Sunday, 4 June 2017

Alien: Covenant (4 Stars)

Today I decided to watch "Alien: Covenant" in the cinema, despite not having seen the previous film, "Prometheus". I had no trouble understanding or enjoying it. The beginning tells a completely new story, and when the tie-in to "Prometheus" finally comes everything is explained to newcomers like me.

A colonisation ship is heading on a long journey to a new home planet, Origae-6. I don't think it's stated how long they've already been travelling, but they're still seven years away from their destination. There are 2000 colonists and 15 crew members, all of whom are asleep in cryo-pods. (For those uninitiated with science fiction jargon, that means deep sleep chambers). The only sentient being awake on the ship is an android called Walter. He's stoic and efficient, but he's also been programmed with a depth of literature and philosophical knowledge. Though not explicitly stated, I suspect this is not just to make him more human, but also to store the great works of human civilisation to be shared with the colonists in future generations.

There is a solar storm that damages the ship. Some of the crew are killed, but the rest are awakened. The damage to the ship is extensive, but it can be repaired. By coincidence they notice an Earth-like planet in the vicinity and decide to examine it to see if it could be as suitable as Origae-6.

The real star of the film is Michael Fassbender, who plays two roles, the two androids Walter and David. He, or rather they, are a lot more fascinating than any of the crew members.

Some things were revealed to me that are new developments from what I knew from the first four Alien films. I don't yet know whether they were already revealed in "Prometheus", so I won't write about them here. I don't want to give away spoilers.

In its style "Alien: Covenant" reminds me of the first Alien film, made in 1979. It has a slow-moving plot full of suspense, rather than depending on a series of action sequences. That's no coincidence. Ridley Scott is the director once more. He's in his element telling science fiction stories.

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