Alien: Covenant ** ½
Dir: Ridley Scott
Starring: Katherine Waterston, Michael Fassbender, Billy Crudup, Danny McBride
My love for the first Alien movie remains undiminished even after all these years. It’s a brilliant piece of filmmaking, an exercise in creating escalating, claustrophobic terror and it is endlessly inventive and surprising with a little bit of philosophising thrown in for good measure. Three sequels – Aliens (almost as good as the first), Alien 3 (an atmospheric but depressing misstep), and Alien Resurrection (a righting of the ship but commercially not too successful) – and most recently a prequel, Prometheus have followed over the years. But with both Prometheus and, now, Alien: Covenant (both helmed by the Ridley Scott, who also directed the original), the overwhelming feeling is that of “ho hum – haven’t we seen all of this before?”
Prometheus was more contemplative, questioning the nature of human existence, our relationship with our creator(s) and our creations (are we destined to be replaced by artificial intelligence?) but the pacing was awkward and the movie didn’t quite hang together tightly as a whole. Covenant places more emphasis on the action (but still has enough time to raise some questions about creations, creators and free will) and is a better and tighter exercise in storytelling. Yet, yet – the sense of déjà vu hangs consistently over both prequels. Both with how the alien creatures meet our heroes and emerge (ahem!) as deadly killing machines as well as the Alien franchise trope of a gutsy, gun-toting somewhat scantily clad heroine taking on the big, bad alien. Plus, Covenant has our would-be planetary colonising space-crew acting so stupidly at times (why would they step on to an alien planet without any space suits on to keep themselves safe from unknown germs or microorganisms, for instance?) that we kind of feel that they deserve their fates.
The increasing nihilism of the series is also a major downer. The events in this latest entry completely negate any hope that one may have taken from the climactic scenes of Prometheus. There are more sequels and prequels planned for the franchise but I’m not sure exactly what value they will add (except perhaps a few hundred million dollars in the bank accounts of the producers).
Cut to chase: Competently made but no surprises.
Half Girlfriend ** ½
Dir: Mohit Suri
Starring: Arjun Kapoor, Shraddha Kapoor, Vikrant Massey, Rhea Chakraborty, Seema Biswas
I wasn’t exactly bored with this adaptation of Chetan Bhagat’s novel of the same name about a Hindi-medium simpleton from Bihar’s undying ardour for an English-speaking socialite from New Delhi. However, I never quite bought all the plot connivances nor the so-called characterisation. The poor little emo rich girl with the damaged psyche and the troubled home feels hackneyed and a stereotype of latter day Hindi cinema, for instance. And our Bihari bhaiya’s failure to improve his English even one iota over three years in a top Delhi college again feels like a story-telling convenience. His so-called triumph of convincing Bill Gates (who appears in the film thanks to some CGI) to fund his mother’s school through his foundation also felt a bit hollow because the message seems to be that us desis can only solve our problems with the help of goras.
Arjun Kapoor and Shraddha Kapoor are appealing leads in the film but their characters’ travails in the movie feels more self-inflicted than anything else and the movie starts to feel a bit repetitive after a while.
Cut to chase: Half baked.
Kmumtaz1@hotmail.com; Twitter: @KhusroMumtaz
Rating system: *Not on your life ** Hardly worth the bother ** ½ Okay for a slow afternoon only *** Good enough for a look see *** ½ Recommended viewing **** Don’t miss it **** ½ Almost perfect ***** Perfection