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Alien: Covenant - Movie Review

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Alien: Covenant - Movie Review

3 starsThough it took nearly 40 years, the Alien franchise has come full circle with the release of the latest chapter in the saga, Alien: Covenant, a film which picks up some ten years after 2014’s Prometheus and acts as a direct prequel to 1979’s original.

That’s right, four decades after director Ridley Scott burst onto the scene and scared our pants off with an ungodly creature that hugged faces and burst from chests, the filmmaker has pulled the franchise from the brink of disaster (remember those horrid Alien/Predator debacles in the early aughts?) to a position of modern-day relevance in the world of science fiction filmmaking.

Though Covenant doesn’t necessarily break any new ground with regard to the story or the way in which it is told, it does represent a new starting point in the franchise and – fingers crossed – should stand as a solid base upon which to build and explore new territory. Plus, it’s just a beautifully photographed piece of art that doubles as a visual canonization to H.R Giger, the artist who inspired the look and feel (and in some ways, the sound) of the franchise.

Much in the same way that J.J. Abrams found success with The Force Awakens, Scott plays to the built-in sentimentality of a rabid fanbase hoping to relive the dream by bringing us more of the same stuff we miss from the original. In Covenant, back are the iconic face huggers and chest bursters. In fact, we revisit that horrific means of death over and over. It’s as if Scott caved to the demands of the studio suits who wanted “more face huggers and chest bursters.” Yes, it’s gruesome and well deserving of its hard R rating. And yes, it makes for an eye-coveringly effective way to die. But we’ve seen it all before.

If there’s anything to knock about Covenant, it’s that it is too much like the original. Though I will apologize until the day I die for Prometheus, many franchise fans hoping for ass-kicking sci-fi action and more straightforward storytelling were disappointed by the 2014 film. Personally, I felt it was more in line with where the franchise should go with its exploration of grand science-fiction themes and ground-breaking visual effects. But alas, here we are with Covenant, a solid and frightening alien film that, even when removed from its greater Alien oeuvre, is enough to command an unapologetic recommend.

The Covenant is an interstellar ship carrying a crew and some 2000 souls to a remote planet on the far side of the galaxy where the settlers hope to set up and establish a new outpost for humanity. All but a synthetic being named Walter are in a deep hyper-sleep until the ship is hit with a devastating stellar ignition that destroys the vessel’s solar panels, kills many of the ships crew and sleeping inhabitants, and throws the mission off course.

Soon after, the crew recognizes a series of mysterious human-like bits of communication that appear to be emanating from a nearby habitable planet. In defiance of warnings from fellow crew members, the newly-appointed captain (Billy Crudup) steers the ship towards the new planet, but has unknowingly guided it directly into danger.

What’s left of the crew, led by Katherine Waterston’s Daniels (Scott’s gender-neutral characters continue), encounter a whole host of deadly creatures and tiny critters on the planet that turns out to be anything but hospitable.

But the biggest villain, we learn, is David (Michael Fassbender), a synthetic that many will remember from Prometheus. He’s been biding his time on the planet for the last ten years, and has somehow short-circuited his wiring and unleashed his own version of God upon the planet. You have to see it, to understand. The scenes that feature Fassbender’s David and Walter playing against one another are among the film’s best and are nothing short of genius.

Alien: Covenant is a strikingly beautiful film and truly haunting on a guttural level. But it is also, at times, a bit incoherent and overly complicated as it tries to answer too many questions that we didn’t even know were questions. But it’s good to see the franchise get back on track. Now that the groundwork for a franchise resurgence has been laid, it is time to take this thing to new places and examine unexplored ideas in the certain-to-come, prequels, sequels, or trilogies.

Alien: Covenant - Movie Review

MPAA Rating: R for sci-fi violence, bloody images, language and some sexuality/nudity.
Runtime:
122 mins
Director
: Ridley Scott
Writer:
John Logan and Dante Harper
Cast:
Michael Fassbender, Katherine Waterston, Billy Crudup
Genre
: Horror | sci-fi
Tagline:
Scream.
Memorable Movie Quote: "We don't leave Earth to be safe."
Theatrical Distributor:
Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation
Official Site: http://www.foxmovies.com/movies/alien-covenant
Release Date:
May 19, 2017
DVD/Blu-ray Release Date:
No details available.
Synopsis: Ridley Scott returns to the universe he created, with ALIEN: COVENANT, a new chapter in his groundbreaking ALIEN franchise. 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, but is actually a dark, dangerous world. When they uncover a threat beyond their imagination, they must attempt a harrowing escape.

No details available.

Alien: Covenant - Movie Review

 

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