I have a weakness for Ridley Scott’s Alien franchise, partially due to its ominous vision, but mostly because the original was so well made, everything from characters and plot to music and foley. The franchise has struggled with the basics ever since, but none as tremendously as Alien Covenant. If there was one good thing to say, it would be the revelation that the alien is, indirectly, our own creation. However even this is tainted, as the cyborg responsible only did it as revenge for having been forced to serve tea to his creator.The film is a gratuitous, gruesome mess. Lowlights abound – a floating head, aliens bursting from mouths and spines, alien eggs kept in the basement – but most depressing of all is the self-plagiarism from Ridley Scott’s other franchise, Blade Runner, stealing Roy Batty’s line, “That’s the spirit!” in the midst of yet another bland and deadly tussle. Sadly, there is no spirit here, just horror cliches and a cgi crew big enough to colonize another planet. Which they should not do.
The idea behind Ridley Scott’s The Martian could be intriguing: What if someone were to be stranded alone on a distant planet? As unoriginal as the premise is – a sci-fi staple often used countless Twilight Zone and The Outer Limits episodes – it still has the potential of the vast unknown. However that potential is quickly wasted in The Martian as it can never rise above a tedious salute to American ingenuity, what eventually becomes a mind-numbingly extended episode of MacGyver.
The script is an abomination, the Chief of NASA actually saying “…if nothing goes wrong” right before…something goes wrong. Character development is non-existent, and not a single word is invested into the psychology of being abandoned in space, excepting the long zoom-ins of everyone becoming more empathetic. It’s astounding that $108 million can be dumped into such a meaningless and vacuous project, and then go on to earn close to $600 million; Ridley Scott hoodwinked us again. Which makes me wonder when his Alien/Blade Runner credentials will finally run out.
Summer films are supposed to be good for distraction, nothing more than that; however World War Z is sewer water at best. The plot is derivative, the development tedious and, most disappointing of all, the tension non-existent. Once again, it’s all about the effects, thousands of zombies like moving ants.More disappointing is Kon-Tiki, a wonderful story by explorer Thor Heyerdahl, which is fictionalized badly with laughable changes from real life to make the characters less than they are and a stupid amount of sharks. Both of these films suffer from the disease of CGI, essentially denied the artistic magic of what to do if your shark/zombie doesn’t work.
I’ll just have to miss out on the rest of this summer fare – The Lone Ranger, Man of Steel and Elysium – and watch Jaws, Alien and Dog Day Afternoon instead.
I have always been a sucker – like a Christmas Tree – for Science Fiction films. I was insanely hyped for Prometheus (2012), Sunshine (2007) and Event Horizon (1997) and, 15 minutes after the opening credits, let down by a predictably dull and stupid story. And I expect Oblivion (2013) will be the same. However every once in a while, there are films that follow through past the set-up, that actually have a thought-out story with characters who are interesting and a plot that intrigues to the end. Here are my Top Five:
5. Planet of the Apes (1968) The costumes and sets might be dated, but the concept and characters work very well. The relationship between Taylor and Zira challenges us to this day. 4 Alien (1979) This film has everything in it, from the typical military conspiracy to grumbling union guys and, of course, the alien’s retractable punching bag jaw. Signourney Weaver’s Ripley is one of the great female leads in science fiction. 3. The Road Warrior (1981) Mad Max is a great ant-hero, and the villains have ever since been used as prototypes for the post-apocalyptic films that followed. Max’s dog provides the tragedy.2. The Man Who Fell to Earth (1976) The human – and alien – aspect is developed beautifully with some unsettling moments of alien sexuality. It is a contemplative film that makes great demands of the audience.1. Blade Runner (1982) This is at the top of many lists not only because it is a well-constructed film with a strong setting, story and cast of characters, but also because of its fidelity to the tenets of the Film Noir genre.