'Alien: Covenant' is a return to the franchise's horror roots

Photo Credit: Mark Rogers. - TM & © 2016 Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation. All Rights Reserved. Not for sale or duplication.

Alien: Covenant
4 out of 5 Stars
Director:
Ridley Scott
Writers: Dante Harper, John Logan, Jack Paglen, Michael Green
Starring: Michael Fassbender, Katherine Waterston, Billy Crudup
Genre: Horror, Sci-Fi
Rated: R for sci-fi violence, bloody images, language and some sexuality/nudity

Synopsis: The colony ship Covenant is damaged while en route to its destination. During repairs the crew discovers a planet that appears to be perfectly habitable, but paradise isn’t what it appears to be.

Review: Director Ridley Scott’s return to the Alien franchise with “Prometheus” was met with mixed reviews, but the film was a box office success earning over $400 million against its budget of $130 million.

I liked “Prometheus,” particularly the IMAX version that was framed differently and offered a better view of the gorgeous and occasionally gory visuals, but it did stumble a bit when it came to presenting is lofty intellectual ideas about the origins of life.

“Alien: Covenant” is an interesting and mostly successful extension of the ideas presented in “Prometheus,” but it also features stretches that are reminiscent of both the horror of “Alien” and action of “Aliens.” The key difference here being that in “Alien” the Xenomorph (alien monsters) lurked in the shadows and provided jump scares with a little bit of gore; “Covenant” has moments that are straight out of slasher film. Heads roll, limbs are lost, chests explode and you shouldn’t feel safe in the shower.

Still, the most terrifying aspects of the film are the little details revealed about the fate of the “Prometheus” survivors. The story is hinted at, rather than shown, and proves to be far more effective than all the violence and mayhem that surrounds it.

There are a few ideas that are presented, particularly when it comes to the religious beliefs of one of the crew members, that lead to dead ends, but the story is certainly more accessible and should appease those who found “Prometheus” to be too intellectual and not visceral enough.

Like Noomi Rapace’s Elizabeth Shaw in “Prometheus,” our protagonist Daniels, played by Katherine Waterson, will be seen by some as essentially a clone (not in the “Alien: Resurrection” sense) of Sigourney Weaver’s Ripley. I see their point, but don’t particularly agree. The problem is that Weaver’s performance (with thanks to Dan O’Bannon and Ronald Shusett’s writing) is essentially the blueprint that has been used for strong female characters in action films. In a sense, they are all Ripley doubles.

“Alien: Covenant” isn’t on par with “Alien” or “Aliens,” but it is the best film in the franchise since 1986. I don’t know that I needed to know the origins of the Xenomorph or Wayland Industries, sometimes mystery is better than knowledge, but if 20th Century Fox intends to keep the franchise alive at least they, under Scott’s watchful eye, are heading in an interesting direction.

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