In 1979, a film entitled ‘Alien’ premiered in theatres with the catchy tag line “In space no one can hear you scream”. It was a horror film set in space, capturing the time perfectly when audiences were captivated by science fiction films and new horror films, this one a great big BOO movie set in outer space. Looking nothing like Star Wars (1977) this was a gritty, tough film about space miners who encounter an alien being on a planet they encounter by accident. The creature proves to be indestructible, bleeding acid, killing all in its path. It found its way on their craft by attaching itself to the face of one of the crew members, disappearing, and then bursting through his chest during breakfast, killing him and growing into a vicious beast, picking the crew off one by one. It is left to Ripley (Sigourney Weaver) to kill the creature, which she tries to do, blowing it into space.
The film was a huge hit and established Scott as a major new director. He went on to direct such great films as Blade Runner (1982), Thelma and Louise (1991), Matchstick Men (2003) and most recently The Martian (2015).
He is back at the helm of this latest in the Alien series, a franchise that has continued since 1979. James Cameron followed that first one, merging war and horror with science fiction in Aliens (1986) a kick ass adventure thriller that was critically acclaimed and nominated for seven Academy Awards including Best Actress for Weaver, reprising her role as Ripley. Aliens (1986) was simply astounding, a knockout entertainment and thriller with excellent performances from the entire cast which also included Bill Paxton and Lance Hendrickson. But after Aliens (1986) the franchise fell apart, leading to ALien vs. Predator (2001), I kid you not which felt like the old Universal films Frankenstein meets the Wolf Man (1944).
‘Alien – Covenant’ is a return to the original essence of the franchise, but in no way does it surpass it or bring anything new to it. It is simply more of the same, and I am not sure that is a good thing.
Why would Scott, now in his eighties, bother to make a film like this when he must have other projects he is interested in doing? And he certainly has the clout to get them done? That said he gives this film more life, and death than the other films, easily the best of the series since the first two.
As the Covenant speeds towards heads for a new planet promising a new home for the two thousand sleeping humans under the watch of humanoid Walter (Michael Fassbender) we can feel the growing sense of dread. When the captain dies suddenly, played ever so briefly by James Franco, leaving his mate devastated, did I mention it was a couple’s only voyage, which they hope would lead to propagating the new planet, all hell begins to break loose. Finding a hidden planet nearby they go down for a look and find a lush land that looks like New Zealand or some other tropical area so they decide this will work.Though the lush vegetation and waterfalls are beautiful, there is something terrible on the planet. Little do they know what is lurking there waiting to ambush them.
Very soon after landing the humans grow ill and begin bursting open, the offspring the nasty aliens we have seen before. Once again the humans goes to war with these vicious creatures, who seem to be unbeatable. They attack in waves, tearing the crew to pieces, true monsters in their murderous rampages.
The action is non stop once it gets going, which in fairness does not take that long.
The film is exciting no question, but about halfway through you begin to realize you have been here before, and frankly as good as this might be, it has been better.
The single performance that stands out is Fassbender who is given a chance to portray a double role, but that I will not spoil. No one else, not even the gifted Billy Crudup makes much of an impression, the effects are the stars of this one.
Granted it will make a boat load of money the first weekend, but after that I suspect will drop fast and be on DVD before the fall comes. Nothing new, been there, done that.