Thursday, May 25, 2017     Volume: 31, Issue: 44
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New Times / Film

This weeks review
BEAUTY AND THE BEAST
BORN IN CHINA
CHASING TRANE: THE JOHN COLTRANE DOCUMENTARY
CHUCK
COLOSSAL
DIARY OF A WIMPY KID: THE LONG HAUL
EVERYTHING, EVERYTHING
GIFTED
GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY VOL. 2
HEARST CASTLE: BUILDING THE DREAM
HOW TO BE A LATIN LOVER
KING ARTHUR: LEGEND OF THE SWORD
LAND OF MINE
NORMAN
SNATCHED
THE FATE OF THE FURIOUS
THE LOST CITY OF Z

'Alien: Covenant’ is a bloody good continuation of the Alien mythos

ALIEN: COVENANT

PHOTO BY 20TH CENTURY FOX

ALIEN: COVENANT


Where is it playing?: Downtown Centre, Park, Stadium 10, Galaxy

What's it rated?: R

What's it worth?: $ Matinee (Anna)

What's it worth?: $ Matinee (Glen)

User Rating: 0.00 (0 Votes)

Ridley Scott (Blade Runner, Thelma & Louise, Black Hawk Down) helms this sequel to his 2012 film Prometheus, part two of a three-part prequel to his original 1979 film Alien, which was about a spaceship crew’s encounter with a highly aggressive extraterrestrial creature. In Covenant, a neutrino burst damages a colonizing ship, forcing the crew to awake early to repair damage. However, a signal from a nearby planet that appears to be hospitable causes the crew to send a landing party, where they discover the remote planet is a deathtrap from which they must escape. (122 min.)

Glen For fans of the Alien franchise as well as Prometheus, Alien: Covenant will be a delight, extending the series’ mythology and setting up the third prequel for another mayhem-filled showdown between humans and these near-indestructible creatures. If you don’t know much about these films and didn’t see Prometheus, however, prepare to be confused. Very confused. The basic set-up is that the crew of Covenant, a ship whose mission is to colonize a far-off planet, happens upon a planet formerly inhabited by the so-called “Engineers,” a race of beings that purportedly “seeded” Earth, leading to the creation of humankind. When the Covenant’s landing party arrives, however, what they find is a vast courtyard filled with the preserved corpses of the Engineers in a scene right out of Pompeii. It doesn’t take long for a couple of crewmembers to be infected by alien spores, which quickly gestate inside the crewmembers’ bodies, causing vicious alien creatures to burst out of their hosts’ bodies and go on a killing spree. They’re saved at the last minute by David (Michael Fassbender), a “synthetic” who was along on the Prometheus mission 10 years earlier, which set off to find the Engineers’ home planet by following archeological clues discovered on Earth. Yes, it’s pretty complicated. Covenant’s mission has its own synthetic named Walter (also Fassbender), a new and improved model. As the crew hunkers down in David’s compound and tries to contact their orbiting mother ship for rescue, they encounter the real mystery of how David landed on the planet, what happened to its Engineer occupants, and what the alien species really is and how it came to be.

Anna We went to go see this film with some pretty diehard fans of the Alien series, and they all seemed pretty satisfied with Covenant. I consider myself a more casual fan. I haven’t seen all of the films but do have a high regard for the original and enjoyed Prometheus as well. We decided to re-watch Prometheus the night before going to see Covenant, and I’m glad we did—it made the plotlines easier to follow. There’s no shortage of mayhem and carnage. The alien creatures are undeniably frightening, quick, ruthless, and unstoppable in their hunt. Fassbender—pulling double duty as both Walter and David—is impressive; Covenant is a showcase for his legit acting chops. Oram (Billy Crudup) is tasked with leading the group, which can be a challenge as each member has their own ideas as to what is the best next call. Oram is reminded by his paramour Karine (Carmen Ejogo) that when they make it to their new home planet, the crew will become their neighbors, and making enemies will do them no good. The alien creatures’ drive to spawn only means peril for the crew trapped on the planet, awaiting rescue. It’s an action packed, bloody beast feast, and while the big reveal didn’t surprise me in the end, Covenant feels like a pretty satisfying addition to the franchise.

Glen Ridley Scott’s now 79 years old, but he’s lost none of his edge as a director capable of conjuring tension, a lot of which is derived from the relationships among the crew. They’re not combat soldiers—they’re colonists hoping to continue the human race on a new world. Each one is traveling as a couple, and their cargo includes 2,000 humans in stasis as well as more than a thousand human embryos. Think of the crew as pilgrims driving a wagon train across the cosmos in search of a better life. Also keep in mind, their original captain (James Franco) never made it through the neutrino burst, and Oram—though technically captain—isn’t well respected by the crew, in part because he’s a man of faith in a world where most believe the “creator” is actually a species called the Engineers. It’s sort of like the preacher of the wagon train finds himself in charge after the true leader is killed, and the people he’s leading think he’s weak and misguided. The central question is can they escape the deadly world and continue on to their goal, and the key to that question is David, who somehow managed to survive among the aliens for 10 years. He and Walter, both being nonhuman, aren’t potential targets for infestation, but as mechanisms programmed by the corporation that makes these missions possible, there’s some question about where their loyalties lie. Anna’s right that the end may be too easily telegraphed, but this is still a gripping ride as long as you’re well versed enough in the Alien mythos to follow along.

Anna Filmmakers have created an entire world through the Alien series, one where procreation and continuation of the species is the complete focus of the alien life forms. The fact that the crewmembers are not soldiers and are paired up romantically means their humanity shines through, and in direct opposition to the alien life forms who feel neither compassion nor remorse. Just when it seems the crew may catch a break, something inevitably happens to crush any hope for success. Movies like this are meant to be seen on the big screen; it’s hard to do justice to the scope of the landscape on a TV set. One of the fans we went to the movie with told us that Scott’s crew built the ship on a hydraulic set-up for filming, as well as the frozen Pompeii-like city where the crew ends up finding David. An impressive feat, no doubt, and one that added to the film by cutting out time that would have otherwise been spent in front of a green screen. Overall, I think Covenant is a decent addition to the Alien franchise, and while you’ll want to have some background on the mythos, you don’t have to be a super fan to enjoy this action-packed blood bath.

Split Screen is written by Senior Staff Writer Glen Starkey and his wife, Anna. Comment at gstarkey@newtimesslo.com.