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Alien: Covenant (2017)

20th Century Fox Home Entertainment
4K UHD Released: 8/15/2017

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Review by Mike Long, Posted on 8/22/2017

You don't have to be an editor at BoxOfficeMojo (or some similar position) to know that younger viewers drive the movie industry. While plenty of Baby Boomers and Generation X'ers visit the cinema, Hollywood is very interested in the disposable income of those in their late teens and early 20s. These things are very commonly known. These facts have lead me to a theory. I believe that the powers that be in Hollywood will look at ideas from older movies, calculate the odds that the younger viewers would have seen these movies, and then estimate whether or not that audience will think that the film is original. This explains why we see younger filmgoers and critics falling other themselves to praise movies which reek of earlier stories. This notion takes us directly to Alien: Covenant.

The spaceship Covenant is transporting 2000 colonists and a chest full of embryos to Origae-6, an Earth-like planet which will serve as a new homeworld. Walter (Michael Fassbender), an android, monitors the ship while the human crew is in hypersleep. An accident with the solar power panels necessitates that the crew awakens and a mishap at this time places Oram (Billy Crudup) in charge of the ship. While repairing the solar panels, Tennessee (Danny McBride) intercepts a bizarre signal, which is deciphered as a John Denver song. The signal is traced to another Earth-like planet, and against the objections of Daniels (Katherine Waterston), Oram decides that a landing party should investigate in hopes that they can bypass their 7-year journey and go ahead and start the colony there. Once on the planet's surface, two crew members immediately get sick. While exploring, the group finds an odd structure, which is inhabited by David (Fassbender) who describes how he and a human companion had landed on this planet, becoming stranded. However, it soon becomes obvious that this planet is a death-trap, as bizarre creatures burst forth from the crew and begin to attack.

2012's Prometheus was an incredibly promising film, as it marked Director Ridley Scott's return to the universe which he's helped create in 1979. The trailers showed some interesting images, but, more importantly to an old school fan like myself, they featured an editing style and audio cue which echoed the original Alien trailer. The excitement quickly ended when it was revealed that Prometheus was a mess which featured unlikable characters and a story which shredded the Alien legacy instead of enhancing it. The movie was an insult to long-time fans like myself and, on top of that, simply not a good movie. Adding insult to injury, when the backlash began, those tied to the film stated that they never claimed it was an Alien prequel in the first place.

So, now we have Alien: Covenant. The word "alien" is right there in the title, so is it now safe to assume that this movie is an official Alien sequel...prequel... something? The answer is...sort of. We hear the term "by committee" a lot, but Alien: Covenant may be the ultimate example of a movie being made "by committee", where the goal was to please as many audience members as possible, no matter what the cost. First of all, the basic premise is lifted directly from Alien in which a diverse crew is awakened from hypersleep and decides to visit an unfamiliar planet in order to investigate a strange signal. I mean, it's almost exactly the same! Once on the planet -- where the crew goes outside without protective gear -- it only takes a few minutes before one of the crew is infected and only a few more minutes before a monster appears. Then, this Alien ripoff takes a sharp turn into Prometheus-town, as David appears and we are suddenly back in the world of mumbo-jumbo and how the aliens were created. The movie then comes to a screeching halt when David teaches Walter how to play the flute. Who did they think wanted to see that? The final act takes us back into "give 'em what they want"-ville as we get a black alien, not that silly white alien that we saw in Prometheus. The finale is a carbon-copy of Aliens.

As you can see, the story is a mess, which feels like a patchwork of other, better movies (not Prometheus). The characters which inhabit this world are also awful. First of all, save for Crudup, Waterston, and McBride, the others are completely indistinguishable, in both personality and task. We learn that many of these individuals are married couples, but this doesn't add anything to the story. These people are simply victims for the creatures. We are told on at least three occasions that Oram is a man of faith...and then nothing is done with this. And as for Walter and David...well, they both drone on and are incredibly boring.

Despite the fact that Ridley Scott is at the helm, Alien: Covenant is the cinematic equivalent of hearing your favorite band's hits performed by a cover group. All of the familiar elements are here, but they are presented in such a flat, pedestrian, and uninspired way that it's difficult to care. Again, younger viewers may not recognized the various elements here, but, trust me, most of the movie is lifted from other films. This is further proof that Scott needs to retire and another black eye for a once great franchise. Skip Alien: Covenant and watch Life and Passengers back-to-back. They contain similar stories, but are much better movies.

Alien: Covenant has a cameo by someone who isn't in the movie on 4K UHD courtesy of 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment. The film has been letterboxed at 2.35:1 and the Disc contains an HEVC 2160p HD transfer which runs at an average of 45 Mbps. The image is very sharp and clear, showing no obvious grain and no defects from the source materials. The transfer is nicely balanced, as the darker scenes look just as good as the brighter ones. The colors are fine, although we get few bright tones from the film. The level of detail is notable, as we can easily make out textures on objects. Also notable is the depth, in which the actors are clearly separated from the backgrounds. The Disc carries a Dolby Atmos audio track which runs at 48 kHz and an average of 6.5 Mbps. The track provides clear dialogue and sound effects. This is an impressive track which delivers detailed surround sound and stereo effects during the action sequences. We get individual noises coming from the front and rear channels. The subwoofer provides smooth bass from the spaceship sounds.

The lone extra on the Alien: Covenant 4K UHD is an AUDIO COMMENTARY from Director Ridley Scott. The remainder of the extras are found on the Blu-ray Disc which comes in this set. We start with twelve DELETED AND EXTENDED SCENES which run about 18 minutes. These are mostly incidental moments with no new characters or subplots, but we do get an additional scene with one of the weirdest cameos ever. "USCSS Covenant" is comprised of three segments. "Meet Walter" (2 minutes) plays like a deleted scene in which Walter is created. "Phobos" (9 minutes) is another long deleted-scene like sequence which shows the crew being tested for their flight. "The Last Supper" (5 minutes) is a deleted scene which shows the crew preparing for hypersleep. "Sector 87 - Planet 4" is also made up of thee segments. "The Crossing" (3 minutes) is a brief scene which bridges this movie with Prometheus. "Advent" (7 minutes) is another sequence which explains what happened to David. "David's Illustrations" is a still gallery with various drawings showing the aliens and other things. "Master Class: Ridley Scott" (56 minutes) is a four-part making-of featurette which takes us on-set to see the movie being made. As the title would imply, we hear a lot from the director, as he describes the shift from film-to-film in the series. We then get a detailed look at the production, including the characters, the visual effects, and the on-location shooting. The extras are rounded out by a "Production Gallery" and two THEATRICAL TRAILERS.

Review Copyright 2017 by Mike Long