.Review: ‘Alien Covenant’

Astronauts make increasingly illogical decisions in latest 'Alien' installment

In ‘Alien: Covenant,’ a haunting score and beautiful production can’t ward off ultimate disappointment.

Witness the flight of the Covenant, a colonizing space ship of 2104 headed for Origae 6. It is a ship free of anyone who can make an intelligent decision, except for the onboard android. The first mistake is changing course for a seemingly unexplored planet, on grounds of proximity. More wrongheaded choices follow.

Alien: Covenant has sterling production design, and an almost regally solemn Jed Curzal score. It mulls the idea that humans and the hellspawn Xenomorphs have a linked destiny. Animated now, as opposed to being acted out by a 7-foot-tall stuntman as in the original, the critters come in all sizes and shapes. They’re as lithe as monkeys, chittering, making creaking noises like sprung floorboards.

But director Ridley Scott is up to more than retrofitting the origin of the aliens—he contrasts the world of the religiously faithful with those of us who’d prefer to do without celestial help. Something—a rewrite? Several?—skimped on the problem of a religious officer (Billy Crudup) who is peeved about being out-numbered by humanists. There’s also a debate about human intentions between a pair of “synthetics” (androids). Michael Fassbender plays both, and if there’s anything particularly good about this movie, it’s the way these two interactÉat one point, in a well-made fight scene.

Do the deep-dish ideas get in the way of the gut-busting, or is it the other way around? There’s more monster for the buck than there was in the previous Prometheus, but the human hosts don’t make an impression. I’ll walk that back. Katherine Waterston makes an impression, a negative one. Her Daniels, a terraformer who just wanted a cabin by a lake on a faraway planet, is widowed right away (the lost spouse is James Franco). Eventually, she gets in the Ripley game, standing in for Sigourney Weaver, and there’s just no substitution. She’s a very wet actress, and tragedy is becoming a speciality. She wept frequently in Fantastic Beasts, too.

The parts that work best are everyday sci-fi tentpole material; the oddly similar theme in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2 was far more bracing, though. Scott has said that he’s a better director in old age than he was as a young man. The elder director, and the elder man, can end up judging the human race as damned and worthy of destruction. It’s an argument, but as theme for an entertainment, it’s just plain depressing.

Alien: Covenant
R; 2hrs, 2 min.
Opens Friday valleywide

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