The chest-bursting, acid-spitting xenomorphs are back in Ridley Scott’s latest sci-fi thriller ‘Alien: Covenant.’ Thankfully Scott stays away from too much existentialism that weighed down ‘Prometheus’ and gets back to what made the original 1979 ‘Alien’ a masterpiece. Usually sequels are excruciatingly boring but not this one. Scott never tries to reinvent the wheel. It’s a visually stunning and well-crafted piece of cinema. Instead of implementing long scenes to explain plot points, the film wastes no time transporting the audience to the thrills and chills. Just like how ‘The Force Awakens’ revives the ‘Star Wars’ franchise, ‘Covenant’ breathes new life into the ‘Alien’ series. ‘Alien: Covenant’ is a solid sci-fi horror film that delivers the goods.
In order for the film to work, you need good actors. Sigourney Weaver’s Ripley is an iconic character with big shoes to fill but Katherine Waterston’s Daniels is a tough cookie up to the task. Don’t let her pouty face fool you. This is a smart woman that can handle an assault weapon. She’s a scientist on the spacecraft Covenant that carries 2,000 passengers and drawers full of embryos cryogenically asleep and traveling the far reaches of space for an Earthlike planet. The voyage is interrupted when the ship’s computer (MUTHUR) is forced to wake up the crew when the spaceship gets damaged and needs emergency repairs to continue its mission. Unfortunately the crew must deal with a handful of casualties onboard including the captain who happens to be Daniels’ husband. It’s a tragic loss since all the scientists are accompanied by their significant others in the hopes of building and colonizing the distant planet.
Besides Daniels, the team consists of Oram (Billy Crudup), Tennessee (comedian Danny McBride) and the android Walter (Michael Fassbender). The rest of the crew is not fleshed out and very expendable. During repairs of the spacecraft, they pick up a rogue transmission that sounds like a human voice. It’s a nearby planet that looks just as good as the one they originally set out to colonize. The upside is that it will only take a couple weeks to get to but the downside is that they are risking the lives of 2,000 colonists onboard if anything goes wrong. It’s an interesting dilemma. Oram is thrown into the role of leader when Daniels’ husband dies. Crudup gives an excellent performance as the newly appointed captain of the Covenant. He is a man of faith that constantly second-guesses his decisions.
Daniels and Oram have a heated debate over the pros and cons of visiting this newly discovered planet. Daniels is hesitant to risk the 2000 passengers onboard for the questionable planet. Oram impulsively feels like it is worth the risk rather than going back to sleep in the pods for another seven years before reaching their original destination. Once they reach the planet, it soon becomes apparent that it was a big mistake to veer off-course. The cinematography by Dariusz Wolski and the music by Jed Kurzel give the mysterious planet a foreboding atmosphere. The scenes were shot on location in the mountainous landscapes of New Zealand. When an expedition team from the Covenant lands and explores the area, their excitement of finding a new utopia turns to dread as the planet shows its true colors as a living hell.
Once the space module lands, many of the crew members get picked off like a classic horror film. It’s fast-paced action as the scares keep coming from every dark corner. When the survivors meet the android character David from Prometheus, the plot is expertly connected to the last film. The upgraded model Walter (also played by Fassbender) meets his sinister brother that was constructed with too much emotion. It touches on the fear mankind has of robots one day having an actual conscious and feelings. We soon discover that David plays a major role in cultivating the alien species even if it means sacrificing the human race. Fassbender’s creepy performance is one of the highlights of the film. Scott is at the top of his craft when it comes to directing the sci-fi genre. ‘Alien: Covenant’ is an entertaining thrill ride and proves there is still gas left in the tank for the Alien franchise.