ALIEN: COVENANT review by Ronnie Malik – Ridley Scott heads into familiar Sci-Fi territory

ALIEN: COVENANT review by Ronnie Malik – Ridley Scott heads into familiar Sci-Fi territory

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Director: Ridley Scott

Cast: Michael Fassbender, Katherine Waterston, Billy Crudup, Danny McBride, Demián Bichir, Carmen Ejogo, Jussie Smollett, Callie Hernandez, Amy Seimetz, Nathaniel Dean, Alexander England, Benjamin Rigby, Uli Latukefu, Tess Haubrich

Rating: B-

Ridley Scott is at it again, bringing back to life his beloved franchise which all started with his amazing horror masterpiece – the 1979 thriller Alien was the first of its kind, a unique and exciting suspenseful ride that kept lovers of the sci-fi horror genre on the edge of their seats, and it remains at the top of the list of science fiction classics. Fast forward several films later and Scott is giving us Alien: Covenant, the latest chapter in the saga that 38 years later will give us some answers yet leave us with some new questions. This new installment takes off at lightning speed and is filled with gore, chills, and thrills. Will the latest chapter of the franchise be the film to breathe new life into the classic space odyssey?

The “Covenant” in the title is actually a ship carrying a crew and human cargo that are in hyper-sleep. Walter (Michael Fassbender), the ships android, attends to the vessel and its human passengers on a 7-year journey to a remote planet for the purpose of colonization. A freak accident in space causes the crew to wake early and discover a damaged ship and some casualties from the unexpected disaster.  Captain Oram (Billy Crudup), not allowing his subordinates time to mourn the loss of their shipmates, orders them to get the ship back in working order so that the mission can be continued.  Things appear to be on track once the ship is repaired when some type of mysterious radio single is received. The signal is tracked back to a planet that is similar to earth and only a few weeks away versus the 7-year distance of the original destination.  Oram makes an executive decision on everyone’s behalf to investigate and see if the nearby planet is inhabitable and another option for colonization. No one awake wants to go back to hibernation with the exception of the second in command, Daniels (Katherine Waterston), who objects to Oram’s decision to go off mission… but much to her disappointment her concerns are ignored.

The space travelers arrive on the planet and immediately notice that there are no signs of life other than the lush vegetation that surrounds them.  At this point in the movie the tension starts mounting in anticipation of what’s to come. Things become very harrowing as the ground crew discovers the not so friendly inhabitants of the planet they just invaded.  There is a horrific death sequence that creates a mood of gruesome horror and fear that is actually beautifully shot and totally delivers on the scary factor. Night falls and just as the surviving crew members are about to meet the menacing creepy natives they are saved by a mysterious hooded figure. How did this being survive on this hostile planet and how did he get there in the first place? Those who watched 2012’s Prometheus, the prequel, will figure it out pretty quick but there is a clear explanation so those that never saw that film will have a clear understanding of the reveal.

Oram and his squad follow their rescuer to the safety of an abandoned city, but much to their surprise they have simply entered into a chamber of horrors. Now there is a race against time to make contact with their colleagues on the mothership to get them the hell out of dodge.


Covenant provides some clear explanations from questions audiences were left with in Prometheus and leaves teasers about what is going to happen in the future. I am guessing more sequels/prequels are in the works for the Alien franchise. While Alien: Covenant starts off as a whirlwind during the first half of the story, it suddenly takes a left turn and becomes rather slow and silent. It’s a shame that the filmmakers did not take advantage of the building suspense and tension but instead allowed the movie to come to a grinding halt. And, although there are some very nerve-racking scenes, for the most part things are rather predictable. So unlike its predecessors this storyline does not leave anything to the imagination to intrigue and tantalize the mind.

There are points in the film that don’t quite come together. Why would a bunch of scientists land on an unknown planet without wearing protective gear? When a teammate exhibit signs of contracting deadly virus, why not quarantine that person instead of giving him a hug and letting him spit blood all over you. Not knowing what is on the foreign planet, why would the explorers separate into groups and risk lives? To make the film more emotionally charged much of the crew are married but with little to no development on the relationships, this tactic does not work in making the death scenes more powerful.  The bloody, grotesque scenes of alien creatures exploding out of human bodies is back and other than just being more gory doesn’t provide anything new for audiences. Then there is the explanation of what happened to the remaining characters from the prequel, Prometheus. A rather disappointing explanation is provided that also makes no sense for those of us who saw the film and were waiting for an exciting big reveal – this was one of the biggest let downs in the new movie.

The creatures in this production are pretty creepy as the various stages of evolution are revealed. But it is a bit odd that in one scene a monstrous infant is born and five minutes later a fully grown adult alien is revealed. In past films of the franchise, it seemed to take some time for the creatures to mature but in Covenant the timeframe for “growing up” is on warp speed. Also, in past films part of the charm was the aliens being cloaked in darkness and lurking in the shadows adding to the mystery and suspense. The CGI version of the alien creature moving around with a blood thirst is pretty impressive but something is still lacking on creating that feeling of what is lurking around the corner.

Covenant is a well-cast film with a standout performance by Michael Fassbender.  His energy and intensity steals the show in a stellar role that seems tailor made just for him. His fierce glaze and stony expressions keep us guessing as to his true motivations.  Katherine Waterston is also amazing as an emotionally conflicted first officer. The supporting cast is also very strong and it is their combined performances that really give us that feeling of foreboding more than the actual set designs.

Alien: Covenant flip flops from a science fiction adventure into philosophical ideas on the creation of life.  A motion picture that starts off suspenseful and terrifying manages to take a nose dive and crash lands. High expectations were set when the trailers revealed some of the best scenes. Covenant is not terrible it is just somewhat disappointing. Plenty of unanswered questions will lay the groundwork for more films so hopefully fans of the series are still in for some gratifying surprises that will redeem the popular franchise.

ALIEN: COVENANT opens May 19, 2017

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