Review – Aliens and Androids and Action, Oh My! (“Alien: Covenant”)

With this sequel to 2012’s Prometheus (which was a prequel, BTW), we continue director/writer Ridley Scott’s vision of other worlds, alien humanoids called Engineers that, according to the last movie, made us from their DNA and, of course, those nearly unstoppable bio-mechanical xenomorph alien creatures. Buckle up!

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When last we left Prometheus, the pissed-off, but plucky scientist Elizabeth Shaw (Noomi Rapace), and what was left of the rogue-android David (Michael Fassbender), took off in an alien spacecraft for parts unknown to find the Engineers home planet to get from them the eternal answer (no, it isn’t “42”). Well, it’s been ten years and wouldn’tcha  know it, it looks like someone saw the movie Passengers and thought, “Why not?” The USCSS Covenant, saddled with 2000 sleeping colonists, is on its way to idyllic planet Origae-6 for colonization, when a space storm interrupts their journey.

With the married crew now awake and a new captain in charge, things rapidly change when they receive a strange humanoid signal coming from another seemingly idyllic planet nearby. What the heck, let’s investigate, right? So, Captain Chris Oram (Billy Crudup) has his team mount up and shuttle down to this really nice planet. . .nice, aside from the torrential rains and monsoon storms. Android Walter (Fassbender with an American accent) joins the team along with terraforming expert, Dany Branson (Katherine Waterston) and a bunch of other ‘red shirts’ (get it?).

What they find is the crashed alien ship from Prometheus and some vicious dog-like neomorph aliens that are ‘born’ inside some of the crew. Yikes! However, they get an unexpected rescue from David (Fassbender with a British accent) who gives the crew safety inside the palace of the long-dead Engineer City. How did they die? Ahhh, you wouldn’t want me to give that away, now would you? Anywho, after hangin’ around with David for a bit it becomes apparent that this android has gone completely bonkers and developed a god complex. Not only that, but David has spent a serious amount of time engineering his own strain of aliens through cross-breeding. Well, I guess everyone needs a hobby.

Realizing that things have gone way wrong, Dany orders, from the mothership, an immediate evacuation where concerned pilot Tennessee (Danny McBride-not playing a grade ‘A’ class jerk this time) goes the extra mile to drop-ship and pilot a flying platform to get Dany and what’s left of the crew off this crazy planet. Meanwhile both androids, after having a heart-to-heart (or circuit-to-circuit), decides that one of them has got to go! Oh, and did I mention the full-sized xenomorph alien that’s running around the place?  Yeah, there’s that too, and it’s way past its lunch time.

And just when you thought everyone’s safe aboard the Covenant and back on course, one of those darn aliens decides to ruin their days. . .again. Screenwriters John Logan (Skyfall, Spectre) and newbie writer Dante Harper must’ve seen Alien and decided just to play it safe and repeat the story again, sorta like The Force Awakens. You’re watching the original Alien, but dressed up and re-packaged to make it look fresh; the parallels are all there. Not that that’s a bad thing, mind you. The story is gripping and tells a torturous human story, made even better with the superb acting of Fassbender as both David and wanna-be human android, Walter.

With director Scott back in charge, you get his usual slow character build for the first hour before the mayhem starts. You also get the same music from Alien, courtesy of Jed Kurzel, and all the sinister little plucks of the strings that remind you of the original film. The SPFX are all CGI this time around instead of a guy in a suit, but the production values and sets are increased and look terrific. Waterson, as the Ripley-ripoff, is wonderful, going from a shell-shocked widow to a heavy-armed bad-ass fighting mano-a-claw with Mr. Alien in the end. Sound familiar? There’s a very predicable ending that paves its way for Alien Movie #6, so consider this a prelude to that.

ALIENS (1986)

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You’d think by now that trying to terraform (colonizing) another planet isn’t a good idea. In fact, it’s a really, really bad idea. If all the previous movies weren’t a clue to tellya that, this one sure would be a clincher. In that rare case of a sequel besting the original, writer/producer/director James Cameron pulled a hat trick and delivered a jaw-dropping, slam-bang, action film that has Sigourney Weaver reprising her role as bad-ass Ellen Ripley.

57 years after Ripley (Weaver) blew up her ship to get away from that nasty xenomorph (alien) on planet LV-426, she’s rescued and brought back to Earth. But, much to her horror, she discovers that since she’s been in hibernation, eco-farmers had been sent to LV-426 to colonize the planet! Yikes! Trying to explain to the big-wig corporate numbskulls that the planet is a breeding ground for aliens does no good, until they receive no word from the farmers there. Fearing the worst, Ripley teams up with a bunch of Marines to go back to LV-426 to find out what’s what.

What’s happened is the whole colony has been cocooned and/or killed by hundreds of xenomorphs. The only survivor they find is Newt (Carrie Henn), a scared little 10-year-old girl. Company man Carter Burke (Paul Reiser) is against nuking the place (and even tries to kill Ripley), but the aliens are more cleverer than they thought. But after a chain in commands happens, Corp. Hicks (an excellent Michael Biehn) is in charge and agrees with Ripley: nuke the planet! More aliens attack and Newt gets captured, making the maternal instinct in Ripley go crazy.

The android Bishop (Lance Henrickson) gets the mothership to drop-ship a drone plane to pick them up, but Ripley, having found Newt alive has also found the alien Queen! And she’s huge! Narrowly escaping death on the planet, Ripley, Bishop, and Newt get on board the mothership, but surprise! That Queen stowed away! Drat! And she’s going after Newt! In the film’s best scene, Ripley goes toe-to-toe with the Queen using a huge mechanical auto-loader. “Get away from her, you BITCH!”. Best. Line. Ever! In a classic chick fight (well, sorta), the two duke it out until the Queen is blown away.

A great ending to a great film and all the critics agreed. It made huge dollars at the box office and was nominated for seven Academy Awards. Just an amazing film made even amazinger (is that word?) with a special DVD release with 17 deleted minutes of great bonus footage. I love this movie! Exciting, fun, nail-biting, sci-fi and fantasy action, and a whole lotta bullets. The casting was brilliant with young Carrie Henn having zero acting experience (she never acted again after this film) and Biehn getting cast at the 11th hour. Weaver really found her niche as Lt. Ripley here and cemented her role as an iconic female bad-ass lead.

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