Alien: Covenant - dark, brutal and brilliant
Alien: Covenant is the bitter black coffee to Guardians Of The Galaxy's sparkling cocktail. This film is dark, beautiful, brutal - and all the better for it.
It serves as a bridge between Ridley Scott's other two entries into the Alien franchise — 2012's Prometheus and 1979's Alien. Thankfully it takes more from the latter than the former.
It's a simple plot: A crew of colonists discovers a message made by a human coming from an unknown planet and decide to check it out. What could go wrong?
For them, of course, it all goes very, very wrong.
For the audience, we are treated to a film that not only feels like it is Ridley Scott back to his best, but also — at long last — the first worthy addition to the Alien franchise since 1986.
Prometheus had too many gaping logic holes, not least when it came to the idiotic crew — the tracking expert gets lost and the zoologist tries to pet a space cobra. They were more plot accelerants than characters.
The crew of the Covenant don't even have time to think rationally. When things go south in this film, they plummet. Any poor decisions you can attribute to trying to avoid an imminent and really gruesome death courtesy of some truly aggressive creatures bursting out of people.
In some ways, this is also Scott making up for what he couldn't do in the 1979 classic.
Scott's used shadow to hide the creature back then. It added to the mystery and suspense. It also hid the fact that the creature was a very obviously a bloke in a suit who could see where he was going.
It's also true that while the shock of the dinnertime chest-burster ruining John Hrt's chances for seconds is one of cinema's most iconic scenes even though the shot of the infant alien escaping is adorably goofy.
Well, now Sir Ridley has CGI to play with. The freshly born aliens are the evil twins to Baby Groot.
When they grow up, it makes sense to see this iconic creature move in such a lithe aggressive way — like a cross between a parkour-trained panther, a velociraptor and a trapped rat — but it takes time to get used to.
That transition from man-in-a-suit to CGI loses a little in style while gaining realism.
The effects are brilliant. It's no spoiler to say that we get the classic alien xenomorph, there are also some disturbing-creepily pale versions dubbed by fans as neomorphs.
The blend of CGI with the real locations is seemless.
When the dropship comes into land through an overcast valley and onto a lakeshore, it is so realistic you catch yourself in the lie.
There is also some amazing yet invisible effects work involving Michael Fassbender.
The actor was good in Prometheus. In Covenant he is brilliant.
It is the Fassbender show and his work in the second act is the reason Covenant elevates beyond being just another monster movie.
To say more would involve spoilers but it's worth remembering that Scott directed one of the Hannibal Lector series.
It could be argued that compared to Alien or Aliens, the crew here is more fodder than ensemble.
There's very little in the way of introduction, chances are you'll only come out remembering the names of Danny McBride's Tennessee and Katherine Waterston's Daniels ( I had to look up the latter).
The crew serve the film by dying gruesome deaths - and there is plenty of gore.
If you want to get to know the crew more, watch the trailers and prologues. This must be the first film to use its trailers to provide the backstory and introductions so that those scenes can be cut from the film.
Part of your enjoyment may come down to how much you like having everything explained. It's not everyone's cup of tea — just ask George Lucas and his midichlorians — and while there is some t-crossing and i-dotting, Scott seems to be on a roll. At 79 he is reinvigorated and ready to put two more prequels in before the story reaches the '79 Alien.
On the strength of Alien: Covenant, those prequels can't come soon enough.
MOVIE: Alien: Covenant
STARRING: Michael Fassbender, Katherine Waterston, Billy Crudup, Danny McBride
DIRECTOR: Ridley Scott
THE SKINNY: The crew of a colony ship are drawn to an uncharted planet that may provide, and must attempt a harrowing escape.