Movie Review: Alien: Covenant

Directed By: Ridley Scott

Starring: Michael Fassbender, Katherine Waterston, Danny McBride, and Billy Crudup

Production: Twentieth Century Fox

Genre: Horror, Sci-Fi, Thriller

Rated: R

My Rating: ****½:5

The long-running “Alien” franchise has arrived with their latest, “Alien: Covenant.” While the film may not be the best installment in the revered sci-fi/horror franchise; director Ridley Scott has managed to make a frightening and engaging film that further bridges the gap between the original 1979 film and the 2012 prequel “Prometheus.”

The “Covenant” in the film’s title refers to a spacecraft sent on a mission to colonize a distant planet. The ship bears many stylistic similarities to the Nostromo in the original film, ranging from monochrome computer displays to an early build of the AI program MU/TH/UR (voice of Lorelei King). It even has an android steward known as Walter (Michael Fassbender), who is a more advanced model of the android David from “Prometheus” (also played by Fassbender).

Crisis then strikes when an accident results in the death of several crew members of the Covenant dying in an ion storm. This forces the ship to make a detour to another planet, resulting in other members making contact with a pathogen that leads to even more fatalities.

The planet also harbors many dark secrets that expand on the core myths of the franchise. In addition to the “xenomorphs” that have been part of the franchise from the beginning, there are new variations known as “neomorphs.” Even though the film sports a much lower budget than “Prometheus,” Scott still proves to be a master of dark science fiction and horror. With more than 35 years of advances in special effects since the original “Alien,” Scott deftly blends a terrifying atmosphere with speculative fiction about the future.

Even if the film doesn’t reach the heights of the original 1979 film or James Cameron’s stellar 1986 sequel “Aliens,” it does take the strengths of “Prometheus” and improve upon elements that divided many critics and fans. Michael Fassbender’s performance as Walter is every bit as engaging as it was for David, and seeing the contrast between the two androids is a spectacular example of Fassbender’s range as an actor. Katherine Waterston as the female crew member “Dany” is an ideal stand-in for Sigourney Weaver’s iconic character of Ellen Ripley. Danny McBride also puts on a surprisingly dramatic role as the pilot “Tennessee,” possessing a surprising amount of depth given that the actor has been mostly associated with raunchy comedies such as “Tropic Thunder” as well as the TV series “Eastbound and Down.”

Despite the fact that a proposed “Alien 5” by Neill Blomkamp (“District 9,” “Elysium,” “Chappie”) unfortunately has fallen through, Ridley Scott plans to film a potential follow-up to this film within the next 14 months if it’s successful. For now, “Alien: Covenant” proves to be a strong entry into the franchise and an ideal hard-R science fiction/horror film. It’s highly recommended for longtime fans and for those looking for a great summer movie.

Review by Steven Pryor