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Review: Ridley Scott has restored his sci-fi mojo with Alien Covenant

PUBLISHED: 11:30 12 May 2017 | UPDATED: 11:30 12 May 2017

Ridley Scott returns to the fanchise he started with latest prequel Alien Covenant. Picture: Fox UK/Mark Rogers

Ridley Scott returns to the fanchise he started with latest prequel Alien Covenant. Picture: Fox UK/Mark Rogers

Archant

The director's latest prequel delivers an entertaining Alien-ripping-its-way-through-a-spaceship-crew narrative, while also making Prometheus seem worthwhile.

Michael Fassbender as David/Walter in Alien Covenant. Picture: Fox UK/Mark RogersMichael Fassbender as David/Walter in Alien Covenant. Picture: Fox UK/Mark Rogers

Alien: Covenant (15)

****

Some weeks before the Alien prequel Prometheus came out, I heard myself exclaiming the words, “If Ridley Scott can’t make an Alien film, we may as well all pack up and go home.”

The celebrated director returned to the sci-fi horror franchise he began with his seminal 1979 sci-fi horror Alien with the 2012 prequel Prometheus.

The precedents for directors of films that spawned phenomenally successful sci-fi series, returning to make trilogies of prequels are not good. But with this film, set approximately 10 years after events of Prometheus, the Alien covenant, broken on or before the time the monster was pitted against Predators, has been restored.

It does all you could reasonably expect it to do – it delivers an entertaining Alien-ripping-its-way-through-a-spaceship-crew narrative, while making Prometheus seem worthwhile.

Maybe they should have called it Prometheus: Validation, because to your great surprise, Covenant actually ties up all the loose ends and themes of that film in a very satisfying way; to such a degree that you might almost believe this had been the plan all along.

It starts with a scene possibly cut from the earlier film, between a younger Weyland (Guy Pearce) and his android creation David (Michael Fassbender), just to let you know that all that stuff about finding our creators hasn’t been forgotten.

After that though it tries to put as much distance between Prometheus and this as possible. While the spaceship Prometheus was bright and shiny and roomy, almost like an ocean liner with space for hidden luxury compartments; the spaceship Covenant is dark, cramped, and claustrophobic like a submarine.

It’s a synthesis of Prometheus with the earlier Alien films, and most of the novelty and interest is in the Prometheus strand.

The major redeeming factor of that film was it featured one of Fassbender’s best screen performances and here he’s just as impressive. There’s a cheeky moment when he references a line used by Rutger Hauer in Scott’s other sci-fi masterpiece Blade Runner and it’s a valid comparison.

The Alien strand joins the dots to the original trilogy with strong echoes of Sigourney Weaver’’s role, this time with Katherine Waterston making a really excellent Ripley surrogate, but otherwise it’s surprisingly formulaic.

Scott’s original Alien was a model of precision, while this one is a little bit messy: too many characters and you wish the visuals were a bit cleaner.

My biggest issue with the film though is how dark it is; if you were watching it on TV you’d be fiddling with the contrast button because you wanted to see more of what was going on.

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