2017 Awards Profile: Ridley Scott’s ‘Alien Covenant’

Welcome to the 2017 Awards Profile series, where we talk about high- and low-profile films coming to a theater near you at some point this year. We will analyze the potential for these films to be players for the Academy Awards, and while many of these have the potential to be recognized, many will not, either by quality or being pushed back to the following year. For the next few weeks, we will bring you a film every Monday and Wednesday to talk about their potential. If you have a suggestion, please include it in the comments below. If you missed a film, click on the tag or category Awards Profile.

FILM: “Alien Covenant”
PRODUCERS: David Giler, Amy Greene, Walter Hill, Mark Huffam, Michael Schaefer, Ridley Scott
DISTRIBUTOR: 20th Century Fox
DIRECTOR: Ridley Scott
WRITER: John Logan and Dante Harper (screenplay), Jack Paglen and Michael Green (story)
CAST: Katherine Waterston, Michael Fassbender, James Franco, Noomi Rapace, Guy Pearce, Carmen Ejogo, Billy Crudup, Danny McBride, Callie Hernandez, Demian Bichir, Jussie Smollett

SYNOPSIS (via iMDB): The crew of the colony ship Covenant, bound for a remote planet on the far side of the galaxy, discovers what they think is an uncharted paradise. When they uncover a threat beyond their imagination, they must attempt a harrowing escape.

WHY IT MIGHT SUCCEED: Many franchises have been virtually ignored by Oscars. While “Alien” got off to a quiet start with just two nominations, the sequel “Aliens” was rewarded in a major way. The 1986 James Cameron entry garnered seven nominations. In addition to six tech nominations, Sigourney Weaver reaped a rare acting nomination for a sic fi film. Even when the films didn’t land with critics or audiences, such as “Alien 3” or “Prometheus,” they were able to break into the Visual Effects race. This shows that Oscar voters do pay attention to this series. If the new entry is as good as the trailer suggests, they may consider it for more categories than just Visual Effects.

Director Ridley Scott currently holds three nominations for Best Director – “Thelma and Louise,” “Gladiator,” and “Black Hawk Down”. While that is an admirable number, his career is littered with many more notable works. Outside of those films, Scott was previously snubbed for classics such as “Alien” and “Blade Runner.” These films have hung around in the cultural lexicon long enough that “Blade Runner” is also getting a new entry this year. Most recently, he was thought to be a frontrunner in 2015 for “The Martian.” While the film garnered seven nominations, including Best Picture, Scott was snubbed for director. This gives the famed director another snub to add to his Oscar IOU. Another well reviewed hit could boost Scott into the director conversation.

The Oscars get a lot of flack for not honoring blockbusters. However, they have done a much better job over the past decade since they expanded the Best Picture lineup. “Avatar,” “District 9,” “Inception” and “Mad Max Fury Road” all prove that summer blockbusters have a home at the Oscars. Even better, these blockbusters fell straight in the science fiction category. The voting body has grown more accustomed to rewarding genre fare if it delivers the goods. 

WHY IT MIGHT NOT SUCCEED: The “Alien” film “Covenant” is most closely associated with “Prometheus.” Scott’s previous 2012 film was a moderate commercial success, but was met with middling praise. Oscar looked the other way and found no room for the film outside of the visual effects category. The first thing this new entry will have to do is distance itself from the elements that did not work in that film. At worst, the film may just have to settle for a lone visual effects nomination.

Best Picture may be out of reach for the series, regardless of how good this entry turns out. Cameron’s “Aliens” remains a series high, and even that was unable to crack the Best Picture lineup back in 1986. While the makeup and tastes of the Academy have changed, people might feel reluctant to see the film as a viable option if “Aliens” couldn’t crack the lineup. Sequels crack the lineup every once in a while, even when the previous entry wasn’t able to make it. “Toy Story 3” and “Mad Max Fury Road” stand as recent entries into that pantheon. However, they were hailed as new highs for their respective series. “Alien Covenant” has to blow the lid off the franchise in order for that narrative to take shape.

The year “Avatar” and “District 9” both got nominations for Best Picture was a fluke. More often than not one blockbuster sucks up the oxygen from the others. “Iron Man” would’ve had a better chance at more nominations if “The Dark Knight” hadn’t gotten all the acclaim. If any other blockbusters gain commercial and critical success, such as “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2,” “Blade Runner 2046” or “Spider-Man Homecoming,” that could dry up “Alien’s” chances.

POTENTIAL OSCAR CATEGORIES IN PLAY:

  • Motion Picture
  • Director–Ridley Scott
  • Supporting Actor–Michael Fassbender
  • Art Direction
  • Film Editing
  • Original Score
  • Sound Editing
  • Sound Mixing
  • Visual Effects

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Check out the first official set of
Year-In-Advance Oscar Predictions
and see where “Alien Covenant” ranks!