Killer queens back on top
THE stars of Ridley Scott’s Alien reboot, quite rightly, are the acid-drooling extraterrestrial creatures themselves.
Prometheus, Alien: Covenant’s portentous 2012 predecessor, was long on existential riddles and short on parasitic fauna. Scott rectifies this in the prequel’s sequel (there are two more instalments planned to link up with the director’s groundbreaking 1979 original).
Each stage of the xenomorph’s unusually visceral life cycle — ovomorph, facehugger, chestburster, neomorph and mature, adult queen — is rendered in intimate anatomical detail.
The filmmakers take full advantage of recent advances in visual and special effects technology to capture the viscous creatures in all their erotic grotesquerie.
We get up close and personal with every one of the monstrous iterations. Not one of them disappoints.
Augmenting the sense of biological mystery is Scott’s discipline as director. The veteran filmmaker is an expert judge of when less becomes more. The economical shower scene, in which an alien tendril winds its way up the legs of a couple making love, offers a good example of this precision at work.
Michael Fassbender makes a welcome return as the ship’s regulation synthetic android, now known as Walter. He’s a slightly warmer, more gentlemanly variation on Prometheus’s fastidious David — perhaps the modification which renders him incapable of actually creating anything (while he can master a complicated piece of music in seconds, he can’t compose) means he’s less tortured.
Alien: Covenant also features a mysterious alien whisperer — but that character can’t be described without spoiling the plot.
But the success of the sixth film in the sci-fi franchise was always going to rest on the shoulders of the new Ripley — Katherine Waterston (Fantastic Beasts And Where To Find Them) — who proves herself to be more than able to carry the load.
Scott describes her character, Daniels, as going on a “parallel journey” to Sigourney Weaver’s original character. The terraformist, while similarly resilient, is perhaps more emotionally vulnerable than her muchloved predecessor/successor, partly because the storyline gives her more opportunity to explore this side of herself.
The Covenant is a colony ship carrying 2000 human souls and trays of second generation embryos, bound for a habitable planet in a distant galaxy. Given the pioneering nature of the mission, the crew is made up entirely of couples.
When a freak accident triggers emergency protocols, Daniels awakes from cryosleep to see her husband, and the ship’s captain (James Franco), die seemingly due to a pod malfunction.
Billy Crudup’s second-incommand, Oram, orders an exploratory mission to the habitable planet that miraculously appears on their radar. Scott doesn’t waste much time in unleashing his secret biological weapon.
Alien: Covenant is a welcome return to form for the beloved franchise.
The dramatic energy of the action sequences overcomes a somewhat predictable plot that sets out to address some very big questions, but ultimately falls back on a few well-worn answers.
The ending feels strangely rushed — and there’s a twist you can see coming from a galaxy away — but Alien: Covenant is still more than space-worthy enough to transport mass audiences to the next instalment.
NOW SHOWING ( VMAX AND GOLD CLASS)
Up close and personal with an intricately rendered alien,