Alien: Covenant Movie Review

Written by Ryan Holloway

Released by 20th Century Fox

Directed by Ridley Scott
Written by John Logan and Dante Harper
2017, 122 minutes, Rated 15 (UK)
Released on 12th May 2017

Starring:
Michael Fassbender as David / Walter
Katherine Waterston as Daniels
Billy Crudup as Oram
Danny McBride as Tennessee
Demián Bichir as Lope
Carmen Ejogo as Karine

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Review:

There’s no doubt that Ridley Scott’s third visit to the world he created in 1979 comes with some baggage. After two superb films, Alien and James Cameron’s bold Aliens – probably the best sequel ever made – came two very divisive sequels in the shape of David Fincher’s Alien 3 and the rather absurd Alien: Resurrection from Jean-Pierre Jeunet. Prometheus was seen by some as the film that would get the franchise back on track with the master craftsman Scott back at the helm.

Whatever your feelings on Prometheus it was certainly a risky and audacious endeavour, no facehuggers, eggs, Xenomorphs or, for the first time, Sigourney Weaver’s Ripley. Since the 2012 prequel, the franchise went into something of a gestation period, all be it a fast one. How could it continue after Prometheus with all the loose ends, unanswered questions and the inability to run sideways from a crashing engineer ship?

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When talk of an Alien 5 surfaced with some very exciting and fan friendly artwork courtesy of District 9’s Neill Blomkamp, this seemed to kick start Ridley back into action, no one was going to take his baby away from him and thus Alien: Covenant was announced and from then onwards we were bombarded with some very interesting casting, story ideas and cool imagery. Could we be in for the Alien film we all deserve and a return to the brilliance of those first two movies?

The answer is yes. For its 122 minute running time Alien: Covenant plays very much like a greatest hits, with Easter eggs, nods and some of the strongest set pieces seen in a modern horror. It's Alien, it's Aliens and, sorry haters, Prometheus, all spliced together to fully show Ridley’s intentions for the future of the franchise.

We begin in Prometheus-like fashion. Weyland (once again played by Guy Pearce in slightly less make up this time) discusses life and art with his latest creation, David (Michael Fassbender). Once this connection to the prequel is out of the way things get down to business.

It’s 2104, 10 years since the ill-fated mission of the Prometheus with David, Dr Shaw and the rest of the crew missing, presumed dead somewhere in the cosmos. Colony ship Covenant is bound for a remote planet and carrying 2000 colonists in stasis. After an accident in space, our crew made up of Ripley-light Daniels (Waterston), Walter, an upgraded android again played by Fassbender, cowboy hat wearing Tennessee (McBride) and led by captain Oram (Billy Crudrup) stumble across a scrambled signal that leads them to an uncharted paradise. If is all as it seems, this new planet would mean they could colonise earlier than anticipated instead of going back into cryo-sleep for another seven years to reach their original destination of Origae 6.

Unlike Prometheus, the Covenant crew is an instantly likeable bunch. Let’s hope the planet is everything they are hoping for... yeah right!

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Once they land, through a storm of course, (what’s a landing in an Alien movie without some unexpected and dangerous turbulence?), our team set out to check the area. The planet and its landscapes are, as you’d expect from a Ridley Scott film, stunning, every shot a luscious sensory overload.

With repairs underway on their craft, they soon discover however that literally even just setting foot on this planet is a big mistake and it’s not long before people get sick and things start bursting out of places in some of the best body-horror seen on screen for a very long time. Finish your popcorn early so you have a sick bag at the ready.

After a particularly violent encounter with one of the new creatures, the Neomorph, a grotesque but deadly killing machine, the crew is led to safety by David who has been on the planet ever since arriving with Dr Shaw.

To go into too much detail at this point would be far too spoilery. Of course, you can guess largely what will come of our good-meaning crew but make no mistake, there are twists and unexpected terrors here that Scott has brought to the screen in a way that only he can. The creature design is stunning and with the realism comes a very visceral fear of the unknown not felt in the franchise since Scott’s very own 1979 masterpiece.

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Ridley pulls out the stops and gives the fans exactly what they want and expect from a film from the Alien canon. It never feels like an apology for Prometheus, rather more an extension of that film’s ideologies with far more ‘Alien’ thrown in while also expanding on the mythos in some truly exciting and gut-wrenching ways.

Although she is no Ripley, Waterston’s Daniels is a much-needed injection of charisma, something lacking from Covenant’s predecessor. She is all action and at times pulls off stunts of heroism that would make even Ripley feel motion sick. McBride too, playing against type, is a much-needed boost, his character is highly watchable and along with Waterston, they make a great team that you will be desperate to see survive the mayhem.

But for all their good work this is Fassbender’s show. Playing both David and the upgraded Walter he gives a performance that elevates the film in an unexpected way, it's eerie, sinister and scarily sexual, especially during a scene involving a flute of all things. We won’t spoil the fun here.

John Logan and Dante Harper have also done a fantastic job of cleaning up the bloody mess of Prometheus’s troubled narrative and although not all questions are answered it does at least go some way to explaining away some of the difficulties, no easy feat.

With three or four more films rumoured to be on the way, which are said to eventually bring us right up to the Nostromo’s discovery of LV-426, this film takes a huge step in restoring faith in the series.

The gore is extreme, the fear is back and the new creatures are scarier than even the original Xenomorph itself, which here, is probably more beautifully realised than in any of the previous instalments. It’s horrific, disturbing, exciting and sinister and will leave you drooling like an Alien for more.

 

Grades:

Movie: 4 Star Rating Cover

 

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