FILM REVIEW: Serviceable Alien prequel but nowhere near masterpiece of 1979

Alien Covenant

ALIEN: COVENANT (15)SHOWCASE CINEMA DE LUX PETERBOROUGH, OUT NOWCAST: KATHERINE WATERSTON, MICHAEL FASSBENDER, BILLY CRUDUP, DANNY McBRIDE, DEMIAN BICHIR, CARMEN EJOJO, JUSSIE SMOLLETT, CALLIE HERNANDEZ, AMY SEIMETZ, BENJAMIN RIGBY, TESS HAUBRICH, GUY PEARCE, NOOMI RAPACE & JAMES FRANCORUNNING TIME: 2 HRS 2 MINSDIRECTOR: RIDLEY SCOTT

The good news is that it’s better than Prometheus. The bad news is – not by much.

Oscar-winning director Ridley Scott (Gladiator) of the 1979 original masterpiece has another bite of his alien cherry after the ho-hum reception to his 2012 prequel, but he hasn’t really learned from the mistakes he made last time out – providing nothing more than a serviceable follow-up.

It does provide an intermittently noteworthy extension of alien lore – complete with the visually impressive production values we’ve come to expect from Scott – but we really should have expected something a little more memorable.

Here the crew of the colony ship Covenant, bound for a remote planet on the far side of the galaxy – which they believe to be an uncharted paradise – get awoken prematurely after an unexpected malfunction, which kills off their captain (James Franco) in the process.

Still seven years away from their destination, they get enticed to another potentially viable planet in the ‘Goldilocks zone’ of a nearby solar system after receiving a mysterious transmission, which is the same location that the two surviving members – android David (Michael Fassbender) and Elizabeth Shaw (Noomi Rapace) – of the doomed Prometheus mission were heading to at the end of the previous movie.

With Billy Crudup’s (Watchmen) second-in-command Oram now promoted to leader, he helms a team that includes the grieving widow of the recently-deceased captain, Daniels (Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them’s Katherine Waterston), along with Danny McBride’s (This is the End) pilot Tennessee, Demian Bichir’s (The Hateful Eight) military top-man Lope, and another modernised Michael Fassbender android called Walter, among the fifteen crew members.

But when they reach this initially idyllic haven, it turns into a nightmare when they come across the same alien contagion that obliterated the Prometheus mission – which eventually leads to the expected xenomorph entanglements – and they cross paths with Fassbender’s David, who has been marooned on the planet for multiple years.

Despite its best intentions though, this sadly seems to re-hash elements of previous Alien-inspired outings. There’s a bit of Alien, Aliens and Alien 3 in there, but sadly, still too much Prometheus.

For fans it’s definitely not without its merits, with a nice build-up of tension, some edge-of-your-seat moments and a few nerve-jangling set-pieces, but these aren’t in a plentiful enough supply to really take this above a middling franchise entry.

More importantly Scott seems to be more interested in Fassbender’s – who again is impressive along with (particularly) Waterston, McBride and Crudup as the only other developed characters – double androids David and Walter, than H R Giger’s legendary alien, which isn’t really what the audience craves at this point.

Sadly the creation we really want to see doesn’t get anywhere enough screen time – leaving us still waiting for a movie that can hold a candle to the first two in the series.

There’s still an element of promise here as Scott plots the course to the events the Nostromo uncovered in the original – but with this being simply ‘decent’ fare at best it is becoming a bit of a slog to get there.

Scott wanted to do more Alien movies, but fanboys are again going to be craving for that sequel to Aliens that District 9 director Neill Blomkamp was planning after this hit-and-miss entry – that is still at least worth a viewing for nostalgia’s sake if nothing else.

Rating: 3/5

Gavin Miller

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