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Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Alien: Covenant



38 years ago, (not yet Sir) Ridley Scott directed Alien. Since 2012, he's been on some sort of mission to put together a cover band and recreate the old hit. His first cover band, Prometheus, couldn't get the number quite right. This new band, Alien: Covenant, gets a lot closer. That Alien: Covenant takes the title of Best Alien Movie Since Aliens is faint praise, but Covenant clears that low bar set by every attempt to make an Alien movie after James Cameron's space marines v Xenomorphs sequel. No one ever tried to remake Cameron's masterpiece; everyone else who made an Alien film riffed on Ridley Scott, including Sir Ridley Scott (twice).  

Alien: Covenant plays the old notes with ready familiarity. A rough and tumble space crew employed by Weyland-Yutani, the corporation with the worst business model of the future - send humans into space to die in droves - is en route to a new colony with 2000 cryo-sleeping souls on board. A distress beacon coaxes them to land on an Earth-like planet surrounded by ion superstorms. The crew, led by Billy Crudup and Katherine Waterston (who looks like she's perpetually about to burst into tears at any moment), of course discover Aliens, which attack with merciless abandon and slaughter their panicked, hysterically outmatched crew. But also on the planet is David (Michael Fassbender), the android from Prometheus, and boy, is he a piece of work. 

Also on board the starship Covenant is Walter (also Michael Fassbender) an identical but newer model android. The two Michael Fassbenders on screen provide Covenant's most interesting moments, as they recite Percy Shelley's "Ozymandias" to each other, fight each other, and gradually reveal what David is really doing on this planet: This is the homeworld of the Engineers, the pale, bald, giant space gods which created the Xenomorphs and probably humanity as well. David and Noomi Rapace, the survivors of Prometheus, arrived on this world on board the Engineers' ship, whereupon David unleashed the Xenomorph virus on the Engineers and slaughtered them, turning the Engineer City into a "dire necropolis." Then he killed Rapace and used her as one of his incubators for his genetic experiments to breed the perfect Alien, i.e. one that looks like the original version designed by H.R. Giger in the 1979 film.

One can almost imagine Sir Ridley Scott rolling his eyes in boredom recreating the same old scenes of facehugging, chestbursting, and of humans running from Aliens hunting them in dark, blood-splattered space ship hallways. Sir Ridley seems far more engaged whenever Michael Fassbender is talking to himself on screen. Fassbender delightfully alternates between Walter's labored American workaday accent and David's high-falootin' British foppishness. Sir Ridley also seems to think audiences really give a rat's ass where the Xenomorphs come from and how - they're the creations of David, who hates humanity, especially the one particular human who created him, played by Guy Pearce

Otherwise, Alien: Covenant is Alien Redux: the same old scares shined up like new, with a couple of nods to Alien movies past (which happen in this universe's future), like using an industrial crane claw to trap an Alien; an ode to Sigourney Weaver using a loading bay exosuit to fight the Alien Queen in Aliens. Sir Ridley Scott reportedly intends to make two more Alien sequels leading to the events of the 1979 film. Two more fucking Alien sequels! Two more of the same fucking thing before we get to Sigourney Weaver, the first fucking thing. These Alien movies are a Xenomorph eating its own tail.