May 25, 2018

Ridley Scott Evolves 'Alien' with 'Covenant'

20 May 2017, 12:09 | Max Haynes

Ridley Scott knows the feeling. I love seeing the glimpses of their lives, personalities, and relationships peppered throughout the movie. Homer: I'm just waiting for my kid.

Now, in Alien: Covenant, the sixth entry in the series, Scott gets back down to business. As the crew embark on repairing the Covenant, they intercept a message from a habitable planet that is nearer than the Origae-6, their supposed destination. This, of course, makes it easier for said characters to make dumb decisions - Crudup's choice to land on this odd planet is more logical than stupid, but most of the decisions he and others make afterwards are just idiotic. "Covenant" uses the mythology established by "Prometheus" and fuses it with the story and character types of "Alien".

I was too young to see the first Alien when it was in theaters, which means I missed out on its initial visceral impact.

Covenant, a prequel to the classic 1979 creature feature, Alien, begins with its own prologue: David, the android introduced in Prometheus and played by Michael Fassbender, discusses creation with his maker and asks him "the only question that matters": Where do we come from? Covenant is goofy, scary, ballsy and thoroughly satisfying, and if that's not what you consider a "true Alien movie", your definition needs revision and reflection.

As a milky-white gross-beast skitters its way around a wheat field, getting murder-death all over gun-toting space colonists, the only question becomes whether Alien: Covenant deserves a place near director Ridley Scott's original Alien in the pantheon of flawless sci-fi horror.

That's not entirely fair, in retrospect. After the first attack scene on the planet, we go for nearly thirty more minutes before another Alien appearance.

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Chances are good you'll make the same mistake with Alien: Covenant that you made with Prometheus, though it won't be your fault.

Aesthetically and subtextually, sure, it's also a metaphor for sexual violence, unwanted impregnation, physical violation, etc.; but functionally it was the amalgamated embodiment of decades worth of science-fiction inspired nightmares about the unnameable horrors that could well be awaiting mankind in the endless uncharted blackness of outer space. The first two movies were the best (and arguably only good) movies in the series, so that should help, shouldn't it? It was just as stupid and a lot more scattershot, but at least it kept moving and did a lot of different stupid things. One could even argue galactically so. Maybe it's the advances in movie technology that have increased the intensity.

The carelessness that went into developing the ostensible plot only offsets the loving detail Scott gives to the David/Walter arc and the importance ladled onto David's origin/evolution and that of the xenomorphs. The first Alien movie's tagline was "In space, no one can hear you scream;" this one should have been "In movie six, everyone can see you redeem". The questions posed in the film are universal, and primal, and easy answers are never forthcoming.

And as with any Scott creation, the production design is gorgeous, and the effects - especially those xeno...sorry "proto" morph-related - are top notch.

Alien: Covenant brought in $4.2 million in Thursday night previews, according to The Hollywood Reporter, which has it projecting for around a $45 million opening weekend. For the past 38 years, Ridley Scott's Xenomorph, a relentless predator with two mouths and a nasty habit of incubating inside a human host before bursting from his chest or mouth in utterly disgusting fashion, has been a member of that exclusive list of terrifying cinematic villains with the power to turn just about anyone into a weeping puddle of piss. The final alien form is the most accomplished vision yet, but when the human cast is drawn so thinly, who cares?

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