Review: Alien Covenant

***SPOILER ALERT***
Gonna be talking enough plot here to rustle some jimmies. Be warned

For dyed-in-the-wool Alien franchise fans, Prometheus was a mixed blessing. For the first time in a long time it felt like we’d got to see into the origins of a story that, if we’re being fair, had begun to run out of steam by the time Alien Resurrection rolled around. It introduced us to the engineers and surrounded our senses with fan-serving backstory that we’d been yearning for since Alien3. Nevertheless, a confusing script and some odd plot choices made it almost impossible to see where the real joins were in the chronology, leaving many doubting if it was even a true prequel at all.

This pseudo-prequel helped ignite a yearning for a ‘proper’ Alien movie, an appetite that would be encouraged even further by the contribution to the extended universe left by videogame Alien: Isolation (the good one, not Colonial Marines which we’ll be ignoring ever happened). It also sought to ignite a new generation of monster fans into watching the movies and learning to fear nature’s most perfect organism.

If Ridley Scott was trying to deliver a ‘proper’ Alien movie in Alien Covenant then he has definitely succeeded. If he wanted to bridge the gap between Prometheus and the rest of the Alien canon then he’s gone and done that as well. This film is the missing piece that some how also enriches the series as a whole by not only plugging the holesย but also enriching what we already know with added meaning and history.

The movie tracks the progress of the good ship Covenant; a colony ship full of 2000 sleeping humans (plus multiple Ikea drawers filled with embryos) travelling a seven year route to a new habitable home for our beloved species. Along the way a freak accident damages the ship and awakens the crew. Once they’re up and about patching the ship they catch a stray transmission that seems to indicate human life nearby. They track it to a nearby planet and that’s where the whole circus kicks off.

Despite a competent ensemble cast of relative unknowns (except Danny McBride, we know who he is), the show hinges around Michael Fassbender’s twin role of both American synthetic Walter and his British counterpart, David, who you’ll remember from Prometheus. As it turns out, David’s been isolated on the planet and having gone criminally off the rails has spent his time developing some rather unsettling hobbies. Besides drawing some really creepy pictures and learning to play the recorder, he’s also been fine tuning a race of murderous creatures using the indigenous lifeforms as test subjects. As the truth slowly unfolds, the project reaches it’s inevitable shiny black climax and the crew are polished off by the wall-crawling aberrations until only a handful remain.

We are treated to some truly original fight scenes and there are many times when people are brought into terrifying proximity to the creatures, leaving you clinging to the edge of your seat. On a few occasions I realised that I’d actually sat forward in anticipation. Eventually we see the remnants of the crew find their way back up to the ship having seemingly escaped the creatures’ clutches although, in true Alien style, the nightmare is never quite over when you think it is and of course we see the Aliens brought back aboard the Covenant to wreak further havoc before the end.

Alien Covenant is in many ways, a cherry picking of all the best bits of its predecessors. It has the thumping dread and claustrophobic suspense of Alien, the squad-based commando action of Aliens, the weird biology of Resurrection. I’m unsure what it may have borrowed from Alien3, but strong female leads are found as abundantly there as they always have been in the series and Covenant serves up a good selection of those, especially the movie’s surrogate neo-Ripley, Daniels (played by Katherine Waterston).

I’d absolutely recommend the movie to both hardcore series die-hards and casual horror/sci-fi fans alike. The movie’s visual aesthetic is particularly faithful to the template laid down by the original work of HR Giger and it’s worth seeing if only to see that translated again in the forms and sketches of David’s macabre workshop.

Family friendly?

Well, at one point some people get eaten/killed mid-coitus and at least one person get’s their face smashed right off. I think it’s safe to say you should leave the kids at home for this one. I mean, it’s an 18 anyway so they’re going to have to sit in the foyer eating popcorn for 2 hrs and that’s just mean.

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