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Alien Covenant – It’s finally back, with its ferocious little fangs, squid-like formless body and nasty withdrawing skull that swoops and tapers down the back of its neck, similar to the helmet of an Olympic cyclist. Ridley Scott’s parasitic cosmic alien has returned for this exciting if unoriginal sci-fi thriller — although it doesn’t grow all that much these days.
Michael Fassbender is returning too, as the eerie emotionless robot who glides around in a Jeeves/Lecter hybrid’s style, wearing a tight-fitting suit that made out of nylon, and in which he seems as flat-fronted in the trouser department as Barbie’s boyfriend Ken. And Scott himself is again back to the helm of the Alien series he efficiently created with the first movie in 1979, before leaving over directorial control to James Cameron, David Fincher and Jean-Pierre Jeunet for the following films and Alien Covenant, and others for the novelty matches with Predator.
This film is a sequel to the prequel Prometheus, which directed by Scott in 2012, a film that was there allegedly to establish the events in the first film, all about a space adventure for mankind’s Däniken-ish origin on other planets. Prometheus was set in 2094; and this happens 10 years later, in 2104, with a colonist ship, named the Covenant, travelling for years through space, with an intention to set up a plantation on a distant world which seems to have the means to necessitate human life. But the horrified crew faces with an ugly truth about the Prometheus, as well as a sharp-toothed, uninvited little guest.
Obviously, it is unnecessary to concern yourself with the timeline of the Alien movies when they are conveniently happening in parallel. They are a vast of variations on the same theme. The one distinct is that Prometheus and Alien Covenant take the famous android revelation at the end of the first Alien, and in fact incorporate it into the prequels as part of the setting up fundamental.
This movie expand Fassbender’s robot role greatly. He first appears in a creepy, eye-catching opening scene which the rest of the film doesn’t really match: a giant white room, with a huge piano, a panorama-window showing some generic alpine view, a full-scale model of Michelangelo’s David, and other high-art things. There we see Fassbender’s robot being questioned by his irritable scientist-creator Peter Weyland (Guy Pearce) and asked to select a name for himself, the robot confidently says David, after the statue.
Inspired by his own success in making this humanoid robot, Weyland insists that there must be meaning and purpose behind the creation of the universe, a religious theme that is dimly to reappear. In Prometheus, Noomi Rapace’s space voyager Dr Elizabeth Shaw wore a cross around her neck and in Alien Covenant a member of the crew wears the star of David. It could be a reference to the robot’s name.
But when we recognize this robot again, on board the Covenant, there are some instant clear changes, whose detail is revealed afterward. A weird electrical storm awakens the team prematurely from their hibernation (whereas in the movie Passengers, with Chris Pratt and Jennifer Lawrence, which executed the idea slightly more fascinating) and a disaster indicates that the horrible rationalist Oram (Billy Crudup) is promoted to captain, with Daniels (Katherine Waterston) and Tennessee (Danny McBride) his instant subordinates.
The calamity means his team is unwilling to continue their deep sleep and instead become obsessed with an alternative possibility: another planet, hardly a few weeks’ travel from their current location, on which there seems to be evidence of human life and which shows itself as a faesible new home. Should they go down and check? Should they wander around down there without their protective helmets and spacesuits on, so that malicious spores from little pod-like growths can sneak into their ear and up their noses? Haven’t these people learned anything at all?
Just like in Prometheus, the action is opened out from the claustrophobic imprisons of the spaceship to the promising future of a distant planet, which reveals to be a mix of Pompeii and Easter Island. There is an interesting long shot of the explorers in the gloom of the planet, the tiny green beams of their torches launching around them.
It has never been so familiar: it’s a greatest-hits mix of the other Alien films’ weird moments. The paradox is that although you supposed to recognize these details, you won’t really be affected unless you coincidentally see them for the first time. For all this, Alien Covenant is very well made, with forceful, influential performances from Waterston and Fassbender. However, that series title seems hubristically wrong is a bit nostalgic.