REVIEW: Alien: Covenant

13 05 2017

Comparisons are inevitable when it comes to long-standing movie franchises, particularly when they tell standalone stories. More than, less than, greater than, better than … “Alien: Covenant” is all over the map as it relates to the other films in the series, particularly the 1979 original and Ridley Scott’s last outing with the xenomorphs, 2012’s “Prometheus.”

The film boasts two obvious strengths. The first and most obvious is its fidelity to the body horror of “Alien,” moving away from the more restrained suspense and action-style trappings of its predecessor. “Alien: Covenant” is unabashedly trying to scare us, and it works – especially given the airborne alien pathogen that quickly infects the Covenant crew. You know, in case the tactile terror of the usual entry wasn’t frightening enough.

Screenwriters John Logan and Dante Harper also endow the film with a keen sense of cosmological curiosity. “Prometheus” dabbled in issues of faith through the character of Dr. Elizabeth Shaw, a devout Christian forced to confront her notions of God in the wake of both scientific discoveries and the cruelty of nature. Though there’s one overtly religious character in “Alien: Covenant,” Billy Crudup’s Captain Oram, the existential questions are more deeply rooted in the story than just one character’s experience. The film locates something more terrifying than chest-bursting extraterrestrial life: artificial intelligence with a God complex and an intent to create (and thus destroy).

*mild spoilers after the break – continue at your own risk*

Michael Fassbender in Alien Covenant

He’s played a hunger striker, a sex addict, a slave plantation owner, a ruthless tech executive and the besieged Scottish king, but Michael Fassbender may never have been as bone-chilling as he is in “Alien: Covenant.” Given the task of playing two sentient robots, the ruthlessly ambitious David and his more modest follow-up model Walter, Fassbender acts with ruthless precision to eliminate the appearance of empathy. We can see just enough of his machinations to sense something is awry, however, and that’s a crucial source of additional tension throughout.

Walter and David debate the key theme of the film: creation and whether or not it entails any component of service. David, since the events of “Prometheus,” obsesses over molding the aliens to serve his purposes. Yet Walter reminds him that as he plots to destroy humans, without their innovation, David would not exist. It’s Darwinian power dynamics at their most compelling. B+

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One response

17 05 2017
atthematinee

Looking forward to this one. Do you share your writing/ideas on any movie websites besides this one?

Samuel

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