Can you take a franchise too far? Police Academy says you can, which is why I’m always a tad apprehensive before I take my seat for another Alien instalment. On the whole it’s been a good run: one or two classics, the occasional ‘meh’, and only one real stinker. But there is a formula for the best ones:
- More than one killer xenomorph.
- Lots of people with lots of guns, but no clue…
- An android with an agenda to make things just that much harder.
- No more than three survivors at the end.
So on that basis, Alien: Covenant is something of a winner.
The Covenant in question is a huge ship carrying two thousand people, in suspended animation, to a far-off world ripe for colonisation. Unsurprisingly, the ship suffers a disaster en-route (and the rather gruesome death of its captain), so the jaded crew decided to investigate a much closer world, looking to cut seven years off the journey time. The right climate, water and vegetation. It seems perfect; but of course, it’s not…
It’s undoubtedly a sci-fi horror flick (and it gets pretty gory in places), but what sets it apart is that it does seem to have a rather poetic soul to it. In a rather clever piece of film-making, the aliens do double-duty as mindless blenders of human flesh, but also as a new species that are strangely beautiful in their own way. Quite a feat; I was really impressed. The acting is pretty damn good from everyone; I don’t think there were any stand-out performances, thought Michael Fassbender was eerily good as the android(s).
The special effects were excellent, but not overdone. And the flying sequences were breath-taking. Like all Alien movies, the film relies a lot on building its own unique kind of claustrophobia: it’s always dark; it’s always raining; it’s always hot. It’s amazing really; you know what’s coming (the director makes no attempt to hide it from you); the music stops; you can hear something in the background; the victim has no idea what’s coming; you do, and you’re gripping your armrests; still nothing; the victim is humming; you’re thinking Gaaahhh! Get it over with already! But not this director; he wants you looking at the screen through the slits of your eyes before he lets rip… Great stuff.
The ending is not going to be to everyone’s taste. Personally, I thought it was courageous and very well done. It’s rare that you see a genuinely scarey piece of sci-fi, and that’s what Alien: Covenant is. There were grown men in the row in front of me with their faces in their mobile phones, only looking at the screen when the screaming stopped. Kinda rude; man up or leave the theatre.
For me, one of the better examples of the franchise.
Nine out of ten.