ALIEN: COVENANT

The Cre­ation Story

SFX - - Contents - Ian Ber­ri­man

The lat­est in­stal­ment of the Xenomorph saga bursts onto Blu-ray.

re­leased 18 sePTeM­Ber (out now on down­load) 2017 | 15 | Blu-ray (4K/stan­dard)/ dVd/down­load Di­rec­tor ridley scott Cast Michael Fass­ben­der, Billy Crudup, Kather­ine Water­ston, danny McBride

Say what you like about Ridley Scott’s pre­quel Prometheus, but it did at least make a sin­cere at­tempt to broaden out the Alien uni­verse, in­tro­duc­ing mys­te­ri­ous gi­ants the En­gi­neers and the Xenomorph pre­cur­sors cre­ated by their bioweapons. Many fans of the se­ries were un­happy that the re­sults didn’t feel suf­fi­ciently Alien-y, though.

With Alien: Covenant – whether course-cor­rect­ing in re­sponse or in ac­cor­dance with his long-term plan – Ridley Scott de­liv­ers some­thing that as­suredly does. We have a ves­sel drawn to a planet by a mys­te­ri­ous sig­nal. We have a wrecked space­ship to be ex­plored. There are alien eggs, and Face­hug­gers, and a hero­ine spit­ting lines like “I got you, you son of a bitch!” Ev­ery fan-pleas­ing but­ton is pressed. So why does it feel a lit­tle un­der­whelm­ing?

Per­haps be­cause the mys­tery of the En­gi­neers turns out to be a dead end, with Scott tak­ing their pieces off the board as he un­veils the truth be­hind the Xenomorphs – one you may strug­gle to swal­low if your view on “Chicken or egg?” is “chicken”. Still, Covenant’s rev­e­la­tions retroac­tively im­prove Prometheus, mak­ing sense of the fact that its “Neo­morphs” seemed too ran­dom in na­ture to de­velop into the Aliens we know.

Per­haps it’s be­cause of the hu­man char­ac­ters. Only Kather­ine Water­ston’s griev­ing Daniels, Billy Crudup’s man of faith Oram and Danny McBride’s Ten­nessee linger in the mem­ory – and the lat­ter mostly be­cause he wears a hat. By mak­ing the crew com­posed of cou­ples, Scott at­tempts to give their deaths more im­pact, but it doesn’t re­ally pay off. It would help if the film made a bet­ter fist of es­tab­lish­ing their re­la­tion­ships, but frus­trat­ingly that was left to vi­ral short “The Last Sup­per”.

On the plus side, the non-hu­man char­ac­ters are su­perb. Michael Fass­ben­der’s an­droid was the best thing about Prometheus, and here, as both the sin­is­terly au­ton­o­mous David and new model Wal­ter, we get dou­ble help­ings of his ge­nius. In scenes like the tautly homo-erotic se­quence where David teaches Wal­ter to play a flute, vir­tu­oso per­for­mances com­bine with cut­ting-edge ef­fects in al­most mag­i­cal syn­ergy.

And those hu­man char­ac­ters are more mem­o­rable in death than they were in life... With crea­tures erupt­ing from backs and mouths in great gouts of blood, Covenant of­ten re­sem­bles a ghastly jet-black farce, as char­ac­ters slip about in great pools of plasma, or ac­ci­den­tally blow them­selves to bits. The Xenomorph at­tacks are fast, fu­ri­ous and thrilling. And any­one with the faintest goth lean­ings will re­spond to the baroque dark­ness of this world, with its vis­tas of charred corpses, grotesque anatom­i­cal draw­ings and mash-ups of mad sci­en­tist’s lab and se­rial killer’s den.

De­spite all Covenant’s visual splen­dour, how­ever, it’s hard to

Crea­tures erupt in great gouts of blood

es­cape the nag­ging feel­ing that its give-’em-what-they-want ap­proach rep­re­sents a partial re­treat from a more orig­i­nal vi­sion.

Ex­tras Ever heard Arnold Schwarzenegger’s stag­ger­ingly lit­eral com­men­tary for To­tal

Re­call? Ridley Scott’s not as bad, but still… in-be­tween oc­ca­sional in­sights, he spends a lot of his yak track say­ing things like, “Now they’re walk­ing around the in­te­rior of the old craft.” You’ll learn much more from Mak­ing Of “Mas­ter Class: Ridley Scott” (56 min­utes), which in­cludes some neat glimpses be­hind the scenes. Our favourite: the test fir­ing of an Alien Egg that re­sults in a crewmem­ber get­ting a Face­hug­ger full in the face! None of the dozen al­ter­nate/ deleted scenes are that re­mark­able. High­lights: glimpses of James Franco in a do­mes­tic flash­back, and Wal­ter dis­play­ing con­cern for the griev­ing Daniels by bring­ing her some grass! How thought­ful. Chances are you’ve seen the vi­ral videos. “The Last Sup­per” sees the crew bond­ing be­fore cryosleep; “Meet Wal­ter” is a Wey­land-Yu­tani com­mer­cial; “Pho­bos” pro­vides nine tire­some min­utes of crew “fear as­sess­ment” tests. Pro­logue “The Cross­ing” shows Prometheus sur­vivor El­iz­a­beth Shaw re­assem­bling David, while new epi­logue “Ad­vent” con­sists of trans­mis­sions to Wey­land-Yu­tani. Th­ese hint that we might see an Alien Queen in the next film… “David’s Il­lus­tra­tions” pro­vide Giger-es­que de­signs with ti­tles like “skele­ton jellyfish”. They’re a sin­is­ter de­light, but a pain to nav­i­gate. A pro­duc­tion gallery fea­tures con­cept art and Scott’s sto­ry­boards. Trail­ers com­plete the pack­age. The DVD has the com­men­tary, deleted scenes and “Pho­bos” vi­ral.

The look of David’s out­fit was in­spired by Wil­son the Won­der Ath­lete, a char­ac­ter in ’50s boys’ pa­per The Hot­spur.

Fan­tas­tic beasts and where to shoot them.

How dare you ac­cuse the Xenomorph of be­ing a drip.

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