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Dan's Review: Few surprises in "Alien: Covenant"

May 18, 2017 04:45PM ● Published by Dan Metcalf

Katherine Waterston in Alien: Covenant - © 20th Century Fox

Alien: Covenant (20th Century Fox)

Rated R for sci-fi violence, bloody images, language and some sexuality/nudity.

Starring Michael Fassbender, Katherine Waterston, Billy Crudup, Danny McBride, Demián Bichir, Carmen Ejogo, Amy Seimetz, Jussie Smollett, Callie Hernandez, Nathaniel Dean, Alexander England, Benjamin Rigby, James Franco, Tess Haubrich, Uli Latukefu, Javier Botet.

Written by John Logan, Dante Harper, Jack Paglen and Michael Green.

Directed by Ridley Scott.

GRADE: B+

REVIEW:

A funny thing happened when Titanic was released in 1997. Everyone knew the ship was doomed, but went to see the movie anyway. The same could be said for any spaceship involved in the Alien franchise, yet we keep on marching to the theater to see which idiot is going to stick his head over one of those eggs with the face-sucking spider inside, ready to impregnate them with a little monster in their abdomen. So, here comes Alien: Covenant, the second film in Ridley Scott’s new trilogy (following 2012’s Prometheus). It’s actually Scott’s third film in the series, since he helmed the original Alien film in 1979, consequently leaving the franchise in the hands of folks like James Cameron (1986’s Aliens), David Fincher (1992’s Alien 3) and Joss Whedon (writer for 1997’s Alien: Resurrection), with varying levels of success. Does Alien: Covenant have enough surprises in store to keep the franchise going?

The story picks up 10 years after the events of Prometheus, with the voyage of the spaceship Covenant, transporting a cargo of thousands of settlers in hibernation, along with a small crew. The ship’s mission is to inhabit a new-found planet (because Earth is SO awful a few hundred years from now) and populate it as a new human colony. During the trip, the ship encounters a radiation storm that wakes up the crew, with the assistance of the android Walter (Michael Fassbender, who also plays Android David from Prometheus). During the “wake-up,” some crew members are killed (including their commander Jake Branson, played by James Franco). While fixing their disabled ship, the crew picks up a rogue signal from a nearby planet, and the new commander-by-default Oram (Billy Crudup) makes the executive decision to explore and perhaps settle that planet instead of the intended destination. Oram’s decision is challenged by Jake’s widow “Dany” (Katherine Waterston), the crew’s biologist. A crew (with militarized security) uses a landing craft to explore the origin of the rogue signal, as the Covenant maintains orbit. The landing crew soon encounters Android David, the only survivor from Prometheus, which crash landed on the planet after the debacle from 10 years prior. The crew learns that the only human survivor, Dr. Elizabeth Shaw (Noomi Repace) did not live much longer after escaping the events in the previous film and that David has been conducting experiments on the planets “engineer” population, using the alien genome he found 10 years ago. Most of the Covenant landing crew is infected by the alien DNA or killed by the alien monsters that reproduce from their coupling. The landing craft is also destroyed, prompting the remaining Covenant crew to mount a rescue. The rescue craft is piloted by Tennessee (Danny McBride), who must hurry to save what remains of the landing party, including Dany, Walter, and Sgt. Lope (Demián Bichir). After an intense battle with an alien, the survivors reach the Covenant and soon discover that they are not alone. Dany and Tennessee must use their wits and intellect to rid themselves of the monster. For a brief moment, it seems they succeed, but can you be sure?

Alien: Covenant has everything you’d expect from the Alien franchise, including suspense, drama, action and incredible monster special effects. Then again, these familiar elements might seem a little too familiar. In simpler terms, you’ve seen all of it before, including a strong female lead (Ripley/Dany), a duplicitous android (David/Ash), a military attachment (Lope/Apone) and a hidden scheme to experiment with the alien. Taking things further, Alien: Covenant comes across as a mash-up of the Ridley Scott versions (Alien, Prometheus) and James Cameron’s Aliens.

Waterston has enough clout to carry the leading role, while Fassbender does a great job playing two versions of the same android, complete with different accents. The rest of the complimentary cast is adequate, and perhaps only interesting enough to be alien fodder, with the exception of McBride as the lovable folksy character deserving of survival.     

Being formulaic can be good if the formula works, and bad if it seems a little overused. Alien: Covenant falls somewhere in between, so it’s worth checking out, even if you already know one those face-hugging spiders is going to spring out of a gooey egg.

Alien: Covenant earns its R rating, with plenty of gore, violence and a little sex (involving an alien encounter, of course) so please leave the kids at home.


Alien: Covenant Trailer

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