First a confession: I’m a bit of a romantic and long for the days of yore when the alien was simply a bad-ass space dragon hell-bent for leather. We know, since Prometheus, that it’s really a weaponized life-form genetically engineered to annihilate planets. Oh, well, the blush is off the rose. That said, Ridley Scott has demonstrated that there’s still (alien)life left in the franchise.
Alien Covenant is closer to the original Alien than to the rather tepid Prometheus, and for my money, a far better film. Set ten years after the conclusion of Prometheus, it focuses on the crew of the starship Covenant, with its cryosleep pods full of earthlings eager to colonize another world. Alas, an emergency awakens the crew, who then succumb to that old alien trope of responding to a signal they intercept from another planet. This planet is much like earth and is also far closer than their original destination. Why not go down and check it out? Of course, this is akin to the plot device in slasher films, when the audience is screaming to the scantily-clad teenagers not to go down into the darkened basement. But adolescents never learn, nor do starship flight crews.
Michael Fassbender, scene-stealer that he is, reprises his Prometheus role of David, perhaps the creepiest android in cinema. He is joined by his technically superior upgrade Walter, a match made in hell.
Overall, the movie is quite stunning to watch, with its intricate sets and superb computer graphics. Scott includes some winks at the earlier films: the perpetual-motion drinking bird from Alien makes a cameo appearance, and Fassbender, using a recorder-like flute, plays the theme from Prometheus. But make no mistake about it–this is a horror movie and a pretty bloody one at that. Definitely not for the squeamish. Would you like to increase your heart rate and respirations without a boring workout at the gym? Alien Covenant will have your heart pounding and adrenaline pumping with its dizzying action sequences and its sometimes terrifying encounters with the creature that refuses to die. Add a plot twist or two and you have a recipe for a welcome escape from the heat of summer into the air-conditioned multiplex. I’ll give it four out of five stars–well worth the price of admission. I may take my sons and go see it again.