Nearly 40 years and a half-dozen movies later, even fans of the Alien franchise may have trouble pinpointing exactly what they need to know going into Ridley Scott's Alien: Covenant. Bound for a remote planet on the far side of the universe, they think they are headed for an uncharted paradise. The crew and colonists sleep in suspended animation, watched over by an android called Walter (Michael Fassbender, the "X-Men" movies, "Steve Jobs"). And it all unravels in short order when an exploring crew member obliviously steps on a clutch of dust-dispersing eggs. While the crew is fending off one of these monsters, they are rescued by the planet's sole inhabitant, David. In Covenant, that's Katherine Waterston's character, Danny.
The legendary director still remembers audience reactions from 1979, following a preview of the original Alien.
Instead, he sought to erase the memory of the lesser sequels by introducing a pseudo-religious tone more concerned with cod philosophy and re-canonising his own creation than, well, terror in space and Xenomorph killing machines.
While "Alien: Covenant" has the distinct feeling of an "Alien" film (especially when the face-hugging Xenomorphs come into play), Scott, through his expert direction creates tension and bloody gore that easily bests any horror film in theaters today.
By the film's belabored climax, this is no longer an "Alien" movie.
Thankfully, Scott has gone back to basics - well, sort of - in the franchise's latest chapter, Alien: Covenant.
Once the killings start the film feels like your standard horror movie, with each subsequent death having an air of predictability to it. The film is buffet of dumb decisions topped with some humor sprinkled on top. Ripley felt like she was running things, Daniels feels like she's along for the ride and just trying not to die. And that's OK. Covenant doesn't have a post-credits scene because it doesn't need one.
The best performance comes courtesy of Michael Fassbender. He delivers some of the most mundane dialogue but makes it sound intriguing.
4 stars to 3 1/2 stars: Good film, see it if it's your type of movie.
Scott lets the movie proceed slowly and thoughtfully, only gradually revealing the scope of what's facing this crew on this planet. There aren't any big set pieces or sequences that haven't been done in other films. When they return to the idea later it's a tad unfulfilling, in part because the lucidity needed to truly answer that question can not be given when there are more prequels to come. It feels nearly like a trick-an attempt by Scott to reflect on mortality and hubris but sneak it past an audience by wrapping it in a familiar franchise package.
Just like John Hurt's character Kane was killed in the shocking chest-burster scene in "Alien" 38 years ago, so Benjamin Rigby's character Ledward also gets to give birth to a Neomorph on board the Covenant - though this time it's more of a back-burster scene and it's just as disgusting.