Review – Alien: Covenant

Not an outright disaster for a franchise that has been much maligned since Alien 3, but still frustrating. Here’s the Sunday Indo review…

***

Alien: Covenant
Cert: 16

THE mechanical shark in Jaws was so shoddy that Spielberg left it out wherever he could. Less very much proved to be more, with the unseen, implied threat freezing viewers’ blood that summer in 1975. Alien, Ridley Scott’s space-slasher classic, did a similar trick three years later by minimising the screentime of the man in the monster suit.

These days, it’s cheaper to just CGI in the horror rather than pay costume designers and make-up artists, so the imagination takes a back seat. This return to the spirit of Scott’s original thus can’t compare to the abject terror that audiences – and uninformed fellow cast members – felt in 1979 when the late John Hurt suffered one of science-fiction’s nastiest stomach cramps.

With Alien: Covenant, Scott looks to make amends for the bloated, muddled anti-climax that was Prometheus and get these much-discussed prequels back on track. In this, he largely succeeds. Elsewhere – character development, suspense, the element of surprise – less so.

The old “a ship, a crew, a signal” recipe is used for the umpteenth time. En route to start a colony on a distant planet, Billy Crudup’s proxy captain diverts to investigate a signal from a much closer and seemingly ideal planet. His deputy (Katherine Waterston) thinks it’s too good to be true, and, lo and behold, she’s right. Obligatory ship’s android Walter (a show-stealing Michael Fassbender) and the others ignore her and naturally pay for it.

A strong first half that reaches an appropriate level of crawling menace and presents a couple of impressive scenarios eventually succumbs to what is ultimately a safe and by-numbers bow at the Alien alter that takes the more-is-more attitude to the monster.

Oh well. Still, beats Prometheus.

3/5

First published in the Sunday Independent

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Published by

Hilary A White

Dublin-based arts journalist and reviewer, specialising in film, books, music and human-interest stories. Sunday Independent / Irish Independent / State.ie / RTE Radio 1 / Today FM

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