Alien: Covenant

alien

*  1/2

Alien: Covenant is a turgid movie whose principal aim is to take down whatever is left of the Alien franchise, once so beloved—apparently for reasons the filmmakers no longer understand—since its inception in 1979. Instead, Ridley Scott and writers John Logan and Dante Harper have delivered a heavy-handed picture trading on the mumbo-jumbo elements of 2012’s Prometheus and amping up the gore with virtually no one to care about.

Whereas Prometheus, a philosophical “origin story” departed from the series’ sci-fi thrills and war movie gusto of the best pictures in the series, 1979’s Alien and 1986’s Aliens, it caught scorn from fans who weren’t all that interested in how the alien race that terrified Sigourney Weaver and company back in the day played a critical role in architecting human existence.

At least that movie felt fresh and contained solid work from actress Noomi Rapace, who had a terrific moment of Grand Guignol in a medical pod and Michael Fassbender, playing a robot with cool precision. No such merits exist in the new movie, which gives us two opposing Fassbenders and a load of deep think nonsense, then buckles under the weight of its own contemplation.

This time, Fassbender is the star of the show and Rapace has been unfortunately eliminated. As in killed off. In the opening scene, “synthetic” David meets his creator and “father,” Peter Weyland (Guy Pearce), and they ruminate on the first of several leaden topics—creator and created—to come. In the opening scene, the movie has already stepped wrongly.

Next we move to 2014 and to the Covenant, a large ship with the usual motley crew of spaceball types, including a carbon copy of David, another synthetic named Walter, whom we initially believe to be David before learning he is a more docile, dependable counterpart.  The ship is headed to a new, inhabitable planet when its captain (a cameo by James Franco, who knows well enough to get out early) its killed by a “solar blast” that rocks the ship.

This leaves his grieving widow, Daniels (Katherine Waterston, zero charisma), the new Christian captain (Billy Crudup) and Tennessee (Danny McBride), one of those off-the-shelf gonzo co-pilot types. There’s a few other colorless cabin mates along (including a wasted Callie Hernandez), but no matter—they’ll be gone soon.

All the requisite scenes are here and delivered without anything new—the opening of the pod to reveal the face hugger, the quarantine bay that is on lockdown while a creature menaces within, exploding chests—and the rudimentary approach to the horror scenes is indicative of where else this misguided movie is focused.

Of course, a distress signal from a distant planet is delivered by the use of John Denver’s Take Me Home, Country Roads (not kidding), and while we are way ahead of the crew, evangelist Crudup insists on investigating.

It’s downhill from here as the crew discovers death, and David, on the planet below, and while there isn’t a single developed person to care about here, the film exists essentially to put Fassbender vs. Fassbender together into a homoerotic mano-a-mano where David teaches Walter to play the flute before a match-up that looks like outtakes from a van Damme chopsocky flick. To get to that moment, we have to endure unending talk from David, when we wish he’d be retired like any good replicant.

Fassbender is in full command of his vocal and physical powers here, and it’s quite impressive—and it’s also in service of something not worth seeing.

Not recommended.

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