Alien: Covenant Renews Faith in the Franchise

Alien: Covenant Renews Faith in the Franchise

The film shifts to the current day on the colonization ship Covenant, which is carrying 2000 colonists, a host of human embryos, plus the coupled-up crew, all in cryosleep, destined for the remote planet Origae-6, where they will populate the planet.

Scott seemed determined to get back to the heart of what had made Alien a success more than 30 years earlier, but in the process seemed so determined to create a mythology, previously only hinted at, that numerous elements that had made the first two films so enjoyable were lost. Securing one of Hollywood's top screenwriters, John Logan ('Gladiator", "Skyfall"), was a real coup, and his talent combined with the steady hand of director Ridley Scott ('Alien', "Blade Runner'), make this a compelling watch. Of course, the requisite aliens are here, too, some in terrifying baby form, others in full-grown adult mode. We'd nearly forgotten how fast those buggers are.

Michael Fassbender reprises his android character David from Prometheus, but this mechanical man acquires deeper intrigue when he's matched against his factory double, an upgraded model named Walter, also played by Fassbender.

Terraforming officer Daniels (Katherine Waterston) protests, saying the planet is too good to be true, and that they don't know what's down there. In fairness, the vast majority are fleshed out well enough that you care when they're killed and these scenes are often tense and suitably gory. Whatever reforms were made at the Weyland Corporation in the first two decades of the 22nd century resulted in much smarter (and, I must say, more charismatic) employees.

It's hard to believe that anybody wasn't on the edge of their seat. Like some of the alien offspring, "Covenant" is a hybrid: part gory "Alien"-style scare-fest, part chilly "Prometheus" existentialism".

Alien Covenant backburster
“Alien” needs bizarro vision

It's when the movie tries to get "heavy" that it languishes.

The survivors of the Prometheus went off to find the Engineers at the end of the film. "Covenant" rips through plot points and action set pieces with the speed of a xenomorph ripping through flesh.

What about this mostly new cast? They're just not particularly frightening or memorable. As the crew members make repairs, they intercept a familiar-sounding transmission from a nearer paradise. Fassbender especially thrives in the synthetic roles, and he's wholly mastered the ability to walk stiffly and emote absolutely nothing. By now, just about everyone knows what to expect when some ignorant astronaut leans down to take a closer look at one of those extraterrestrial eggs that look like oversized avocados. "The chance to work with someone like [director] Ridley Scott on a franchise he started, it was just mind-boggling". It may be time for a new one.

Still, you'll feel your jaw drop when you first see the spaceship release its solar sails to harness energy from the sun. The odds of that are better if you live somewhere besides the United States; Prometheus made two-thirds of its $403 million in foreign markets. Walter, the Bad Android, rambles on about the respective attributes of human, machine and alien; he's like an extremely chatty mad Nazi scientist in a 1940s movie serial.

But while "Alien: Covenant" has an ace up its sleeve (Michael Fassbender times two), the sheer number of tricks this film delivers (some lifted from earlier installments as well as "Alien" rip-offs) heightens the sense of déjà vu.