Alien: Covenant featured

'Alien: Covenant' Film Review: Everything old is new (and kinda scary) again

May 19, 2017Ben Mk



   
It's rare enough for a filmmaker to have one seminal movie attributed to their name, let alone multiple; but in the case of Ridley Scott, the odds appear to be in his favor. As the director behind both Alien and Blade Runner, Scott is in the unique position to have helmed two of the sci-fi genre's most unforgettable films. Now, with Alien: Covenant, he returns to the universe he helped create nearly four decades ago.

Of course, a lot has happened in that universe since 1979. James Cameron adapted Scott's vision and reframed it as an action/sci-fi epic with Aliens; David Fincher gave it a prison-themed makeover with Alien 3; and Jean-Pierre Jeunet added clones to the mix with Alien: Resurrection. Then came the dark days of the ill-received crossovers with the Predator series, and even Scott's own followup, 2012's Prometheus, which ended up dividing longtime Xenomorph fans. Can Alien: Covenant restore the franchise's potential and salvage its good name?

Both a sequel to Prometheus and a prequel to Alien, the story follows the USCSS Covenant, a colonization vessel transporting 15 crew, 2,000 colonists and 1,140 human embryos to a new life on the distant planet Origae-6. Partway through its 7-year journey, however, the ship runs into trouble, leading its captain (Billy Crudup) to make an impromptu detour on a seemingly habitable world. Unfortunately, the situation isn't nearly as hospitable as he surmises — as Prometheus' sole human survivor, Dr. Elizabeth Shaw (Noomi Rapace), has already discovered.

Needless to say, many of the movie's characters (played by such actors as Danny McBride, Carmen Ejogo, Demián Bichir and Amy Seimetz) don't survive long enough for viewers to develop any meaningful attachment to them. One of the few exceptions to this rule is Katherine Waterston's character, Daniels, who acts as the audience's eyes and ears into the body horrors that befall the Covenant's crew, a role she shares with Walter (Michael Fassbender), the ship's steadfast "synthetic." Together, they're effectively Covenant's version of Aliens' Ripley and Bishop.

The script by John Logan and Dante Harper also sees Fassbender reprising his role as Prometheus' David, and the dichotomy between the two androids — one a "new and improved" version of the other — quickly makes itself evident, extending well beyond the many nuances Fassbender employs to differentiate his two performances. Walter and David may be visually indiscernible, but their motives run completely counter to one another. One was made to serve, while the other longs to rule, and it's out of this clash that the movie's central conflict is born.

Speaking of conflict, Alien fans will be pleased to know that, although the film continues to explore and expand upon the philosophical themes of its predecessor, it also doesn't shy away from the bloody, alien-on-human carnage associated with the franchise's first four entries. Moviegoers were given a mere tease of this in Prometheus, but it's a relief to report that Scott has followed through on that here, populating Covenant with Xenomorphs, Facehuggers and Chestbursters, not to mention a creepy, new variant on the iconic monster, dubbed the Neomorph.

So, how does it all stack up in the grand scheme of things? The answer may depend on how much you enjoyed Scott's previous Alien prequel; for while Alien: Covenant is certainly a step up from Prometheus, it nonetheless remains beholden to it, trading some of its space-horror aspects in favor of scenes of existential questioning and good old-fashioned world-building. That said, if your measure of how Alien-ey the movie is hinges on whether or not its climax features stuff getting sucked out of an airlock, then you're in for a thrilling time indeed.


Alien: Covenant releases May 19th, 2017 from 20th Century Fox. The film has an MPAA rating of R for sci-fi violence, bloody images, language and some sexuality/nudity. Its runtime is 2 Hrs. 2 Mins.








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