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article imageReview: Ridley Scott returns to form with Alien Covenant Special

By Tim Sandle     May 13, 2017 in Entertainment
For those slightly disappointed with Prometheus, Ridley Scott has returned to form with his second Alien prequel - Alien Covenant. The movie veers sometimes towards an 'Alien greatest hits', but it's none the worse for it.
The Alien franchise canon is a little vague and depending on who is in charge it isn't clear which movies count. In the eyes of the creator of the movie series - Ridley Scott - Prometheus, Alien, and Aliens do. The third and fourth of the original run are questionable and no one dares to mention Alien vs Predator. The new movie follows on from Prometheus, taking place some ten years into the future.
The opening plot (no spoilers here) is with the crew of the space ship Covenant (a name which suggests a Biblical reaffirmation of a new frontier). Seeking to start a new life on an Earth-type world, the spaceship Covenant is carrying crew, 2000 colonists and a batch of embryos with the attention of forging a new life on a new frontier. The crew are woken early and they soon pick up a distress call from the only surviving human from the events of Prometheus. As the signal emanates from a habitable world the ship is detoured.
Arriving on the planet, an away team start to face the inevitable dangers from parasitic life-forms and a deranged android with god-like pretensions. These scenes extrude genuine menace. Scary, claustrophobic, this is a return to the sci-fi meets horror of the Scott's first Alien movie and Cameron's follow-up.
Once the action returns to the main space ship, The Covenant, the scenes are a little reminiscent of the original Alien movie. This is no bad thing in highlighting the risk the alien poses. However, the time devoted to this comes across as a little short and perhaps the alien challenge could have been greater. However, this is not the central plot twist, and the final scenes pave the way for future prequels to the 1979 movie. For those hoping to obtain answers from the unanswered plot points from Prometheus will be disappointed. We still don't know who the Engineers were, and why the apparently created humans and then sought out to destroy them? As to what the black-goo come parasite come alien is, we might get an answer in a future movie. Perhaps.
As to how the movie is overall? It delivers a satisfying round of close-quarters deep-space terror. Whether it takes the saga in any new directions is uncertain. The look and feel, in terms of direction and production values, mirrors Prometheus and many of the action sequences and horror menaces - face huggers, eggs, acid-spitting aliens - are very familiar. However, the tightness of the direction and action levels are better than with Prometheus and the movie strengthens the franchise and suitably wets the appetite for a follow-up film.
The film stars Michael Fassbender, Katherine Waterston, Billy Crudup, Danny McBride and Demián Bichir. The movie is based on a story by Michael Green (currently involved with American Gods) and it is written by John Logan (writer of the two most recent James Bond movies). As expected in a Scott movie, the female cast are strong and well developed, especially Katherine Waterston who is a clear-cut Ripley-like female protagonist.
The stand-out performance in the movie is from Michael Fassbender, playing two different androids. One is the synthetic life-form from Prometheus, the synth with free-will called David (who takes on a Frankenstein-style role). The second is a look-alike newer model, without the full-blown consciousness that makes David so dangerous, called Walter. Fassbender expertly moves between the two roles, extenuation the different personalities and reverence (or not) to human life.
Alien: Covenant rates 4 out of 5.
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