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Review: Alien: Covenant

Director Ridley Scott returns to the far, dark reaches of space for the terrifying follow-up to “Prometheus.”

ALIEN: COVENANT

(Twentieth Century Fox)

“Alien: Covenant”
20th Century Fox

Alien CovenantDirected by Ridley Scott
Produced by Ridley Scott, Mark Huffam, Michael Schaefer, David Giler, Walter Hill
Screenplay by John Logan, Dante Harper
Story by Jack Paglen, Michael Green
Starring Michael Fassbender, Katherine Waterston, Billy Crudup, Danny McBride, Carmen Ejogo, Demián Bichir

Studio Synopsis:
In space, no one can hear you scream. After nearly four decades, those words remain synonymous with the sheer, relentless intensity of Ridley Scott’s masterpiece of futuristic horror, Alien. Now, the father of the iconic franchise returns once more to the world he created to explore its darkest corners with ALIEN: COVENANT, a pulse-pounding new adventure that pushes the boundaries of R-rated terror.

All is quiet aboard the spaceship Covenant. The crew and the rest of the 2,000 souls aboard the pioneering vessel are deep in hyper-sleep, leaving the synthetic Walter to walk the corridors alone. The ship is en route to the remote planet Origae-6, where, on the far side of the galaxy, the settlers hope to establish a new outpost for humanity. The tranquility is shattered when a nearby stellar ignition shreds Covenant’s energy-collection sails, resulting in dozens of casualties and throwing the mission off course.

Soon, the surviving crew members discover what appears to be an uncharted paradise, an undisturbed Eden of cloud-capped mountains and immense, soaring trees far closer than Origae-6 and potentially just as viable as a home. What they’ve found, however, is actually a dark and deadly world full of unexpected twists and turns. Facing a terrible threat beyond their imagination, the embattled explorers must attempt a harrowing escape.

Set ten years after the events depicted in Scott’s 2012 hit Prometheus, ALIEN: COVENANT returns to the roots of the director’s groundbreaking saga with a uniquely terrifying tale filled with white-knuckle adventure and monstrous new creatures. With this, the sixth installment in the blockbuster series, the visionary director edges ever closer toward revealing the mysterious origins of the mother of all aliens, the lethal Xenomorph from the original film.

ALIEN: COVENANT stars Michael Fassbender (Prometheus, 12 Years a Slave), Katherine Waterston (Steve Jobs, Inherent Vice), Billy Crudup (Almost Famous, Mission: Impossible III), Danny McBride (Pineapple Express, Eastbound & Down) and Demián Bichir. The film is directed by Ridley Scott (The Martian). The screenplay is by John Logan and Dante Harper, from a story by Jack Paglen and Michael Green. The producers are Ridley Scott, Mark Huffam, Michael Schaefer, David Giler and Walter Hill; and distributor is 20th Century Fox.

J.P.’s Take:

Director Ridley Scott and Katherine Waterston (Daniels) on the set of ALIEN: COVENANT. Photo: Mark Rogers (Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation)

For eons, humans have pondered whether there is life on other worlds. Further more, how did life begin for the human race? Will machines take our place in the future? What’s next?

We become somewhat embroiled with the deepening of philosophies of its forbearer, where as “Prometheus” – the first of the prequels – lays ground for the exploration of faith/spirituality, procreation and man’s fight for dominance. “Alien: Covenant” provides us with a frightening look into a more disturbing tale. Much to the extent that we’re practically forced to reflect on the mysterious events found in the original “Alien” film.

Here “Covenant” follows the canon of the creatures’ as we witness its genesis. The difference between “Alien: Covenant” and all others in the franchise is that it’s told from the perspectives of two androids, Walter and David (both played by Michael Fassbender). Their interactions are the catalyst for the film’s main plot, which bares an eerie view point of the next evolution of life. Covenant toys with the evolutionary cycle stating that if God created humans, humans created androids – then would androids become the next in line? Or would they have the power and control to create life as well?

It’s not before long that we’re also brought back to those terrifying moments that began the sci-fi/horror phase. The crew aboard the colonization vessel, Covenant, traces a ghost signal, which appears to be send from a human on a planet that may in fact bare life. They soon learn, of course, that signal spelled certain death to many of the shipmates. Soon the space explorers would be totally eviscerated, with gruesome, bloody and gory results.

Michael Fassbender (Walter) stars in ALIEN: COVENANT (Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation)

There is something really haunting about this particular prequel, from the theme music — which it barrows from the original “Alien” — to the way many of the scenes play out. We get a full, out of the shadow visual of the creature, which seems to metamorphose quite rapidly before our eyes. Vicious and vile in all it’s glory. Before it reaches that point, you’ll find David, who lives on the planet the Covenant crew lands on, in search of the ghost signal that brought them there. And although his introduction feels a bit campy, it still has enough drive to keep viewers intrigued.

I found the story does not try to answer the question on the theory of life, instead it allows us to sort of play with the ideas presented. Mostly the human side vs the machine side is played out in the duel roles of Fassbender. It’s the push-pull relationship of faith and artificial intelligence that sparks the imagination.

The performance of the cast is admirable with Katherine Waterston as terraforming expert Daniels Branson, doing a fine job of filling the shoes Sigourney Weaver left playing Warrant Officer Ripley.

“Alien: Covenant” is haunting, dark and somewhat disturbing, yet I was engrossed by the tale of two droids and their fascination with preserving life; even so the creation of new life. It does have its own personality, and I can only hope the third prequel will solidify the franchise as a whole.

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