DENNIS SCHWARTZ Movie Reviews
 
ALIEN: COVENANT (director: Ridley Scott; screenwriter: John Logan/Dante Harper/Jack Paglen/Michael Green; cinematographer: Dariusz Wolski; editor: Pietro Scalia; music: Jed Kurzel; cast:  Michael Fassbender (David/Walter), Katherine Waterston (Daniels), Billy Crudup (Oram), Danny McBride (Tennessee), Demián Bichir (Lope), Carmen Ejogo (Karine), Jussie Smollett (Ricks), Callie Hernandez (Upworth), Amy Seimetz (Faris), Nathaniel Dean (Hallett), Alexander England (Ankor), Benjamin Rigby (Ledward), Uli Latukefu (Cole), Tess Haubrich (Rosenthal), Jussie Smollett (Ricks), Guy Pearce (Weyland, android creator), Lorelei King (Voice of 'Mother' ), James Franco (Captain Branson); Runtime: 120; MPAA Rating: R; producers: Ridley Scott/Mark Huffam/ Michael Schaefer/David Giler/ Walter Hill.; 20th Century Fox; 2017)

"It's not as good as the original."

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Another Alien (1979) retread, covering mostly familiar turf, that's helmed with technical skill by Ridley Scott ("The Martian"/"Robin Hood"). It's not as good as the original (too many undeveloped characters to keep track of and a lack of originality), but is slightly better than the talky high-minded prequel chiller Prometheus (2012). While backtracking to the start of things for the Alien franchise and its search for the Creator, it asks the $64 question: Can humans live in an alien world?

Covenant is set in 2104, 18 years before the original Aliens and 10 years after the prequel. It's scripted by John Logan, Dante Harper, Jack Paglen and Michael Green to maximize the scares with its creepy CGI critters, which it does in a compelling way.

The colonist U.S. Spaceship Covenant, whose two thousand passengers are asleep in pods, over thousand embryos are frozen, its crew of 15 are all couples, its creative android is named Walter (Michael Fassbender) and it has a computerized onboard operating system controller called Mother (the voice of Lorelei King). When a neutrino burst causes a power surge crippling the ship, the captain (James Franco) is killed and the new commander Oram (Billy Crudup), an insecure faith-based leader, follows orders to continue the 7 year and 4 month journey to the remote planet Origae-6. That's the planet where the spaceship's inhabitants will propagate and try to create a utopian world. The insecure but hubris-filled Oram is helped by Daniels (Katherine Waterston), who is the second in command. When transmission indicates an uncharted planet is nearby, the captain decides to go there because it appears intriguingly like Earth with cultivated wheat, while Daniels opposes the decision as too risky. A team explores the planet and discover this is where the travellers on the Prometheus were doomed and is where an injured android named David (Michael Fassbender) is the only survivor to greet them and explain about the deadly virus that killed the humans. We learn that David like Walter was created by the human designer Weyland (Guy Pearce).

When a crew member inhales spoors, it turn him into a human incubator, and he dies screaming as an eyeless little monster bursts out of his chest cavity. Soon it's one after another crew member getting it in some horrible way, as those exploring the planet try to make it back to the Covenant. Surprise! Surprise! Oram gets his just reward for his wrong decision, while we try to guess who will survive.

The film's best feature is Michael Fassbender, who plays both god and devil. He is both the Brit accented supervillain David, a cultured and creative android, and the updated functional but not creative American accented Walter, his android brother and pupil, whom he teaches how to play the flute (the film's best arty moment).

Though it gives us more questions than answers, ending as a cliff-hanger, Fassbender's magical dual performances makes it worth watching. The divisive film brings out a love it or hate it reaction, but it gets over for being atmospheric and the visuals, the special effects and the acting being so sound. What it lacks is something more than just horror film entertainment scares, like making us care about its characters. It also lacks suspense: things are so predictable. I might also add that the prolonged second act was a bore.

REVIEWED ON 5/20/2017       GRADE: B-

Dennis Schwartz: "Ozus' World Movie Reviews"

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