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Ridley Scott Goes Back To His Alien Roots With ALIEN: COVENANT (Review)

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Fans of the original Alien, the groundbreaking sci-fi/horror classic, will find a lot to like in the latest installment of this iconic franchise.  The plot is reminiscent of the 1979 film:  the Covenant, a transport ship in deep space, its crew in cryosleep, gets knocked off its trajectory by a solar storm.  The core crew reawakens to find a strange signal from a previously unknown planet… one that seems oddly perfect for their colonization mission.  Also onboard is a synthetic human named Walter (brilliantly played by Michael Fassbender).  Faced with years’ more space travel to reach their original destination, the captain (Billy Crudup) decides to explore this new planet as an alternative.  In place of the formidable Ripley, Covenant’s first officer Daniels (Katherine Waterston) is grieving the loss of her husband (James Franco in a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it performance).  While softer than Sigourney Weaver’s character, Daniels has some of Ripley’s inner steel – and she’ll need it because once they land on the idyllic, but strangely empty world, things go south, fast!  The lush landscape is littered with small pods, which release tiny spores when stepped on.  Those drift into bodily orifices with horrific results.  Soon the landing ship’s sickbay has a formerly healthy crewman who is convulsing, screaming and bleeding out on the table. You don’t have to be a medic to know what’s coming next!  And then IT IS ON: the Covenant’s pilot (Danny McBride) manages a risky rescue of the stranded crewmembers but once back aboard, they discover they are far from safe!

With several nods to Prometheus, Alien: Covenant further elaborates on the origins of the Alien universe and those deadly, acid-bleeding creatures.  All the tropes we love about the franchise are here: Mother, the ship’s central computer, the misfit crew of eccentrics who become stone cold pros when it’s crunch time facehuggers and Xenomorphs, both of which have lost none of their visceral terror.   

Director Ridley Scott uses stunning visual effects to deftly show the ultimate isolation of space; and the Xenomorphs are more realistic and violent than ever.  Having recently seen the original film in a theater on “Alien Day”, it’s amazing how far visual effects have come in the last 38 years.  The script by John August and Dante Harbor make inspired use of Fassbender as the surprisingly human Walter and his more sinister synthetic predecessor David, the lone survivor of the Prometheus.  David is charming, polite and so very British, but his mission has nothing to do with serving mankind.

Once things get going, Ridley Scott keeps the pedal down, delivering thrill after grisly thrill, making the metallic nooks and crannies of the Covenant just as scary as the Nostromo’s were over three decades ago.  He’s a master at the top of his game and this film is nothing less than a gift to the fans.

Final Verdict: 4 out of 4 SKULLS (and 1 Broken Chest Cavity)

About the author
Mark Cerulli
Mark was an award-winning writer/producer for HBO for many years, creating on-air content and interviewing over 100 filmmakers and actors. He has also produced content for Monsters HD, Sundance and Epix. He produced DVD docus on two James Bond films and produced/directed DVD docs on the Halloween series for Anchor Bay. He has had four screenplays optioned, including one by HBO. His website is: www.iluminar.tv
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