MOVIE REVIEW: Alien Covenant is bloody but lacks focus
WHEN it was announced that Ridley Scott, who terrified the world when he directed the original Alien in 1979, was set to direct a new Alien movie expectations went through the roof.
Scott is the man behind some of the most influential and successful sci-fi movies ever made, including Blade Runner, Alien, The Martian and 2012's Prometheus. Can he do it again?
Everything is quiet on board the colony ship Covenant. The crew and the rest of the 2,000 colonists aboard the vessel are in deep hyper sleep, with only the android Walter (Michael Fassbender) to run the day to day tasks.
The ship is on its way to the remote planet Origae 6, where they will establish a new outpost for humanity. After an incident involving the ship's energy sails, the crew is woken to make repairs, and it is during a spacewalk that one crew member receives a distress call.
Making a diversion to investigate, they crew land on an undisturbed natural paradise (in reality the incredible location of Milford Sound in New Zealand), and after disturbing some vegetation, two of the crew suddenly become sick. They have somehow become 'infected'.
To go into any more detail of the plot from here on in would force me to make spoilers, suffice to say that you can expect many references to Prometheus, along with face huggers, chest bursters and plenty of moments that Alien fans have come to expect.
Scott has taken the alien birth scenes to a new level since the days when John Hurt gave us the shocking 'chest burster' from the 1979 original, and it leaves little to the imagination. So. Much. Blood! You'll be repulsed and excited at the same time. It's an odd combination.
What follows is a roller-coaster ride swinging from delving deep into the events from Prometheus, and a crew faced with the terror of fighting aliens in the hope of getting back to the Covenant.
Suffice to say that if you haven't seen any of the previous movies chances are you'll have no idea what's going on.
Herein lies the problem with Alien: Covenant. The script can't decide if it is a scary, action packed Alien movie, or the thought-provoking Prometheus 2 which explores into the alien back story.
By the time the movie kicks into full 'Alien' mode with dark corridors, lots of screaming and the odd jump-in-your-seat scene, you feel like you've seen it all before.
If anyone steals the show, it is Michael Fassbender as Walter and Katherine Waterston as Daniels who does everything she can to save her crew, and you do empathise with her character as she has to watch quarantine protocols, mission alterations and careless risks taken which are out of her control. Seems there isn't any workplace health and safety manual on spaceships in the future.
Performances are fine, the special effects are flawless, and while it is a well put together package, you just wish that it would go one way or the other. Fans of the series will lap it up regardless.
While it is a welcome addition to the franchise, it would be nice for the filmmakers to get back to the essence of what made the early movies so good, and that's scaring the pants off of the audience. Pure fear is an emotion that is hard to pull off on screen, and in its purest form, 1979's Alien did it incredibly well.
You'll leave Alien: Covenant with answered questions from earlier movies, but have new ones for the next movie which is already in pre-production.
While the action is great, and the blood flows freely, you can't help thinking that Alien: Covenant could have been something really special with a bit more focus on what it wanted to be.
Alien: Covenant is fun, especially during the action scenes, but the series is in real danger of repeating itself. Time to raise the bar Mr Scott.
Alien: Covenant opens nationally tomorrow.
Stars: Michael Fassbender, Katherine Waterston, Billy Crudup, James Franco.
Director: Ridley Scott
Rating: MA 15+
Verdict: 3.5 stars