Alien Covenant, take another trip with the Alien franchise

Alien Covenant | Dir Ridley Scott | ★★★½ | In Cinemas Now

Director Ridley Scott delivers a sequel to a prequel with Alien Covenant. The director of Alien and Prometheus latest installment of the long running franchise ‘joins the dots’ between his previous work, and echoes the theses and visuals of the many films in the series.   

Scott directed the original Alien movie in 1979 and it was a groundbreaking, genre defining piece of work. It made a star out of lead actress Sigourney Weaver, who created a powerful and memorable character in Ellen Ripley. It’s highlighted as a moment that showed that an action movie could have a strong female protagonist and be a box office hit.

While other directors, including James Cameron, David Fincher and  Jean-Pierre Jeunet, created the follow ups to the original movie, Scott only returned to the franchise with 2012’s Prometheus. It’s a film that was set in the same universe as the other Alien films and the beginning of the story of how the terrifying chest-bursting creatures came to exist. With Alien Covenant Scott connects Prometheus to his earlier work.

The film begins on board the Covenant, a ship travelling across space taking a small crew and thousands of frozen colonists and embryos to a new world. They’re all suspended in animation for the decades long journey to a new planet.

A energy flare damages the ship, and the crew is woken by synthetic android Walter. Walter is played by Michael Fassbender, who portrayed David, the android in Prometheus.

The captain is killed. Leaving his wife Daniels, a terraforming expert, distraught and shocked. Daniels, played by Katherine Waterston, has short hair and wears a lot of tank tops, echoing previous characters in the franchise including Aliens’ Ellen Ripley and Prometheus’ protagonist Elizabeth Shaw.

As the crew make repairs to the ship they discover signal from a nearby planet. The planet appears to have the perfect conditions for establishing a new colony. It’s just a few weeks away, and rather than go back into suspended animation for another 7 years, they decide to check it out.

While the Covenant stays in orbit above the planet, a landing party descend to the surface to explore the new world. They discover a crashed spaceship and inadvertently a crew member is infected by an alien contagion and once again a series of horrifying and gruesome events begins.

Alien Covenant is not a genre defining film like earlier film in the series, but it’s a fun and enjoyable movie packed with great performances, stunning visual effects and moments that will make you jump out of your seat or peek through your fingers.

It draws heavily on moments that have become part of the cultural milieu, the film is littered with moments that we’ve seen before. Chest bursting, face hugging moments.

The film also has some pretty clear themes about ethics, creation and the value of life, and at times these feel a little heavy handed.

While there’s no classic lines like “Get away from her you bitch”, Michael Fassbender does deliver a giant clunker of a phrase that had the audience in stitches, “I’ll do the fingering” was probably not taken the way it was intended.

What is disappointing in the film is Waterston’s character Daniels appears just to be a shallow copy of previous heroines. Isn’t there another version of a strong female character? Couldn’t we have a little originality?

You don’t need to have watched Prometheus to enjoy this film, but reading it’s plot synopsis on Wikipedia would probably be advised. Ultimately Alien Covenant is a big sci-fi blockbuster than allows to take another ride on a trip we know well.

Graeme Watson



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