Update on the Magic Lantern: The theater will continue running its current lineup — "A Quiet Passion," "David Lynch: The Art of Life," "The Zookeeper's Wife," "The Lost City of Z" — and will add the second-run pickup "Their Finest" on Friday.
That's today's news. Now for something somewhat different: a commentary on "Alien: Covenant." (Attention: spoilers ahead.)
First, I watched it at The Odeon, a classic, art-deco theater in the heart of Florence, Italy. Though the floor isn’t raked, the seats are old-school plush and they offer a good view of the raised screen.
And nothing quite beats watching a film in Italy, which typically feature an Intervallo, or intermission, which comes roughly in the middle of the film and gives you time to hit the restroom or purchase a refreshing beverage. At The Odeon, that includes what my wife calls the most delicious gin and tonic served in the city.
Oh, and did I say the screening allows you to practice your Italian, since the original-language production carries Italian subtitles?
I admit, those last two traits of the Odeon don’t much aid your efforts at film appreciation. But in the case of “Alien: Covenant,” I’m not sure it mattered all that much.
Not that I didn’t like the film. I just didn’t like everything about it.
First, let’s make this clear: “Alien: Covenant” is an improvement on its immediate predecessor “Prometheus,” which posed so many questions that I left the theater more confused than disappointed.
In fact, “Alien: Covenant” – which, again, was directed by Ridley Scott, this time from a script by John Logan (“Gladiator”) and Dante Harper – goes a way toward answering some of the questions posed by “Prometheus,” especially when paired with the "prologue" (see embed below). Then, though, it poses more that, presumably, we’ll have to wait for the proposed sequel (or sequels) to answer.
And those further additions to the series are, apparently, coming. Scott – who directed the first (and arguably best) film in the series, 1979’s “Alien” – reportedly told The Sydney Morning Herald, “If you really want a franchise, I can keep cranking it for another six. I'm not going to close it down again. No way."
Second, the special effects of “Alien: Covenant” are astounding. From capturing the interior of the spaceship in which our hardy crew is traveling, to portraying both space walks and the obligatory births of the murderous alien creatures, Scott’s crews of computer-graphic nerds have created effects that feel more real than actual reality.
And, third, the acting is uniformly good, whether we’re talking about Katherine Waterston, who is this film’s pale version of Sigourney Weaver’s Ripley, Billy Crudup as a rather weak-kneed substitute captain, or Danny McBride doing a rare serious turn.
The film overall, though, belongs to Michael Fassbender, who plays a dual role as twin androids, Walter and David. Fassbender is one of those actors who could make reading the dictionary seem interesting, and he makes his two characters – different versions of the same AI system – feel as different as an iPhone and a Samsung Galaxy 7: one being all business and the other prone to catching fire (if only virtually).
All that said, most of the human characters – especially those mentioned – make some of the most moronic decisions in the history of film. From falling for the same trap that lured Ripley and crew to a strange world, to exploring that seemingly friendly world without the safety of space suits, to splitting up so that they can get picked off one by one, to risking everything (and everyone) to save a couple of already-doomed souls … well, the fatal mistakes seem endless.
And by fatal, I mean the same old alien versus human finale in which humans, for the most part, fail miserably.
OK, so I know everyone has an opinion. The Internet is full of suggestions, etc. But it looks as if we’re going to have to wait at least a couple of years to get the final answers to the overall questions, which include: Who is behind all this? What part did the Weyland corporation play in what happens? Are David and Walter modern Frankenstein monsters who will, one day, kill their creators?
And so on. As for that last question, it looks as if the answer is yes. And considering just how stupid this particular crew acts, who can blame them?
Below: The "prologue" to "Alien: Covenant" was released some three weeks before the full film's release. It acts as a bridge between that film and its prequel, "Prometheus."