Alien: Covenant (2017)

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This will be the sixth time we get to see a xenomorph explode from a human chest after using the human host as baby gruel (eighth if you include the Alien vs Predator abominations). In the world of narratives, the shock value depreciates like the value of cars, but there is still a tingling thrill if the story is well-told. After the ponderous top-heavy Prometheus (2012), it is nice to see Ridley Scott serving up a back-to-basics Alien entry that has many fan-nods to his 1979 sci-fi-action-horror classic Alien.

Some years after the events of Prometheus, the ship Covenant, loaded with the hibernating bodies of settlers, is en route to colonise another planet. A tragedy forces the crew – Daniels (Katherine Waterson), Oram (Billy Crudup), Tennessee (Danny McBride), Lope (Demian Bichir), Karine (Carmen Ejogo), the android Walter (Michael Fassbender) and others – to make an emergency landing on an uncharted planet, where they uncover a threat beyond their imagination, they must attempt a harrowing escape.

Tell me the plot doesn’t resemble Alien. These days movie franchises like to reboot itself by making a “new” film, case in point being Star Wars: The Force Awakens. This is not necessarily a bad move because it gets to keep the old fans and new ones to the franchise happy. Frankly, after being weighed down by all the lofty God and Creator ideas in Prometheus, we are due for some let’s-kill-em-all balls-to-the-wall action.

Alien: Covenant is definitely a piece of effective sci-fi-horror gut-bucket filmmaking and IMHO Ridley Scott hits the mark (not the bullseye though). Sure, the characters are hackneyed and are largely cannon fodder for the aliens. Sure, the world may be different but the actions of the crew are the same. But at least none of them does dumb things like yakking cringe-y lines to a baby alien like it is a puppy and getting crushed by a giant rolling croissant (here’s looking at you, Charlize Theron). That said, the crew of Covenant, especially the captain, are still gullible, but I can forgive that for the matter of storytelling.

The action set-pieces are well-staged and have the right amount of freshness and yet could harken me back the classic, like the flushing out of the alien onboard the ship and the closing of the hatches after them. That gave me goosebumps of the good kind. Daniels (Katherine Waterson) is no Ripley (Sigourney Weaver), but still she channels a compelling yet softer edge. But the movie is really a Michael Fassbender show whose performance is sinewy and spine-chilling. He plays dual roles here with the right amount of distinguishing traits – rigid upper body, posture, speech patterns, menace-laced dialogue – with finesse and aplomb.

Ridley Scott has come out tops through an ocean of guts and gore, and he has reminded me how much I love the first two Alien entries. I like Covenant, but don’t love it, and this one easily slips into third place. Scott has successfully answered the questions proffered in Prometheus and got my senses up to ultra-wary levels for the next one.

 

3.5 / 5

The following are two prologue scenes that should be seen before you see Alien: Covenant.

The Crossing… the fate (not the ultimate fate) of Elizabeth Shaw (Noomi Rapace) after Prometheus.

Last Supper… I like this one because of the foreshadowing.

 

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