New ‘ Alien’ film can’t break from scary past
Michael Fassbender lends needed soul as twin androids
The line between creation and destruction, birth and bloody death, is a subtle one in Alien: Covenant, director Ridley Scott’s intriguing next chapter in the long- running sci- fi franchise and a two- fold tour de force for Michael Fassbender.
A greatest- hits package of the previous sci- fi horror outings, Covenant ( out of four; rated R; in theaters nationwide Thursday night) combines the horrific chaos introduced in Scott’s original 1979 classic with the philosophical underpinnings of 2012’ s Prometheus prequel, never quite carving its own place in the canon.
In 2104, a cosmic accident wakes up the sleeping crew of the Covenant, causing a ruckus and burning up the ship’s captain, Jacob Branson ( James Franco). On a mission with thousands of colonists and human embryos in stasis, the spacefarers — and their android assistant Walter ( Fassbender) — are still seven years away from their target planet, but instead of going back to their sleep chambers, they discover a lush paradise world nearby that could potentially be their new home.
Terraforming expert Daniels ( Katherine Waterston) and new captain Christopher Oram ( Billy Crudup) lead an expedition to the surface, where they meet David ( also Fassbender), the synthetic man from Prometheus who’s been conducting various science experiments on local fauna for the past 10 years. ( He’s an older, more human version of Walter’s android model, thus the resemblance.) But the crew members also have a chance encounter with alien parasites, which begin to wreak havoc on their bodies. Anybody familiar with the infamous chest- bursting scene from
Alien knows where this is headed. Exploding organs and buckets of blood have been seen before, though alien tentacles emerging while two folks engage in shower sex gives the film a certain air of fun creepiness. And the alien creatures themselves have never looked better.
The signature facehugger ( the crabby creature that infects folks up close and personal) is a throwback that looks the same as it did nearly 40 years ago, but the ma- levolent Xenomorph is a CGI wonder, wildly headbutting spacecraft and slobbering at the sight of human meat. The humanoid Neomorph is a splendid addition to the bunch as Covenant on the whole makes strides in explaining the origin of the sinister species.
The ship’s crew, forgettable for the most part, aren’t overly developed, though expectations are low with fanged doom possible around every corner. Danny McBride plays against comedic type as pilot Tennessee but doesn’t have anything to do until the end, though Waterston strongly inhabits the transformation of Daniels from grieving widow to butt- kicker supreme, a la original Alien star Sigourney Weaver’s Ellen Ripley.
When it comes to memorable personalities, humans and aliens alike take a backseat to Fassbender, who is magnificent in his dual robotic roles. Walter is a more mechanical and later model than David, an artistic fellow who literally meets his maker ( played by Guy Pearce) in the movie’s musical and minimalistic prologue. The scenes between David and Walter are particular engaging, with Fassbender playing off himself to give this lookalike pair individual personalities and motivations.
While audiences will be able to see the twist coming light years away, Covenant does succeed in continuing Prometheus’ ambition to deepen the Alien mythology with a meaning- of- life bent. Carnage may always be at the heart of this series, but Fassbender does his part to give it soul.
Daniels ( Katherine Waterston) meets with her crew’s resident android Walter ( Michael Fassbender) in Alien: Covenant.