Alien: Covenant Review

Alien: Covenant movie posterSynopsis
The Covenant is on its way to the remote planet of Origae-6 to start a new human colony. Along the way, the ship is hit by a neutrino burst from a nearby star, forcing the crew to wake up early from stasis to make repairs. After repairs are made, the crew receives a distress signal from a nearby planet and travel to the planet’s surface in search of the signal’s origins.

Review
The Alien movie franchise is an interesting one. It spans nearly four decades, while consisting of only 6 films. The first two are two of science-fiction’s best films, which are then followed by three mediocre films. In Prometheus, Ridley Scott returned to the franchise to begin delving into the origins of his mysterious Xenomorphs, but ended that film with more questions than answers. Scott returns yet again to direct Alien: Covenant, which is inching closer to where we first met them at the beginning of Alien.

With the exception of Aliens, each film in the franchise after Alien has attempted to recreate the horror aspect of the original 1979 film. This film has so far been the closest to recreate the horror that made the first film so engrossing. Although this shouldn’t be much of a surprise given both are directed by Scott, the visionary behind the franchise. He understands that it is the fear of the unknown and mystery surrounding it that makes Alien great. Having several decades to become familiar with it, that atmosphere cannot be replicated, which is why the sequels have failed. However, that style can be honored. This movie still draws on the fear of the unknown for its tension but rather than the Xenomorph, it looks towards a fairly unexpected place.

What did surprise me, and what I really enjoyed, was that the horror didn’t always come from the alien but rather David. David is a truly twisted being and that is where a lot of the tension come from. He is an android who has no emotion and is only seeking perfection on life. And to him that requires sacrifice, sometimes at the cost of others if need be. His distorted view on life and the pursuit of perfection is sure to keep your attention. It’s a different kind of villain but one that works amazingly well.

Of course, a lot of David’s memorability is due to Michael Fassbender’s excellent portrayal of the character. It was an excellent idea to keep him in the franchise after Prometheus because he was the highlight of that film as well. He also plays another android, Walter, an updated model of David. At first I wasn’t sold on the accent he gave the character but after a while it grew on me, especially after a few scenes of the two androids together. Fassbender portrays the two characters in two very distinct ways that really highlights his acting ability.

Although it may be difficult to remember, there are other cast members besides Fassbender. Katherine Waterston as Daniels gets the most development and keeps the Alien franchise’s bad-ass heroine streak going. Danny McBride’s Tennessee also gets quite a bit of screen time but not as much development. Everyone else pretty much exists as Xenomorph fodder, just like in all the previous movies. However, with this kind of a movie, and what has become expected of the franchise, that’s alright. Not every character needs a deep rich background, especially if they aren’t going to last long anyway. Scott understands that we are there to see one thing: the titular Alien. And if we get a great character like David along the way, then that’s just icing on the cake.

I thought Alien: Covenant was GOOD πŸ™‚ The Alien franchise has had its ups and downs over the years but it seems to be finding a groove. The β€œalien” is slowly becoming less and less the alien Xenomorphs and more of an android alienated from humanity. If Michael Fassbender keeps up the great work as the android David, then that is completely fine with me.

Trailer

Cast & Crew
Ridley Scott – Director
Jack Paglen – Story
Michael Green – Story
John Logan – Screenplay
Dante Harper – Screenplay
Jed Kurzel – Music

Michael Fassbender – David / Walter
Katherine Waterston – Daniels
Billy Crudup – Oram
Danny McBride – Tennessee
Demian Bichir – Lope
Carmen Ejogo – Karine
Jussie Smollett – Ricks
Callie Hernandez – Upworth
Amy Seimetz – Faris
Nathaniel Dean – Hallett
Alexander England – Ankor
Benjamin Rigby – Ledward
Uli Latukefu – Cole
Tess Haubrich – Rosenthal
Lorelei King – Mother (voice)
Goran D. Kleut – Xenomorph / Neomorph
Andrew Crawford – Neomorph

The Martian Review

The Martian movie posterSynopsis
The crew of the Aeris III mission on Mars is forced to leave the red planet earlier than scheduled when a gigantic storm approaches their base camp. In the evacuation, Mark Watney (Matt Damon) is struck by debris and believed dead. Watney wakes up and realizes that he is alone on Mars and will be months or years before he can be rescued, so he does everything he can to survive until help arrives.

Review
The concept of someone getting lost in space has been done time and time again over the years. Some have tried to be more serious, while not many that I recall try to be lighthearted about the situation. The Martian opts more for the latter. What becomes of it is a fun adventure that reeled me in with its whimsical nature.

A man or group lost, alone, and without help is nothing new in the world cinema. So to stand out The Martian goes a route not many comparable films have gone: it remains laid-back. This sub-genre has the tendency to become serious and dark, this movie separates itself by never becoming like the others. Sure, there are moments when Matt Damon’s character feels hopeless, but his optimism always shines through. As a result, there are many moments that made me laugh. I honestly wasn’t expecting a movie about a man stranded on a planet to be so humorous.

This film lived or died based on Matt Damon’s performance. While a good portion of the film is spent on Earth, that group is composed of an ensemble. The majority ofΒ The Martian is spent solely with Mark Watney and his escapades on Mars. If Damon dropped the ball, the movie fell with him. I guess it is good then that he did a fantastic job. Watney went through a range of emotions while stranded, from terrified to ecstatic, from anger to joy, and many in between. Damon expertly portrayed these emotions as well as the character’s signature snarky-ness.

I didn’t really pay much attention to the cast list before going into the movie. Besides Damon, I had little idea who else was in the film. To my surprise, the cast was full of big names, such as Jeff Daniels, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Sean Bean, and Jessica Chastain, as well as some other surprises including Kate Mara, Sebastian Stan, Michael Pena, and Donald Glover. While Damon was on his own for the majority of the film, the rest of the cast had each other to work off of.Β  The folks at NASA in particular were an interesting bunch to watch together. This is where most of the all-stars were. Jeff Daniels may have been my favorite but they all did a good job.

Not a significant amount of time is spent with the rest of Watney’s crew, which was played by Jessica Chastain, Michael Pena, Kate Mara, Sebastian Stan, and Aksel Hennie, until more towards the end. Each had their own unique personality and seemed like a fun group to be around. It was clear the actors were having a fun time together and had good chemistry. I would have liked to see more of them, but that may have stemmed from my selfish need to look at Kate Mara some more.

If I didn’t know any better, I would say The Martian was shot on the surface of Mars itself. The special effects look great and the practical effects are even better. And the cinematography was beautiful, too. So many times I was awestruck, thinking I was actually with Watney on the red planet. I don’t know what to say other than this film is very well shot and looks stunning.

The Martian isn’t your average man-stranded-in-space-alone movie. There are the helpless moments you’d expect but they are spaced between the main character’s humor and optimism. Carried by Damon and combined with its great special effects, The Martian is one of the most fun space movies I have seen in a long time.

Rating
4/5

Trailer

Cast & Crew
Ridley Scott – Director
Drew Goddard – Screenplay
Andy Wier – Novel
Harry Gregson-Williams – Composer

Matt Damon – Mark Watney
Jeff Daniels – Teddy Sanders
Sean Bean – Mitch Henderson
Kristen Wiig – Annie Montrose
Chiwetel Ejiofor – Vincent Kapoor
Jessica Chastain – Melissa Lewis
Michael Pena – Rick Martinez
Kate Mara – Beth Johanssen
Sebastian Stan – Chris Beck
Aksel Hennie – Alex Vogel
Mackenzie Davis – Mindy Park
Benedict Wong – Bruce Ng
Donald Glover – Rich Purnell
Nick Mohammed – Tim Grimes
Chen Shu – Zhu Tao
Eddie Ko – Guo Ming

Lightning Review: Prometheus

This review was originally posted for MovieRobβ€˜s space-themed genre grandeur.

Prometheus movie posterSynopsis
Archeologists Elizabeth Shaw (Noomi Rapace) and Charlie Holloway (Logan Marshall-Green) discover clues to mankind’s origin and takes a ship and crew to an alien planet, thanks to the Weyland Corporation. At their destination, they find more than they expected, and may end up causing the destruction of the Earth.

Review
Prometheus exists in the same universe as the Alien movies and acts as a pseudo-prequel, supposedly hoping to answer the questions about the origins of the xenomorphs. However, in the end, it creates more questions than it answers. It follows a very similar format and pacing as Alien (not surprising since they both come from the mind of Ridley Scott). We meet the crew of Prometheus as they come out of stasis. Then they go to the planet’s surface, where they enter an alien structure. All of a sudden, the crew must fight for their lives against an alien creature. It’s almost exactly the same as the aforementioned Alien, but it lacks the atmosphere that made the 1979 film a classic.

That’s not to say it isn’t entertaining, it just offers a slightly different experience given their similarities. Micheal Fassbender is the highlight of the film. He plays David, an android very similar to Ash in Alien. He is creepy but sophisticated at the same time. Noomi Rapace is the Sigourney Weaver of this film, proving that women can kick just as much alien ass as the men can. The first two acts are mostly set-up and exploring the environment and catacombs. It’s fairly slow until the last third, then it really picks up once the alien is revealed. At times it seems to attempt the horror aspect of Alien, but it feels out of place compared to the rest of the film. Prometheus is an enjoyable film, but if it’s goal was to clear things up about where the xenomorphs came from, it fails. But hey, at least it looks pretty, right?

Rating
3.5/5

Trailer

Cast & Crew
Ridley Scott – Director
Jon Spaihts – Writer
Damon Lindelof – Writer
Marc Streitenfeld – Composer

Noomi Rapace – Elizabeth Shaw
Logan Marshall-Green – Charlie Holloway
Michael Fassbender – David
Charlize Theron – Meredith Vickers
Idris Elba – Janek
Sean Harris – Fifield
Rafe Spall – Millburn
Benedict Wong – Ravel
Emun Elliott – Chance
Kate Dickie – Ford
Guy Pearce – Peter Weyland
Ian Whyte – Last Engineer