Alien: Covenant (Reviewed)

The eagerly-awaited sequel to the much (and often unfairly) maligned Prometheus, Alien: Covenant is finally here to further expand and evolve the mythology of the Xenomorph’s origins.

Ridley Scott seems to have been taking copious notes after the commercial and critical short-comings that made Prometheus such a disappointment for so many (personally, I really liked it, more-so upon repeat viewings). Here, many of those errors have been acknowledged and skilfully avoided to deliver a truly nerve-jangling cinematic experience.

As per, I’ll spare you the plot details, but this slow-burning sci-fi horror-thriller does have some very familiar tropes right from the off and throughout. Distress beacon? Check. Grey-vest-and-Haribo-boy-haircut? Check. Foolish decision-making? Check (Big-time).

It’s both tragic and exhilarating to watch just how easily it is for it to go so royally tits-up for the characters and the next stage of the Xenomorph’s evolution is both terrifyingly original as it is ingeniously deceptive.

The film benefits from a strong cast. Katherine Waterston has a steely resolve which belies her cherubic, boyish face. Danny McBride is superb in a rare straight role and Michael Fassbender is still brilliantly blank as returning droid David. Billy Crudup also delivers real pathos as the faith-dependant ship’s captain-by-proxy struggling to do the right thing against nearly impossible odds.

The film’s plot progresses swiftly and effectively and the deceptively tricky plot is peppered with flashbacks to fill in the blanks presented by some of the often puzzling visuals of the mysterious planet (think of market day at Pompeii), so your consistent attention is definitely required and rewarded.

The music is deliberately Wagnerian (in a nod to both the film’s themes, as well as nodding affectionately towards other sci-fi gems, such as 2001: A Space Odyssey and Christopher Nolan’s Interstellar) but often has flourishes that nod towards 70’s and 80’s sci-fi classics like 1982’s The Thing and, perhaps not surprisingly, 1979’s Alien.

It is not until quite a long way into the film are the true ramifications of what exactly is going on is revealed (along with the film’s real villain) to its full extent but I admit I did twig the twist long before its final reveal. This is not to say it took away from my enjoyment of the film as a whole, which builds to an excitingly-staged (if very familiarly structured) finale.

So all-in-all, a thrilling, nerve-jangling slow-burner (like all the best horror-thrillers) that delivers genuine scares and riveting set-pieces, with bursts of often startling gory violence. The film is, quite rightfully, light on humour which was more fitting for the horror and terror the crew were experiencing. Visually, musically and plot-wise, the film is meticulous, well-planned and impressive.

The ill-fated decisions made by the crew are considered with a logic and intelligence that is rare in a film such as this and those expecting a post-credit sequence and a predictable closing scene will be sorely disappointed due to the final devious sting in its tail the film has in its very last moments.

An excellent sci-fi horror-thriller which was well-worth the wait.

Welcome back Ridley.

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