Have you’ve ever looked up at the night sky and wondered whether or not we’re alone? The cosmos is big, and by some physicists’ reckoning the odds that we have cosmic company are pretty good.
Since 1979, the “Aliens” film franchise has played on the emotional context of abject fear. If aliens exist, here’s what things look like if they mean to do us harm. It’s not a pretty sight. The latest in the line-up of Ridley Scott alien films “Alien: Covenant” delivers big on all the alien horror that can be packed into two hours of terror and gore. The chest-popping aliens are back.
Suspense comes galloping in right from the start. It’s not whether or not the aliens will kill you, but who will be killed next. After years in space on a re-colonization mission, the ship Covenant encounters turbulence that sends the carefully laid plans into chaos. Along with the crew, two thousand pilgrims are set to relocate permanently on another planet. Given the forty-year length of the journey, sleeping pods make the trip bearable. The resident humanoid robot Walter (Michael Fassbender) serves as caretaker.
When disaster strikes, the beloved captain Branson (James Franco) becomes a human torch inside his pod. Grief stricken, the crew musters the strength to continue under new leadership from Oram (Billy Crudup), the next in line.
Let’s just say that as a leader, Oram has few skills. He’s impulsive. He’s a terrible listener. He doesn’t understand basic human psychology. He’s stubborn and unpleasant. His concept of the scientific method is flawed. The list goes on and on.
Real trouble starts when shortly after the storm, Oram makes the bad decision to land on an uninvestigated planet close to their current location. Against the advice of Daniels (Katherine Waterson), the next in command, Oram leads the crew into the very devil’s den.
What ensues doubles down on fear associated with traditional alien tropes. Artificially produced from a lab, these aliens prove to be children born of the mind of David (Michael Fassbender), yet another humanoid robot and an earlier version of good Walter.
David has an anti-human agenda of the worst kind. Can the best hope for the continuation of our species surpass his will to do us in?
“Alien Covenant” needs the big screen. Expansive landscapes and speeding space ship shots depend on it. No breaks from suspense and constant deadly serious circumstances mean you’ll be invested in it all. Gross things bursting through chest walls, ample blood smears, and occasional internal body parts litter lots of scenes. Walter and David, made by the same robot company, are twins, so pay attention to keep things straight.
My advice: buy your popcorn ahead of time, and watch out for slimy things that jump out of the dark. Sometimes it’s fun to be scared.
Rated R for sci-fi violence, bloody images, language and some sexuality/nudity.
Marilyn Robitaille has been writing film reviews for the Empire-Tribune since 1999.