Alien: Covenant 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray Review
When an intergalactic colony ship is bound for a remote planet to start a new life, an unexpected occurrence happens damaging the ship and awakening the crew from their hypersleep chambers several years early. While the damages are fixable, they notice an indecipherable message coming from a nearby planet. Rather than head on to their heavily researched and mapped out planet where all the colonists have agreed to start a new life, the crew risks the thousands of lives to explore an unknown mystery planet because… well, because they are awake now and it’s so much closer.
This one excruciatingly bad decision creates a domino effect of many more bad decisions and cliche horror movie tropes – Someone is sick but doesn’t say anything, trusting an unknown source that has clearly already lied and killed others, consistently putting the many at risk in order to possibly save the few, and everyone generally breaking logical protocols.
ALIEN: COVENANT is the second part of Ridley Scott’s prequels to his incredibly terrifying 1979 hit ALIEN. As someone who loves and respects the franchise that created one of the most horrifying creatures ever seen on screen, I had hopeful expectations. While the first two films are easily the best, each film has brought something new to the table to enjoy… up until now.
If you can get around the reasons to explore the planet, ALIEN: COVENANT starts decently enough with a little bit of that tension created from the terror of the unknown that the series was founded on. Unfortunately, it abandons all the mystery that makes the genre great in favor of android David (Michael Fassbender) monologuing about his scientific experimentation. The film paints a rather one dimensional picture of humans weakness through their ability to love or rather their inability not to love. Every crew member is paired with their spouse, which apparently clouds all decision-making. While I respect the interesting perspective about the creation becoming the creator, ALIEN COVENANT lacks subtlety and authenticity.
The action is forgettable with zero scares and none of the stand out scenes that the franchise is known to have. No matter what your feelings of the rest of the film might be, PROMETHEUS gave us a gut-wrenching self-inflicted C-section scene that stacks up against one of the all time great squirm-inducing horror movie moments. The underwater chase scene along with all the test clones of Ripley (Sigourney Weaver) in Jean-Pierre Jeunet’s campy and gross-out ALIEN: RESURRECTION is creative and disturbing. Ripley’s iconic shaved head coming face to face with the alien’s double mouth in David Fincher’s prison set piece from ALIEN 3 is an image that has become a poster child for the franchise. The giant Queen alien rising above little Newt trapped in the water in James Cameron’s ALIENS is one of many memorable moments from one of the greatest sequels of all time. And nothing beats the first time the acid-bleeding monster punches through Kane’s (John Hurt) chest in the unforgettable dinner scene from ALIEN.
What pushes these memorable moments are the characters, which ALIEN: COVENANT lacks. Without an investing interest, the film becomes another second rate horror film. Katherine Waterston is admirable as the heroine but isn’t given much to deliver as a sympathetic avenue into the film. The rest of the crew is fairly expendable with no attachment to the characters. Danny McBride is surprisingly strong and Michael Fassbender works double duty in another excellent performance as the star of the film. James Franco appears as a distracting cameo and the talented Billy Crudup plays one of the dumber characters in the entire franchise.
The screenplay is almost self aware of its plot holes as it tries to overcompensate its problems by wedging child like excuses to convince the audience that it is perfectly plausible for these people to make these poor decisions. Among the insignificant details is a rather weak subplot about the new person in command (Crudup) not believing his crew respects him because he’s a man of faith. We know this because he says so. Ultimately, this characteristic is supposedly why he is willing to abandon the mission that they trained for. I guess everyone else follows because they are as lazy as the writing.
Those who are into the franchise will probably still want to see this one at home (Don’t buy a movie ticket) just to be ready for the next one in hopes that it will be better. You might even enjoy it as a low level science fiction film in the vain of SPECIES (there’s even a ridiculous and gratuitous shower scene). While that sort of B-level entertainment has its place, I expect more from an “Alien” motion picture.
As a long time fan of the franchise who has liked all of them in at least some aspect, I can’t help but be strongly disappointed.
ALIEN: COVENANT lacks suspense, tension, thrills, and creativity, telegraphing every step in the story and replaying everything we already know about the Facehuggers and Xenomorphs. Forgiving is relative to everything surrounding the mistake. One mistake among a pile of greatness can be forgiven and forgotten in an instant. But when one bad decision after another continues to create all the plot and movement in a story that is frankly unmemorable with an abundance of unnecessary explanation, I am giving film criticism and audiences a disservice by enabling that bad product.
The mystery of the unknown is the appeal that creates the horror, and ALIEN: COVENANT seems to be created strictly for the purpose of sabotaging that very appeal, giving away all the detail to why and how the aliens exist. Ridley Scott seems to be keen on answering too many questions that nobody asked for but fails to answer the film’s biggest one. Why is everyone in ALIEN: COVENANT so dumb?
4K ULTRA HD BLU-RAY REVIEW
Video: This video presentation is a bit of a mixed bag. Maybe I’m slightly disappointed because I was expecting to be blown away due to the fact this is a big budget summer movie directed by Ridley Scott, but I found myself wanting a bit more. This is presumably a 2K upconvert (if we trust IMDB) and ALIEN: COVENANT delivers the expected increase in detail and color depth thanks to the HDR. But in general, colors seem subdued, rendering the HDR less effective at times. I believe this is due to Scott’s style of directing and so I wouldn’t blame anything on a shoddy transfer. But for those hoping for a drastic upgrade over the Blu-ray, I’d say this isn’t it. Instead, expect to find the normal improvements.
Audio: The Dolby Atmos track is perfect for this kind of film and it definitely does not disappoint. This is an impressive audio presentation that adds to the intensity of the film.
This title was reviewed using a Samsung UBD-K8500 with a Sony XBR75X850C TV.
The 4K UHD does not contain any exclusive features, but it does include a Blu-ray of the film, which includes the following special features:
Commentary with Ridley Scott: I normally like Scott’s commentaries because I feel like I’m in a lecture hall and he’s teaching me about film. This one is no different as Scott goes on to talk about every aspect of the film. It’s clear he’s passionate about the alien franchise.
Master Class – Ridley Scott (55:25): Similar to the commentary, this is basically several featurettes following Ridley Scott as he coordinates the making of the movie, with plenty of behind the scenes footage.
USCSS Covenant and Sector 87 (25:18): I’m lumping all of these features (5 total) together because they’re kind of odd. They’re more like supplements to the film than features in the traditional sense, but not quite deleted scenes. Most of them explain more about the film or give an extended peek into the events leading up to ALIEN: COVENANT.
Deleted/Extended Scenes (17:35): Nothing too noteworthy here. I actually got ore out of the above featurettes, at least when it comes to expanding on the story.
Conceptual Art, Production Gallery, Trailers