*Spoilers, not many but if you want to go in completely cold, best not to read*
Before we get down to Alien: Covenant I want to say, yeah there’s plot-holes, caverns if you will in Prometheus and Guy Pearce as an old man was all kinds of pantomime ludicrousness but overall I was a fan. I vividly remember sitting in the cinema and welling up over how beautiful the opening shots were. It was it’s own film whilst stirring in a few dashes of what we know Alien to be.
Well, Ridley Scott returns to the film franchise that gave him his first mega hit and attempts to sate the critics of Prometheus. That means more gore, more people running around smoke filled space crafts and Alien action for your buck. Originally titled ‘Paradise Lost’, Scott seems to be going to lengths to let us know “no this is totally, definitely an Alien film”. He goes so far as to emulate the opening titles of the 1979 film (although not as impressively) and re-using music cues. As we meet the crew there is an intense sense of deja-vu; Mother, the computer system from the original is back, the crew are not scientists but workers looking after human cargo. The main bridge looks like an updated, shinier version of the original film.
These opening sequences work surprisingly well. Instead of looking like a re-tread it feels like Scott is attempting a light-reset on the series to get us back to where we need to be; meaning that there will soon be monsters hunting these folk. After receiving a jumbled beacon signal, the crew of The Covenant change course to a planet they think could be a new home for them and the colonists they carry. After a wonderfully shot jungle sequence, that would have worked for The Lost World: Jurassic Park, the horror begins as nameless crew members begin to burst from the inside by way of our beloved xenomorphs.
But much like the deadly pathogen we see flying through the air and infecting it’s human hosts so does the germs of Prometheus infect a perfectly healthy Alien: Covenant.
You can pin point the exact moment where things go from great to crap. Michael Fassbender returns as David the android. Appearing from nowhere to shoot an alien attacking the Covenant crew, dressed in an Assassin’s Creed style hood he turns away and demands “follow me”. In that exact moment the film turns from an intriguing space horror into Mortal Kombat: Annihilation.
There’s caves, etchings on walls, talk about the creation of life, David having a kung-fu fight with Walter (another android played by Fassbender, so he’s basically fighting himself). For you see David has been busy at work on the planet since landing there with Noomi Rapace’s Elizabeth Shaw some ten years ago and he’s got plans! As soon as David is introduced the film becomes a Saw-like thriller and it just feels odd.
The creatures themselves should be the primary antagonist, by all means have a Paul Reiser – Burke figure but don’t have the alien’s play second fiddle to a creepy Peter O’Toole impressionist. Speaking of the aliens; the rendering of them is truly bad in some sequences. It’s as though they’ve used the same software they did for Alien3. The insistence of carrying on David’s story from Prometheus just sucks all the haunted house horror from the film. By the time we get back on the eponymous ship for good, old fashioned killings in dark corridors the tension has completely gone. To be fair they’ve managed to make a sequel to Prometheus and prequel to Alien at the same time but the means in which it gets there is just a whole heap of “I don’t care”.
Katherine Waterston as the Ripley-esque character is fine, if a little bland, given little to do other than be upset then give looks of toughen up before going back to sad. Danny McBride handles himself well in a role which is essentially a toned down version of his usual schtick, come to think of it he might be the best part about the film. Billy Crudup’s reluctant captain doesn’t get hardly enough screentime. The most frustrating thing about Alien: Covenant is that in the set up is so well done. The table is set perfectly to be the Alien film we all want then the second act is so laughable that it ruins the rest of the film.
They say Neill Blomkamp’s Alien 5 is now dead as a project. Last week I wasn’t fussed. After seeing Alien: Covenant this makes me almost mad.
Dir: Ridley Scott
Scr: John Logan, Dante Harper
Starring: Michael Fassbender, Katherine Waterston, Billy Crudup, Danny McBride, Demian Bichir
Prd: David Giler, Walter Hill, Mark Huffman, Michael Schaefer, Ridley Scott
DOP: Dariusz Wolski
Music: Jed Kurzel
Country: USA/Australia/New Zealand/UK
Run time: 122 mins
Alien: Covenant is in cinemas from 11th May 2017.