By Matthew Woodward
When watching the new Renny Harlin flick “The Covenant”, one has to ask themselves “Am I at a movie theatre, or did I just turn on the Saturday Night Sci-Fi Channel movie?”
Ipswitch, Mass. was founded in the 1600’s by five families who fled England because of their mystical pagan powers. The Putman’s were thought to have been killed off in during the Salem witch trials. Now, in 2006, the four male descendents of the remaining families are developing their magical powers, with the leader, Caleb Danvers (Steven Strait), reaching the full maturation of his powers on his 18th birthday. The families formed this covenant to keep each other in check, as the powers drain the life force of those using it. The long lost heir of the Putman family comes back into town to take all the powers for himself.
I found three metaphors in the film: puberty (get the powers at 13 years old, with full maturation at 18), drugs (the powers are addicting and slowly kill you) and to a lesser extent homosexuality (“my adoptive father caught me using magic when I was 15, and we kept it quiet”). All three were obvious, yet an attempt was still made to obscure them.
The lore and mythology was presented in an un-convoluted way. It’s easy to follow and straightforward. So there’s nothing inherently wrong with it. It’s just simplistic and derivative, with nothing to really get excited about. You could almost figure it out without having even seen the movie.
Harlin seems to have taken a cue from MTV in making this film, adopting the philosophy of “Laguna Beach” that everyone in your high school just got back from a Teen People photo shoot. He must have cast models, as there isn’t a shred of acting talent in the entire young cast. At the end of the film I was wondering if I had seen a film comprised entirely of cut footage and rehearsal shots. I was left with the distinct impression that just off camera was a stagehand holding a stack of cue cards for the cast to read from.
And the camera work was straight out of the late 80’s to early 90’s music video library. Half of it looked like a schlock Ozzy Osbourne video, the other half resembled Madonna’s “Like a Prayer.” This kind of filmmaking is completely unappealing. I understand that the core audience is probably 13-18 year old girls, and they most likely find that sort of filmmaking wondrous and spellbinding. Unfortunately for Harlin, and myself, 13-18 year old girls aren’t the only ones who see films. There’s a whole world of intense filmmaking techniques out there that would have made this film more enjoyable and pleasing to the eye. I know. I’ve seen it. Many have developed and mastered these techniques. But Harlin, no matter how much of a seasoned veteran he is, is making mistakes and “artistic choices” that reek of rookie director.
Not to mention the end fight scene seemed taken punch for punch from the Saruman/Gandalf fight in “Lord of the Rings” or Harry/Voldemort fight in “Harry Potter”. I could go on and on about how this reeks of un-originality: “The Craft” with dudes or “The Lost Boys” with witches.
Half a Star