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ALIEN: COVENANT

SYNOPSIS:
The US Spaceship Covenant is on a long journey towards a distant planet where the crew plans to deliver the cargo of 2000 or so (cryogenically frozen) humans and human embryos for the purpose of colonization. But on the way they find a planet much closer and just as inviting. Little do they know ...

Review by Andrew L. Urban:
The crew of the Covenant seems to have mistakenly boarded the real spacecraft when actually intending to try a brand new theme park ride in California's Disneyland. That would explain their often foul mouthed dialogue and their silly and untrained behaviour as the most amateurish and least credible crew to fly in space. That's why they mistake Earth for another planet which they come upon soon after takeoff. "This looks hospitable ... How did we miss this?" they exclaim. It's some 6 years before the Covenant's projected arrival (they missed that clue) for the colonisation of a far flung planet with a silly name. Their mistake in turn explains why it has Earth's air, Earth's gravity and looks like rugged parts of New Zealand. Once landed, they find wheat, prompting one to wonder how there could be "human vegetation" so far from Earth. Duh and duh.

Just as untrained Joe and Jill Blows would, the crew soon abandon any veneer of professionalism and science, to bicker and make stupid decisions.

The film references all kinds of adventure tropes, from Indiana Jones' archaeology (complete with a field of frozen bodies and columns of stone that suggest an ancient civilisation) to Jurassic Park's creature fest. Here, monstrous baby critters spawn inside humans, rather rapidly, and explode through the outer flesh. They invade the body as miniature swarms through ears or nostrils and presumably coalesce and grow once within the organs.

Fassbender plays two roles, albeit both are 'synthetics'; one is a baddie, though, albeit they look like identical twins. This device connect the gods and monsters theme with which the franchise plays, not very successfully in my opinion.

The voices of computerised controllers like Mother (voice of Lorelei King) are numbingly derivative as are the onscreen displays of electronically generated graphics. Some elements, like the face hugger creatures, and of course the aliens, are deliberately so.

There is no explanation for why this hodgepodge of elements was considered worthy of such a huge (and technically proficient) cinematic effort; it fails the authenticity test, and gives rise to the sad thought that it's the result of a creative draught. Ridley Scott's work deserves respect and admiration - but not for this film.

Review by Louise Keller:
There is something rather comforting in the familiarity of Alien Covenant that picks up 10 years after Prometheus ends. Continuing to address the philosophical big questions about where we come from, Ridley Scott's prequel to his 1979 Alien delivers on all counts with substantial terror offerings that involve slime and squirting blood to ensure gleeful cinematic repulsion. Scott knows how to massage tension and deliver scares; here we are treated to a banquet of menace couched in a slick, handsome production.

Michael Fassbender resumes his role as the robotic David, who plays Wagner at the grand piano in the striking opening sequence before his billionaire creator (Guy Pearce). There is more Wagner later on - with relevance. Love or duty is a key issue that David and newer, improved model Walter (also played by Fassbender) raise. Fassbender gives nothing away with his superbly unreadable demeanour. He grounds the film.

But we are getting ahead of ourselves. A random mishap onboard the colonisation vessel Covenant (containing 2,000 colonists) starts the ball rolling as the crew of 15 speed through the galaxy on their mission to find a suitable planet for habitation. The body count starts - and so does the nightmare. I squirmed as the first embryotic alien finds its host and reveals itself in gory fashion, blood spewing as it explodes through a torso. There's a cumulative effect and sense of dread as the unthinkable horror finds its way onto the Covenant and into the lives of its crew. It is hard not to grimace.

The cast includes Katherine Waterston, Billy Crudup and Danny McBride. Don't blink or you'll miss an uncredited James Franco in a cameo. But of course, the stars of the film are the aliens themselves, offering shock and awe through H.R.Giger's haunting designs. Superb production design and Dariusz Wolski's moody cinematography create a tangible reality while extraordinary visual effects bring the aliens to life in such a way that you may discover them tucked away in the dark bowels of your dreams. Scott brings everything together with great skill, delivering an ultra scary thriller that chills you to the core.

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CRITICAL COUNT
Favourable: 1
Unfavourable: 1
Mixed: 0

PROMETHEUS (2012)

ALIEN: COVENANT (MA15+)
(US, 2017)

CAST: Michael Fassbender, Katherine Waterson, Billy Crudup, Danny McBride, Demian Bichir, Carmen Ejogo, Jussie Smollett, Callie Hernandez, Amy Seimetz, Nathaniel Dean, Alexander England, Guy Pearce, James Franco, Noomi Rapace

VOICES: Lorelei King

PRODUCER: David Giler, Walter Hill, Michael Schaefer, Ridley Scott

DIRECTOR: Ridley Scott

SCRIPT: John Logan, Dante Harper (characters by Dan O'Bannon, Ronald Shusett, story by Jack Paglen, Michael Green)

CINEMATOGRAPHER: Dariusz Wolski

EDITOR: Pietro Scalia

MUSIC: Jed Kurzel

PRODUCTION DESIGN: Chris Seagers

RUNNING TIME: 122 minutes

AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: 20th Century Fox

AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: May 11, 2017







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