A great ride!
Ridley Scott’s Alien: Covenant is pure science fiction horror. It is an amalgam of Scotts tense 1979 masterpiece Alien and James Cameron’s 1986’s war picture, Aliens. It is a continuation from Scott’s much-maligned philosophical prequel Prometheus but gives the horror and gore fans much more to chew on rather then theories about the creation of man.
I actually enjoyed Prometheus. I thought it was brave of Scott to attempt to make an intelligent beginning to the mythology he created. I don’t mind a film that raises questions and lets us try and determine the answers. I like when directors take chances. I do believe that Covenant is the better film. It’s a tense, beautiful, nail biter. Tension is a major factor that was missing in Prometheus and Scott brings it here in spades.
The Covenant, a ship carrying 2000 souls, all in cryo-sleep, is on a mission to repopulate a distant planet. Overseeing their voyage is an android named Walter (Michael Fassbender). A storm causes them to change their plans and of course, to anyone familiar with this genre, that’s the wrong thing to do. After the death of the ships Captain (James Franco, in a glorified cameo), his widow (a wonderful Katharine Waterson) and the newly appointed leader, the religious Oram (Billy Cruddup) find themselves on a nearby planet with a small group of crew members that have woken up from their induced sleep.
I’ll stop here because the joy of this film ( joy?) is that it is full of surprises. I honestly didn’t want to know anything. I went in fresh and I found myself fascinated and literally squirming in my seat. Once the crew sets foot on this planet, a sense of dread overtakes the picture, much to the same spirit of the 1979 original. To reinvent the wheel within this genre is recipe for disaster. Science fiction and horror, Both have regulations that must be met. And that’s the fun of dealing with this type of film. The cast, filled with mostly dispensable characters, gets picked off one by one, much to our disgust and delight, until a few main leads remain that we can actually develop affection for.
But in the end, for many and for me, I’m there because of Ridley Scott. He is pushing 80 and has crafted a film that most directors in their 30’s wouldn’t be able to do. His vision here is epic yet extremely claustrophobic. He knows how to use the camera and tighten the screws. A known painter, he uses his talent with a canvas on the big screen, using his camera and lighting to visually paint images that linger in our memories.