Empire (UK) - - ON.SCREEN -

THE MOST COM­MON crit­i­cism of Ri­d­ley Scott’s 2012 Alien pre­quel Prometheus was that it wasn’t ter­ri­fy­ing enough. Hard­ened fans ex­pected more creep­ing dread with their space ex­plo­ration and less phi­los­o­phy. Af­ter all, while other di­rec­tors had added ac­tion beats or con­spir­acy the­o­ries to the se­ries, Scott’s orig­i­nal was a straight-up hor­ror, a haunted house in space that chilled gen­er­a­tions. The good news is that his Prometheus fol­low-up,

Alien: Covenant, should keep ev­ery­one happy. “It’s go­ing to be re­ally scary, this film,” says Michael Fass­ben­der, the only re­turn­ing cast mem­ber. “It’s go­ing to be scarier than Prometheus, def­i­nitely. More along that line of Alien.”

The tonal blend of Scott’s two pre­vi­ous in­stal­ments re­flects the film’s time­line, since this is both se­quel to Prometheus and pre­quel to Alien. Fass­ben­der re­turns as an­droid David, re­stored to func­tion (no longer a sev­ered head) and es­caped from the En­gi­neers’ planet with El­iz­a­beth Shaw.

David is now ma­rooned on a new world, alone. A colony ship called Covenant hears the dis­tress call and comes to in­ves­ti­gate — bring­ing aboard David’s dop­pel­gänger Wal­ter (Fass­ben­der again), a more ad­vanced but less emo­tional syn­thetic life­form. The two have very dif­fer­ent views on life and hu­man­ity, set­ting up fresh

Prometheus-style mus­ings. “Af­ter Prometheus a lot of peo­ple said, ‘Well there’s a lot of philosophis­ing,’” ac­knowl­edges Fass­ben­der. “But Ri­d­ley has merged those ques­tions and the thriller el­e­ment to­gether here re­ally, re­ally well.”

The course shift causes Covenant’s crew to awaken early from hyper-sleep — among them

Kather­ine Water­ston’s Daniels, set to be the Ri­p­ley fig­ure. Water­ston, how­ever, tries to ig­nore that legacy. “These are the things you ac­tively don’t think about un­til you get in­ter­viewed to re­mind you that you should be piss­ing your­self,” she laughs. At least she can chan­nel that ter­ror. “Un­like Sigour­ney in Alien, [Daniels] is in a sur­vival mode of sorts from the be­gin­ning. She’s not the cap­tain, but she’s a nat­u­ral leader so in times of cri­sis she falls into that po­si­tion quite eas­ily.”

And times of cri­sis will find Daniels, as the par­adise the crew dis­cov­ers has a st­ing in the tail and acid in the blood. “It’s cool to weave in some of the el­e­ments from the orig­i­nal Alien and have those beats in there,” says Fass­ben­der. If all goes to plan, Scott’s new Alien movie could match its an­ces­tor for chills as well as smarts. HE­LEN O’HARA

The calm be­fore the alien hits the fan. Be­low: Ri­d­ley Scott di­rects his new Ri­p­ley — Kather­ine Water­ston’s Daniels. Bot­tom: Michael Fass­ben­der (as Wal­ter) with crew­mate Car­men Ejogo.

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