Orig­i­nal Alien in­fects this host

There’s a lot to like about Covenant, but it also treads a fa­mil­iar path

The Province - - ENTERTAINMENT - CHRIS KNIGHT ck­night@post­media.com twit­ter.com/chrisknight­film

There’s been a re­cent trend for long-awaited, so-called se­quels to func­tion as re­makes in ev­ery­thing but name. Think of Juras­sic World, which hit many of the same beats as Juras­sic Park; Ter­mi­na­tor Genisys, a do-over of the first Ter­mi­na­tor movie with a new wrin­kle in time; or Star Wars: The Force Awak­ens, which even its most deliri­ous fans (guilty) ad­mit­ted was a lot like the orig­i­nal Star Wars.

These movies have tended to re­ceive grudg­ingly good re­views and gen­er­ous box-of­fice num­bers, which is enough for Hol­ly­wood to see the trend as a good thing that must con­tinue. And so here comes Alien: Covenant, which com­bines a whole lot of DNA from the 1979 orig­i­nal with very lit­tle of the Char­i­ots of the Gods mys­ti­cism from the most re­cent chap­ter, 2012’s Prometheus.

That one fea­tured a ves­sel of ex­plo­ration and a fas­ci­nat­ing hu­manoid robot named David, played by Michael Fass­ben­der. This one opens with a flash­back to David’s time with his cre­ator (Guy Pearce) to show us how the stat­uesque an­droid got his name. We then move for­ward to AD 2104; about 10 years af­ter the events of Prometheus, but still quite a few years be­fore the orig­i­nal Alien.

Yet an­other ship, the Covenant, is ply­ing the stars, this time car­ry­ing ter­raform­ing equip­ment and a hold full of colonists (some adults, oth­ers mere em­bryos) in sus­pended an­i­ma­tion, des­tined for a world they hope will be hab­it­able.

The ship also fea­tures a small crew, con­ve­niently paired off into mar­ried cou­ples. Plus Walter, a David looka­like, but a newer model with fewer mega­lo­ma­ni­a­cal or mes­sianic tics.

When a stel­lar event knocks the ship for a loop, the crew has a rude awak­en­ing that leaves Oram (Billy Crudup) in charge. He’s a “man of faith,” an in­trigu­ing con­cept given that the screen­play takes the time to point it out, but frus­trat­ing in that it never elab­o­rates on it, even to say which faith it is.

Be­fore they can re­sume course, they in­ter­cept a hu­man sig­nal from a planet even nicer than the one they were headed to. Which is how they come to find David, sole sur­vivor of the Prometheus.

Each an­droid is fas­ci­nated with his new-found “brother,” but be­fore you can say “frat­ri­cide is a gas,” the aliens show up, hav­ing found yet an­other way to in­fect hu­mans as well as re­ly­ing on the stan­dard jack-in-the-box egg pods.

Crudup does a fan­tas­tic, hes­i­tat­ing per­for­mance as a man who clearly wasn’t cut out of cap­tain cloth and Kather­ine Water­ston ex­cels as the cap­tain’s widow, a kind of nou­veau Ri­p­ley, even copy­ing Sigour­ney Weaver’s all-busi­ness hair­cut from the Alien se­quels. And the rest of the crew have just enough de­vel­op­ment to reg­is­ter as peo­ple be­fore a num­ber of them reg­is­ter as alien snacks.

I liked Covenant, a lot. Even at a shade over two hours, the pac­ing never drags and there are some clever nods to the orig­i­nal (one of those drink­ing bird toys) and some mar­vel­lous new touches, such as David’s home­made flute and cab­i­net of alien cu­riosi­ties. He’s like an ex­plorer of old whose fas­ci­na­tion with the jun­gle has slowly mor­phed into a kind of madness.

And yet I couldn’t help but think in the days fol­low­ing the screen­ing that I’d seen 70 per cent of this be­fore.

— PHO­TOS: 20TH CEN­TURY FOX

Alien: Covenant con­tin­ues the sto­ry­line from the fran­chise’s pre­vi­ous re­lease — Prometheus — as a crew of colonists are sent to a planet they hope will be in­hab­it­able. Re­mem­ber these faces well be­cause more than a few will end up as snacks af­ter their ship is knocked off course and the crew finds a ‘nicer’ planet.

Ri­d­ley Scott’s Alien: Covenant has some clever nods to the orig­i­nal star­ring Sigour­ney Weaver, but the plot seems quite fa­mil­iar as well.

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