The crew of a colony ship, bound for a remote planet, discover an uncharted paradise with a threat beyond their imagination, and must attempt a harrowing escape.
The argument between which is a better movie, “Alien” or “Aliens,” has raged on for over thirty years, and no doubt it will continue for another thirty. It all boils down to personal opinion. I love both movies but I would take “Alien” over its successor and believe me, that is no easy feat. James Cameron took “Aliens” in a completely different direction, while still managing to keep the overall feel and scope of Ridley Scott’s predecessor but the way Scott constructed “Alien,” complete with its deliberately slow-paced but always-evolving narrative, his customary (at the time) use of extreme wide angles with little to no cuts, and the late Jerry Goldsmith’s hauntingly beautiful and at times, restrained menacing score, put everything in place for what would eventually become a masterpiece. While “Alien: Covenant” is nowhere near that status, it far surpasses the big fiasco that was “Prometheus,” a movie that boldly stated, “questions will be answered,” but then raised even more unfathomably ludicrous and meaningless questions than it did answers. This time around, Scott has gone back to the well and has delivered something more akin to “Alien,” and as a result, “Alien: Covenant” succeeds in delivering the thrills and scares that audiences came to love and appreciate with the series’ earlier incarnations, but it is not without some major, gaping plot holes, big enough to fly a jumbo through.
It is the year 2104 and the colony ship Covenant is on its way to a remote planet called Origae-6, carrying thousands of colonists and embryos, where they intend to establish a new home. En route, they receive a garbled radio transmission from a nearby planet and, unable to decipher it, they decide to go and investigate. In doing research on the planet, it has all the elements they would require to start over, water, vegetation, breathable air, and with their intended destination of Origae-6 many more years away, the thought of possibly starting over, much closer to earth, is an intriguing one. An expedition team descends to the planet’s surface while the Covenant continues to orbit the planet. The group splits up into two, with one team performing an ecological survey of the surface, while the other investigates a downed spaceship several miles away. Within minutes of landing, one member of the ecological team becomes violently ill and they return to the lander. In the medical bay, a Neomorph bursts out of his back, mauling another to death and when the one remaining members tries to kill it, she inadvertently hits the gas tanks, rupturing them and, inevitably, destroying the ship. The exploration team finally discover the crashed ship that has been emitting the radio transmission they received in space and quickly realize that it is the Engineer ship that David and Elizabeth Shaw, the last remaining survivors from “Prometheus,” commandeered, with the intent of traveling to the Engineers planet to find out why they want to destroy mankind.
Shortly after, one of their team members also becomes sick and as they try to make their way back to the lander, unaware that everybody with the ecological crew is dead, they are attacked by multiple Neomorphs but out of the shadows, a hooded figure appears, managing to get them to safety. It is David, the sole survivor, and android from “Prometheus,” and he goes on to explain Elizabeth Shaw’s fate, as well as the fate of every single Engineer on the planet. He tells them that when their ship landed, it accidentally released a bioweapon, which wiped out the entire native population and left him stranded by himself, with no way off the planet. The remaining crew signal to the Covenant to come and extract them and while they wait for their arrival, the Covenant’s synthetic android, Walter, meets David, both played by Michael Fassbender and as Walter gets to know David, he unearths some truly terrifying secrets that could destroy every human on the ship. With the second lander close by, David tries to stop Walter from telling the others and they end up engaged in hand-to-hand combat. With a Xenomorph, the classic alien, hunting down the remaining crew members, the last two survivors make a run for the ship but are quickly followed by the alien and one of the androids. Once all are on board, however, it becomes a fight to the death between man, machine, and alien.
Much of “Alien: Covenant” is reminiscent of “Alien,” achromatic, dreary, dark, foreboding, but the cast that Scott has assembled, for the most part, is what keeps the story intriguing. They are a much better ensemble than the idiotic combination of so-called scientists and experts that filled the screens in “Prometheus,” but having said that, our new group are not without their own ineptitude. Once they land on the planet, not knowing what awaits them outside, they disembark from the ship without helmets and nearly every person at the press screening I attended, groaned and laughed at the sheer absurdity of the situation. Thankfully, scenes like this are far and few between. I think one of the main reasons why “Prometheus” fared so badly upon its initial release, is because right before the movie came out, it was rumored to be a direct prequel, leading right up to the events of “Alien.” Naturally, that didn’t transpire and many people, including yours truly, walked away from the film feeling cheated and the fact that Ridley Scott never debunked those rumors, or tried to explain exactly where “Prometheus” stood in the grand scheme of things, made it even worse. At least with “Alien: Covenant,” we know where we stand as Scott has made it known that this is the second in a planned trilogy, with the next chapter, currently titled “Alien: Awakening,” supposedly the final installment and the movie that will directly lead up to “Alien.” As a fan of “Alien” and “Aliens,” this new iteration doesn’t even come close but with this new trilogy’s gradual progression, one can only imagine, and hope, that by the time we get to Part 3, it might very well be considered the best of the lot. But then again, while “Revenge of the Sith” is considered to be the best of the Star Wars prequels, that is not really saying much, as Episodes I & II were absolutely horrendous.
In theaters Friday, May 19th