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“Alien: Covenant” disappoints on many levels

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As I left the theater, I honestly gave a small giggle. Once I got into my car, the giggle became a laugh. Then, as I drove to my house, the laughter just couldn’t stop. I couldn’t believe how absurd and dumbfounded this feature was that I found myself laughing in mockery over what strange choices director Ridley Scott took. At least when “Prometheus” came out, Scott had the upper hand in starting a fresh timeline. My theory is thanks to those who complained about the unhinging questions and mysteries from that movie, we ended up with “Alien: Covenant.” A film meant to pacifier fans who complained about Scott’s prequel. Instead, I feel those pacifiers have been rejected in the process.

I should point out another film would have taken place after “Prometheus” called “Paradise Lost” and I was rather intrigued to see where it would lead. From what I recall, unless its the “Mandela Effect” kicking in, we would have seen Elizabeth Shaw’s character visit the Engineer world and seek her questions of why this and that. Either that concept was tossed when writer Damon Lindelof left or Scott had alternate plans. After all, he did say there would be no xenomorphs in the next feature and then contradicted himself by saying they would have aliens of a similar breed. Honestly, I’d rather get my opinion out of the way now considering how confusing it is to look into the behind the scenes stuff already.

The plot is very close, if not, and somewhat similar to the first “Alien” movie. A group of people get a distress call and go to investigate, they find a strange stuff there, one of the members gets attacked by a creature that impregnates him with an alien and so forth. Scott tries to rectify that by doing some new stuff like introducing the ship’s crew in the midst of an action scene. But when casualties happen, like one of the scientists die in the wreckage, we feel little to no empathy because we just met these people. In previous movies, at least we had time and development in understanding who we are with. Here, I could care less.

The spacecraft named Covenant holds a crew on a mission for colonization. That means, we spent with couples instead of scientists. Even when the crew of Prometheus was doing things like taking helmets off in oxygen laden alien ships, I wouldn’t mind it too much because they were observers and examining things. Here, when I see normal people walk around on an alien planet without something crucial as a space helmet, it begs the question if they really think they got a chance at living or have a death wish. And when your characters are so dumb enough to a point they slip on bloody floors or shoot alien creatures inside a ship near explosive equipment, it gets irritating to wonder if anyone has any brains. Even the Robinson Family on the “Lost In Space” series knew much better than these people.

I can’t remember a single character that was memorable or did anything significant. Sure, Katherine Waterston’s character is given this Ripley-style arch where they place her in the background and build her up, but it doesn’t work. All we know to her character is that she is suffering from a loss and you don’t feel the building emotion of her recovering once her big action scene kicks in. Most of these crew members feel like the red shirts you would see on Star Trek. The minute you see them, you know someone is going to act dumb and die from their consequences. Even the captain is so miffed that what happens to him later on is so baffling that it makes you think why would anyone make such poor choices.

So is there anything worth sparing? For one, Michael Fassbender has proven to be very unique to this “prequel” trilogy. He does double duty as android Walter who seeks to serve the crew and android David who plans to one up mankind in his own right. Being a fan of Blade Runner, there is a running theme of creation vs. creator that is reflected here. Instead of creation asking for something impossible to achieve, it seeks to outdo creator by means of making something in his own image. It is here the character of David is brought to creepy levels that overpower those of HAL 9000. The idea if he is created in the most perfect way possible and wishes to let humanity die on its imperfect nature. A typical trope but it’s helped with the character of Walter who is complete opposite and let nature take its course.

Even if I said most of the crew are forgettable, Danny McBride is surprisingly engaging here. His character Tennessee is more laid back and less manic compared to his other comedic roles. McBride tries to channel his actions like he is the next Kurt Russell when it comes to overpowering computer restrictions and comes handy in key action scenes near the end. Considering how I’m used to seeing him in raunchy comedies, I’m very speechless to see how great his acting is here. When he looses someone dear, we see him react in broken manner that shows how much he is giving it his all.

On the whole, did I completely hate this movie? For the most part, I’d say maybe the first and second acts where fine. When it was doing its own thing and trying to follow on the questions “Prometheus” left, that’s when I felt it worked. The final 20 minutes, on the other hand, try way too hard to repeat what made “Alien” so enjoyable. “Alien” was about claustrophobia and survive in the unknown space frontier. Here, all of that gets revisited in a section of the movie that could have been so easily cut out and you wouldn’t have noticed it. I won’t go into spoilers about what happens in the final third, but if you know what happens at the end of EVERY ALIEN MOVIE, then I’m certain will expect that it will go in THIS DIRECTION as well. But wait, there is a bonus twist tossed in that is sure to throw viewers for a loop but even we can see that coming a mile away.

How did one of the most unique and mysterious of features get turned into something akin to “Friday the 13th?” The beauty and sublime are replaced by trope characters repeating things that have been done light-years before. There was never a sense of dread or fear. I was never scared at all by these CGI monsters and never felt like I was on the edge of my seat during the action scenes. It’s hard for me to chalk off if Ridley Scott was giving too much freedom with the franchise or the keys to the liquor cabinet during press interviews. I feel bad for saying that because Scott is capable of doing a good movie and this shows it. There is much eye candy to behold, but the story that goes with it doesn’t match up. If 20th Century Fox is considering another installment, my best recommendation is to really overlook what has become right before they hand over the blank check budget.

Rental Corner: “The Amazing” underwhelming, overstuffed “Spider-Man 2”

They said it was big...we expected better....it was a lie just like this poster

They said it was big…we expected better….it was a lie just like this poster

There has never been a movie that had such a diverse audience than “Amazing Spider-Man 2.” When ever it came up in conversations, many were willing to praise it while others dismiss it as a fluke. This entry in the web-head franchise got such a huge backlash on its reception, that even the studio Sony is second thinking about the future entries. However, between the leaked plans that were revealed in December and after seeing this entry that my thoughts on this one didn’t surprise me. I actually felt that is worse than the first one. At least the first “Amazing Spider-Man” was a footstep into a new franchise and while I wasn’t all for the new directions, it was establishing itself. A sequel should have a chance to mend those problems behind from the first one. “Muppets Most Wanted” still shared most of the flaws of its predecessor but at least made up for it but focusing it story and humor on the Muppet characters. “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes” blew my socks off with its complex characters and smart storytelling that made Rise look soft in comparison. Even “X-Men: Days of Future Past” felt like a breath of fresh air after the lame and mediocre entries. The only thing “Amazing Spider-Man 2” proves is that its own studio doesn’t know how to grasp the idea of a franchise and not only repeats similar mistakes but (what I also feel) make bigger ones.

Andrew Garfield returns as the gawky Peter Parker whose alter-ego is a web shooting and wall crawling superhero named Spider-Man. I didn’t think Andrew was a good pick and this sequel doesn’t convince me other wise. He’s just doing what the script is telling him to do without giving air for him to establish an identity. When he’s Peter, he’s obnoxious when it comes to feuding over his Aunt May (Sally Fields) in order to avoid spilling his identity and even uninteresting. I feel that so much story is rushed that we don’t get a good understanding of his portrayal of Peter Parker. And don’t get me started about what happens when he is Spider-Man. Not only do they push the limits of his powers, but his wise-cracks and sarcasm get so old to the point I’m grinding my teeth to dust. Even a scene when he helps a kid fend off bullies feels like it was taken out of cheap PSA. Moments like that come off as forced even considering they do it again at the tail end to establish Spidy as a hero and not a menace. It just got old for me even considering this was already done in the first film.

Worse of all is when Peter is interacting with his friends and loved ones. At least give Sam Raimi some credit for developing the relationship of Peter and Harry Osborn. Here, Harry just appears out of the blue like he was meant to be established in the first film. The relationship is developed at a rush pace that we don’t even give two cents. They keep adding in exposition and talks about how they used to be best friends but I don’t feel that. We never see them do things together as friends other than share one scene and that’s it. Even later when Harry tries to get Spider-Man’s blood for some bizarre disease he has, there is no feeling of tragedy to the character. Dane DeHaan’s performance comes off as so cold that we get no human factor. He’s like a cross between a stingy Richie Rich and Donald Trump. His line delivery is some of the worse I have ever heard in a movie for a long time. Dane says his lines in a way that shows he doesn’t care. There’s no emotion or even a bit of weight. Even worse is his transformation into the Green Goblin for the end. Couldn’t do something better with the make-up? He looks like Evil Ed from Fright Night melted in the microwave with a Beavis doll. Its such a horrible design that I ended up laughing at it whenever he was on screen for the “big finale.”

Speaking of which, Emma Stone’s Gwen Stacey is a good writing 101 on how not to make a romance. Most of the critics who saw this, and viewers alike who liked or disliked, praised the romantic chemistry between Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone. To which I ask, what chemistry? For a good portion of the movie, they keep breaking up and making up to the point it becomes a drinking game. It also doesn’t help they give Peter Parker this guilt factor by having him see Gwen’s dead father every time he’s around her. Why doesn’t he talk about this to her or consult someone? No, Gwen has enough and dumps. Then reconciles just to tell Peter that she’s going to Oxford, England to a university. Then break up again and then have her help Peter stop a madman just so they have this big moment (which I can’t spoil…crud) but I get no feeling when that moment does happen. Most of their scenes are just romantic fluff that I’ve seen before to the point I could give two cents. There’s only one time Gwen helps Peter out and that’s it. Other than that, I feel nothing for the both of them.

And the best saved for last is Jamie Foxx as Electro. Oh man, did this character irritate me. Taken from Batman Forever, they pull the old nerdy and creepy engineer that gets so obsessed with his idol that it somehow causes him to get a causality and use it against the one he used to worship. Blah, blah blah. Been there, done that and smoked it. This is the man who did an great potrayle of the late Ray Charles and he is wasting his efforts going from an unfunny and (again) surprisingly creepy geek that gets turned into a blue-skinned, auto tuned villain that is dull and shows no menace. Even when they attempt to raise the stakes, it doesn’t come off as feeling threatening but rather cartoony. And while we are on the subject, what is the with the property damage in this movie? Every time Spider-Man goes against a villain, there’s so many car crashes and building damage to the point it feels like New York is getting torn to shreds. What kind of budget does this city have to fix itself over a night?

The rest of “The Amazing Spider-Man 2” I personally care for less. Its such a weightless entry that barley has a driving motive or even a solid story to go with it. I didn’t even talk about Paul Giamatti’s throwaway cameo as the Rhino, the most pointless Stan Less cameo in existence, the heavy foreshadowing and painful irony of Gewn Stacey’s big scene at the end or even one of the biggest plot holes in the movie. If Peter’s parents wanted to hide somewhere from Oscorp, why couldn’t do they it in the secret, abandoned subway tunnel instead of getting axed off in a jumbo jet? Wouldn’t it be better if they stayed there and hid among society? How hard is that when you have so much equipment to live and work off of? Stuff like that is never covered up or even given an inkling to explain. All this movie is doing is throwing so much stuff at you just to get to a bigger and explosive movie. That’s really all I get.

At least sequels like Back to the Future Part II and The Matrix Reloaded had a story and at least enough solid reasons for a third entry to exist. “Amazing Spider-Man 2” just feels like filler. And not even the enjoyable kind. Instead of focusing on expanding on Peter’s character, making a unique and tragic villain and having proper build up to what could have been a grand finale leaving for the need of a third film, all they do is use this one for their needs to build toward another one without the care that was shown in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. That took time and care to make such a grand entry who know today as “The Avengers.” Here, they are obviously rushing it to make that explosive entry than let time and care be the essence resulting in us getting a sequel that gives nothing in return. Oh, right there was something! A never-ending plug at Sony computers and products throughout the whole movie. From laptops to even a flipping Walkman, this is more of a commercial for Sony than it is for Spider-Man. This is not a sequel. This is a sell out.