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'Alien: Covenant' Review

The Fassbender principle

May 19, 2017, 1:30 pm

In the futuristic world of 2104, which director Ridley Scott renders in jaw-dropping fashion, mankind has colonized planets and built synthetic humanoids. But they’ve also apparently abandoned wearing space suits and testing atmospheres—as they did in the previous Alien installment, Prometheus, which is set just 10 years earlier—and decided to wing it on a new planet. It does not go well.

Alien: Covenant, is not a horror flick. It’s sci-fi. There’s some quality suspense, but not a ton. More than anything, the movie feels like a chapter, the conscience of which is Katherine Waterston (Inherent Vice) as Daniels, who becomes the second-in-command aboard the colonization freighter Covenant. Waterston delivers some of the most important lines and seems to be the only one with the little voice in her head that says, “Maybe we shouldn’t.” If everyone played it safe, this would admittedly be a boring movie about a long trip through space, but there’s no real drama to the decisions the crew must make.

Despite mankind’s advanced state of existence, the crew of 15 contains just three African Americans and one Hispanic person. Sadly, the only notable role among them is Demián Bichir’s (The Hateful 8) Lope, a well-played security team leader. While Idris Elba was believable as a no-nonsense pilot in Prometheus, Danny McBride is less so as a ratty-straw-hat cowboy. He seems more at home steering a jet ski as Kenny Powers in HBO’s Eastbound and Down, and though McBride has shown range in non-comedic assignments, he seems miscast here.

The story smartly homes in on Michael Fassbender who, despite being a humanoid, is the dark soul of the movie. Fassbender’s David has the same chip on his shoulder in Covenant as his Peter O’Toole-obsessed self in Prometheus. His new iteration, Walter, is David’s less-inquisitive self. The interplay between them brings some of the movie’s most poignant moments.

Like Prometheus before it, Covenant scratches at a lot of larger issues but, ultimately, I want this film to do more. It doesn’t take much to get me to suspend disbelief in sci-fi—I want to be on that new planet or in that ship—but you’ve gotta try. Director Scott doesn’t seem to agree.


+ Stunning visuals and Michael Fassbender
- If I created Ridley Scott’s mankind, I’d be tempted to give up on them, too

Alien Covenant
Directed by Scott
With Fassbender, Waterston and McBride
Regal, Violet Crown, R, 122 min.


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