom com “The Lovers.”
Richard sits in with CTV NewsChannel anchor Marcia MacMillan to have a look at the big weekend movies, the Xenomorphic Alien: Covenant,” the whimptastic adventures of Greg Heffley in “Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Long Haul,” Liev Schreiber as the real-life Rocky in “Chuck” and the edgy rom com “The Lovers.”
Alien: Covenant is the second instalment in the Alien prequel series and the sixth film in the franchise overall.
That’s a lot of facehugging and chestbursting.
Since the 1979 release of Alien, a film Roger Ebert called “an intergalactic haunted house thriller set inside a spaceship,” audiences have been fascinated with the sci fi / horror series.
The latest movie sees a new crew—including Michael Fassbender, Katherine Waterston, Billy Crudup and Danny McBride—on a mission to colonize planet Origae-6. Along the way they abandon their original course, choosing a closer, apparently inhabitable planet only to be met with terror and acid-spewing creatures.
Covenant is the third Alien movie directed by Ridley Scott. I once asked him what it was that kept him casting his eyes to the skies movie wise.
“The fantasy of space,” he said, “which is now also a reality, is a marvellous platform and a form of theatre. Honestly, almost anything goes.”
The freedom of the sci fi genre is a common theme among creators. Denis Villeneuve, whose sequel to Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner, now titled Blade Runner 2049, comes out later this year, remembers how his mind was opened by his first exposure to the genre.
“At a very young age one of my aunts came home one night and she had brought two or three big cardboard boxes filled with magazines,” says Villeneuve. “Those magazines were all about sci fi. Those boxes changed my life because the amount of poetry and creativity among the guys that were drawing those comic strips. They were very strong storytellers. They were all like mad scientists playing with our brains.”
Alien: Covenant has only been in theatres for a few hours and Scott has already announced another sequel he plans on filming in the next fourteen months.
Until that one hits theatres what other sci fi films should we have a look at?
Vincenzo Natali, the director of episodes of television’s Westworld and Orphan Black and adventurous films like Cube and Splice has some suggestions. “I could mention 2001, Star Wars and The Matrix, but we’ve all been there. I think there are some very worthy science fiction films that aren’t so well known.”
First on his list is Stalker, from master director Andrei Tarkovsky.
“It’s about a zone in Russia that may have had some kind of alien visitation and is highly classified. There are very special people called stalkers who illegally enter the zone and can take you to a place where your wishes can come true. No other movie ever made is quite like it. It is one of the most beautiful films I’ve ever seen.”
Next up is The 10th Victim, a futuristic Marcello Mastroianni movie about a deadly televised game called The Big Hunt which becomes a replacement for all conflict on Earth, but at what cost? “An Italian film made in the ’60s but way ahead of its time,” he says. “It’s a satirical comedy, absolutely brilliantly made, filled with cool futuristic Italian design and it’s really funny. I cannot recommend it enough.”
Third is the animated La Planète Sauvage. “It takes place on a planet where humans are pets for a race of large aliens. It’s a kind of a Spartacus story against the aliens. Totally outrageous and very, very ’70s.”
Alien: Covenant is the second instalment in the “Alien” prequel series and the sixth film in the franchise overall. Its director Ridley Scott’s follow-up to his 2012 film “Prometheus,” and the origin story for one of the most fearsome alien species ever, the Xenomorph.
Led by the pious first mate Christopher Oram (Billy Crudup), the colony ship Covenant hurtles trough space to planet Origae-6, an Eden that offers a chance at a new life in the first large scale colonization mission.
Laden with crew—including android Walter (Michael Fassbender), terraforming expert Daniels (Katherine Waterston), biologist Karine (Carmen Ejogo) and crewman Tennessee (Danny McBride)—2000 settlers and 1000 embryos, the spaceship is damaged by an energy surge. During repairs they intercept a mysterious radio transmission from a nearby planet that suggests better living conditions may be just around the corner. Abandoning their original course, an exploratory crew is sent down. On the ground they discover breathable air, wheat, the only survivor of the ill-fated Prometheus mission, an android named David (Fassbender again) but Daniels is concerned. “Do you hear that?” she says. “There’s nothing. No birds, no animals. Nothing. What happened here?” Of course there is life on the planet, life in the form of nasty face-hugging, chest-bursting aliens.
All great sci-fi has to have a bedrock of strong ideas but this is an “Alien” movie, can’t we have a better balance between ideas and action? Scott kicks things off, appropriately enough (given the movie’s plot) with Richard Wagner’s “Entering of the Gods into Valhalla,” a stirring number that thematically sets up the story of Xenomorphs and a search for a new promised land. There is talk of creation—Where do we come from? We can’t be random molecules thrown together by chance—how humans may have already blown their one and only shot at existence (“Why give them a second chance?”), android love and whether it is better to serve in heaven or reign in hell.
Grand ideas one and all and each seems to take on more import as they are filtered through Scott’s dark and dreary atmospherics. It’s moody, with a growing sense of what is to come, but it takes almost an hour for the first alien to burst (in rather bloody spectacular fashion) onto the screen. In that time there are loads of cool images, Scott is genetically wired to make great looking movies—witness the beautiful and delicate way the alien spores are dispatched—but the film is at its best when the slimy Xenomorphs are involved which, unfortunately, isn’t enough of the time.
From the way the crew banters to the space intrigue to the chest bursting “Alien: Covenant” feels more like a throwback to the original films than to “Prometheus.” There’s more dark humour–“How do you know you’re infected?” “You’d know by now.”—and when Scott revs up the action there are some truly horrifying moments, but because much of the crew are the equivalent of “Star Trek” redshirts the alien kills don’t have much emotional impact.
“Alien: Covenant” is well made, although Scott over shoots the climatic cat-and-mouse-game, but feels perfunctory in the scheme of things. It tries to freshen up the formula—no spoilers here but the Xenomorphs aren’t the only villains—but despite the injection of a good dose of philosophy is still essentially a “run away from the monster!!!” movie we’ve seen before and better.