Year:  2017

Director:  Ridley Scott

Rated:  Ma15+

Release:  May 11, 2017

Distributor: 20th Century Fox

Worth: $12.00
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Michael Fassbender, Katherine Waterston, Billy Crudup, Danny McBride

Alien: Covenant lays on the gore and ratchets up the shocks to eye-popping extremes.

Has there ever been a more terrifying or evocative movie monster than the Xenomorph from the Alien films? The HR Giger-designed beast has been an iconic part of the pop cultural lexicon since 1979 and deservedly so. In fact one of the main criticisms of Ridley Scott’s ambitious-but-unwieldy 2012 Alien prequel Prometheus was the lack of classic Xeno action. Enter Alien: Covenant, Scott’s follow-up film that undeniably contains some awesome creature sequences but also a bunch of baggage from Prometheus you might hope had been jettisoned from the nearest airlock.

The story concerns the crew of the colony ship, Covenant, who are on a mission to inhabit a potential new home on the other side of the galaxy. Things turn pear-shaped when a freak accident damages the ship and kills the captain, Jacob Branson (a briefly-glimpsed James Franco). As the crew make their repairs they receive a mysterious transmission from a nearby planet, a seeming paradise, and decide to investigate. Naturally this proves to be an astonishingly bad idea.

Within minutes of arriving on the planet the crew blunder about, without spacesuits or protection of any kind, and are almost immediately infected by a fast-acting virus that has monsters bursting out of every orifice with splattery alacrity. This first half of Alien: Covenant is an effective, albeit slightly ponderous, set up for a mysterious, tense tale about the dangers of accepting anything that looks too good to be true. Unfortunately, directly after the monsters arrive, so too does a certain surviving character from Prometheus, and any sense of mystery or intrigue is swiftly squandered.

Alien: Covenant should really be called Prometheus 2: This Time There’s Xenos, because ultimately that’s the journey you’re on. The story bends over backwards trying to insert David (Michael Fassbender) into the creation mythology of the Xenomorphs, which comes off as deeply unconvincing and demystifies the effective ambiguity of the creature.

That’s not to say Alien: Covenant is without its charms, mind you. After a fairly bloodless previous entry, Covenant lays on the gore and ratchets up the shocks to eye-popping extremes. The cast valiantly battle Xenos and an awkward script, with Michael Fassbender being particularly effective as both Walter and David – the yin and yang of synthetic people – and Katherine Waterston does what she can as Daniels, a thin role that requires her to look a lot like Ellen Ripley and become a bad arse just in time for the third act.

Ridley Scott’s direction is frequently beautiful, with effective sci-fi imagery that’s almost good enough to make you forget the rather ordinary story. Ultimately, though, Alien: Covenant doesn’t seem to know what it wants to be. Prometheus for all its many (many!) faults had a strong central thesis, asking ‘where do we come from?’ Alien: Covenant doesn’t really ask anything and seems content to effectively whittle down a cast of characters with some very cool-looking, if somewhat overexposed, creatures. That may be enough for the diehard fans, but one can’t help but feel the Xenomorphs – and we the audience – deserve better.

  • Your Ma
    Your Ma
    8 May 2017 at 6:07 pm

    Fucking hell …spoiler warning you spanner. Bang second paragraph, the captain dies. Thanks. Stopped reading then. Did you manage to explain the whole fucking you twit?

    • KH
      8 May 2017 at 10:13 pm

      I think anyone who saw the prologue with JF and the trailers without him figured out that one.

    • DT
      9 May 2017 at 8:51 am

      Spoiler? This is an opening event to set up the basic premise of the film – That’s totally standard to cover in a review.

      If you’re particularly sensitive about spoilers, then don’t read reviews until you see the film.

  • Your Ma
    Your Ma
    8 May 2017 at 6:11 pm

    *plot. “..ambitious-but-unwieldy…” “…classic Xeno action…”
    Ugh, you’re even annoying to read.

  • Kate
    8 May 2017 at 6:23 pm

    Swear jar, Your Ma. If you don’t like it, just scroll on past.
    I don’t see how knowing that 1 character is going to die early on is a spoiler, considering that it’s highly likely that all the characters except 1-2 are going to die – just like all the previous films with Xenomorphs. “Oh what a surprise, (almost) everyone dies!” LOL

  • Ridled Scottled
    Ridled Scottled
    8 May 2017 at 7:32 pm

    Sorry Kate, you don’t think that’s a spoiler? What?! Telling viewers there’s a freak accident that kills the goddamn captain isn’t a spoiler? It doesn’t matter if it’s early on, or that most of them will die anyway. I’d rather not know that the fucking Captain, Franco, dies in a freak accident early on. Knowing there’s an accident at all!! Jesus Christ.

    • Travis Johnson
      9 May 2017 at 8:28 am

      It’s adorable when someone changes their handle on a comment thread to give the illusion that people agree with them. IP addresses don’t lie.

  • Andrew "your new dad" Forster
    Andrew "your new dad" Forster
    8 May 2017 at 9:07 pm

    Honestly, if you’re reading an internet review and complaining about spoilers in 2017, you’re not that bright.

    Which brings me to my other point, why whinge about people wandering around without space suits? People are stupid. The evidence is in the above comments.

  • Steve
    11 May 2017 at 10:13 pm

    Spot on review, Anthony. As soon as the crew jumped on to an unknown planet without protective gear, the movie lost me. No space travellers would that stupid, surely! From then on, nothing was believable even if the action was good.

  • Joachim Staats
    Joachim Staats
    26 May 2017 at 3:43 pm

    ‘Prometheus aka Alien 5’ was a car crash and they should have stopped the franchise right there and then. There is nothing of substance new with ‘Covenant aka Alien 6’, we’ve seen all this before. All we get now is film making by the numbers. The sequel of ‘Alien 7’ is set with a possibility of ‘Alien 8 and Alien 9’…this is just taking the piss as well as our hard earned under false pretenses. ‘Covenant’ might be rated better than ‘Prometheus’ but that is no credit because the bar is set so low. I give ‘Covenant’ a 1.25 stars out of 5. JUST STOP THE ROT NOW !

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