Seeing double? With Michael Fassbender around, that’s what viewers get in Ridley Scott’s “Alien: Covenant,” the latest incarnation of the “Alien” film series that persuasively demonstrated in 1979 that female action heroes can sometimes kick alien ass better than their brawny male counterparts.
After five films and numerous treks into different galaxies, the series is back—and, this time, it aims for the jugular. It’s a good thing Fassbender hasn’t decided to do the full monty again—or those face-sucking, chest-ripping aliens would get spooked, and we’d quickly be left with no horror movie to see.
“Covenant” takes place (only) 11 years after the events in the “Alien” prequel, 2012’s “Prometheus”—and given sci-fi flicks’ penchant for “hypersleep” and convenient jumps and dives into the time continuum, it shouldn’t be a surprise to see uncredited sightings of Guy Pearce, Noomi Rapace and even the omnipresent James Franco.
Set in the year 2104, the film follows the fate that awaits
the passengers of spacecraft Covenant, a 15-crew colony ship that has seven years to get to a remote planet and start life anew for its 2,000 “sleeping” colonists and a thousand cryogenically preserved embryos.
But, en route its destination, an energy upsurge forces its crew to take a side trip to a supposedly lifeless (and previously undetected) planet—that turns out to be Earth-like in its ability to support different life forms. Even stranger is the signal they intercept from a “man” singing John Denver’s “Take Me Home, Country Roads.” Now that’s creepy.
The franchise expands the “Alien” mythology further by veering off-course from the you-can-run-but-you-can’t-
hide claustrophobia and close-quarters, deep-space terror it effectively fielded and staged in its previous installments.
It introduces a wider—and stranger—“playing field” for the monstrous creatures to demonstrate their ravenous might. If all you want are the sci-fi genre’s aw-shucks thrills inherent in the film’s predator-versus-prey formula, the movie can be seen as a satisfying trip to the terrifying unknown.
Be forewarned and take heed: Beware of contagious spores, and stay away from highly evolved androids “who” are partial to folk and country music!
Unfortunately, none of the sci-fi thriller’s cast manages to channel Sigourney Weaver’s stubborn, take-no-prisoners will to survive or her persistence to get even!
This time, the gun-wielding humans, including the film’s token estrogen-pumped heroine (Katherine Waterston), are no match for their slimy foes.
Is it really the “best of the ‘Alien’ series,” as early reviews of the movie had suggested? Nah. The production certainly knows how to surprise and scare—after all, it has a seasoned film master at its helm—but, some of its parts are weighed down by a string of predictable contrivances and some slow-grinding sequences. It’s a cash-generating cinematic retread that hasn’t heard the time-tested aphorism: If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.
Moreover, the film doesn’t really offer anything new, unless you get a certain high seeing Fassbender kissing—would you believe—himself!