Review – Alien: Covenant (2017) .. the set-pieces are fun, the storyline predictable! (3/5)

Ridley Scott treads familiar ground in Alien: Covenant, the sequel to 2012’s Prometheus, attempting a mish-mash of old school set pieces (involving lots of chest-bursting, face-hugging and gore!) all the while putting forward an engaging framework of events that would eventually lead to the first Alien film.

All the usual tropes that one associates with a Ridley Scott Alien flick are present ..  a sensible leading lady (who by turn of events ends up being the protagonist), a few effectively executed jumpscares, human vs. alien set-pieces, excellent cinematography and CGI (for most part, except that first encounter with the neomorphs). The actual villain here is neither the neomorph/xenomorph nor the psychopathic android David (played by Fassbender) but the predictable screenplay. The audience knows well in advance that more than 80% of the crew is sure to mutate/die; the leading lady is bound to survive against all odds and the supposedly big-twist can be foreseen quite early on.

Ten years after the failed Prometheus expedition, the crew aboard the ship (Covenant) carrying over 2000 colonists and equivalent number of embryos, heading towards a distant planet are diverted due to an apparent indication of human existence in an unknown planet that looks ecstatically beautiful (but terrifyingly silent!) containing a sinister extra terrestrial presence. A John Denver song inadvertently sets the ball rolling.

The only returning character from Prometheus is the synthetic David. Elizabeth Shaw (the protagonist of the previous movie, played by Noomi Rapace) is posthumously mentioned on a few occasions. As with Prometheus, this movie too leaves the viewer with a lot of unanswered questions especially when it comes to certain decisions that some of the lead characters undertake.

Another underwhelming aspect of the flick is that the vastly expansive ideologies laid out in Prometheus take a back seat in Alien: Covenant, and the director instead chooses to shoehorn the viewer by including those factors which made the first two Alien films hugely popular. If Scott’s idea was just to get the viewer excited about an array of possibilities that must have resulted in the events leading to the Ellen Ripley saga only to write most of them off in the upcoming (prequel) sequels, then I say that’s not looking too bright for the franchise altogether.

That said, given the anticlimactic ending of this film, there’s plenty of scope to break new ground in the sequels provided the writing gets mucho better. I kinda enjoyed the gory set-pieces and the ways deployed by Daniels (Waterston) and Tennessee (McBride) to counter the neomorphs/xenomorphs, although the climactic showdown doesn’t offer that much of a thrill-fest. Hopefully, these characters make it back to the big-screen (instead of being killed off-screen like Shaw) again. I also wish Neill Blomkamp’s Alien 5 gets made too (as his visionary ideas could lend a fresh twist to the existing universe!).

Watch the trailer here:

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