“The Covenant”

I’m really not that discerning when it comes to movies. It’s only a two-hour investment, and doesn’t take as much concentration as a book, so I don’t need a movie to be amazing or technically well-put-together in order to enjoy it. This is why I review books and not movies. Other folks will talk about the horrid dialogue and plot development in, say, “Pulse,” and I’m going, “I thought it was fun.” They’ll gripe about the accuracy in “X-Men 3” and I’m saying, “but… it was fun.” I’m just not a movie reviewer. Occasionally I’ll see something that’s so bad even I can’t stand to watch it, like “Detour” (also called “Cannibal Detour”), but that’s a really rare occurrence.

That said, I do have to say a few words about “The Covenant,” which I saw yesterday. I can now understand why it vanished so quickly from the theatre listings. I wouldn’t bother saying anything except that it had potential, and there’s little I regret more when it comes to a work of fiction than wasted potential. Some of the acting was good. Some of the characters broke type expectations in really nice ways. Some of the concepts were really nifty. However, wow, did the movie break down beyond that. I guess it was obvious even to me because in general these were issues of writing, which are more obvious to me than, say, camerawork or directing.

The Dialogue: Oh god, the bad guy had THE worst dialogue ever. I haven’t heard such horrid cheesy villain dialogue in a supposedly non-cheesy movie in a long time. Wow. It was painful to listen to. Much of the rest of it was pretty bad too. Dialogue was a SERIOUS weak point in this movie.

The Power-as-Drug Motif: Okay, the power-as-drug motif is well-established enough that a few hints are all it takes to give us the idea. Really. We do NOT need to be hit over the head with it, over and over again, with a telephone pole masquerading as a plot bludgeon. Yowza. The main characters even called the use of their powers simply “using”. I was honestly embarrassed for the writing at that point it was so painful.

The Characters: The characters are both the strong and weak points of the movie. The bad guy is a completely one-dimensional caricature. There are side-characters that get introduced as though they’ll be relevant, but then we never really see anything done with them. One of the supposed main-character “sons of Ipswich” is used so little that I can’t even remember his name or personality, much less anything he might have done in the movie. Yet there are glimmers of some interesting personalities in these characters, and that’s part of why I’m frustrated with this movie. The premise could have yielded a fascinating story, and some of the characters had so much potential, but it all got squandered.

The Climactic Battle: Wow, how can I count the number of ways in which the climactic battle failed to live up to any promise the movie might have had?

  • It’s obvious from even before the fight starts how it will end and why. There’s never any doubt or tension.
  • Sarah, who has been more-or-less the point of view character for much of the movie, spent the ENTIRE climax unaware and passive. I kept waiting for her to wake up and do something relevant and useful, and got very frustrated by the fact that she didn’t. She was a strong and interesting character, and she got dropped at the side of the road for the finale.
  • The form the final battle took was anti-climactic. Here you have these folks who wield incredible power and cast “spells.” They’re descended from some of the families accused of witchcraft in the colony days. So what do they do? They just toss balls of force at each other and blow things up like random super-heroes out of another genre entirely. The battle stripped the plot of any genre-appropriate spookiness it might have had and turned it into a generic superhero/supervillain fight.

There were various little details here and there that didn’t add up (for instance, I’m generally willing to suspend disbelief when accepting older actors playing younger characters, but even I couldn’t buy these guys as high school-aged students), but that’s clean-up work that gets done after the big stuff gets worked out. Since the big things didn’t even get dealt with, it seems pointless to worry about the little ones.

The sad part is, this could have been a really nifty movie, and now, because it got released in this condition, it never will be.

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