Ridley Scott’s alien: covenant is in plain english a mad scientist film, arguably, one of the maddest. It’s grandiose, exhilarating, vertiginously cynical and symphonically perverse, and around a million miles from the crowd-pleasing Alien retread Twentieth Century Fox have presumably been begging the 79-year-old director to make.
It certainly has its Alien-like moments: this is a series that feeds off our subliminally churning fears of penetration, pregnancy and childbirth, and there are some birth trauma set-pieces here to rival John Hurt’s classic cafeteria-table writhe-and-pop, as well as a new-but-related and sickeningly effective strand of horror that plays on the sanctity of human foetuses.
But it’s also very much a sequel to Scott’s previous 2012 Alien ‘origin story’ Prometheus – and every cryptic, half-explored creation metaphor from that unfairly scorned film comes lurching into focus here, with what feels like a maniacal “this’ll show ’em” glint.
An eerie prologue reintroduces the android david, (michael fassbender) one of Prometheus’s few survivors, whom we see talking to his creator Weyland (Guy Pearce) in flashback.
From there, the story cuts to the Covenant itself, a colonist ship slicing through deepest space towards a habitable planet. Inexplicably, David seems to be a member of its skeleton crew – except this is actually Walter (Fassbender again), a newer, safer model whose programming has been stripped of the impulses to create and experiment that made David an unnerving wild card in the field.
Other actors might strive to make an android character creepily unreadable, but Fassbender’s control of body language is so total, so supreme, that entire tracts of his work here – in both roles – can be read in two incompatible ways. He doesn’t make you doubt the character, but yourself.
Skirting spoilers, what the crew discover involves David, a dark acropolis with a horrible secret, and more Frankenstein and Ozymandias parallels than my pen could track. (The screenplay, which I half-expected to be credited to Mr and Mrs Shelley, is by John Logan, co-writer of Skyfall and Scott’s Gladiator, and Dante Harper.)
Is it science-fiction or horror? The fundamental difference between those two genres has always lain in their attitude towards the unknown – the former creeps unbidden through the door that swings ajar, the latter bars it with the heaviest furniture to hand – which means it’s both, at least initially. Though the full implications of its final sequence are so purely horrific that I left the cinema feeling (and I mean this in the best possible way) physically sick.
in terms of the numbers, alien: covenant is my wildcard in the summer movie wager because it could be a massive smash hit. some websites aRE FORECASTING the opening weekend around the $35m mark with a domestic run of around the $90m mark. others are saying that the opening will be around the mid fourties, which i think it more feasible. so my prediction is that it will open to to $48m domestically and it’s cume will be $150M, with a total of $450m worldwide – a small hit.
Quoting the director and mad scientist ridley scott, “i wanted to scare the shit out of people. that’s the job.” he certainly achieved that. if you haven’t seen the film don’t read the next part because it gives all of the film away.
the fact that david is the evil, mad scientist villain it will be interesting if michael fassbender will be in the next alien film, considering the script basically means that david is a creator of the xenomorph. could it be him, the android, or is it weyland’s legacy? that’s the brilliant thing about scott’s films, there almost impossible to predict, at least the good ones.
the rumours are that the sequel to alien: covenant is set to begin filming in summer 2018, so we could expect a release in 2019 or so. overall alien: covenant may have made you physically sick but if you could manage to control the vomit there’s a very good STORY LINE in it and it makes you wonder what will happen next.
Worth Seeing?: YES