Thursday, 11 May 2017

REVIEW: ALIEN-COVENANT

3.5/5

Android: Covenant.

123 Mins. Starring: Katherine Waterson, Michael Fassbender, Billy Crudup, Danny McBride, Demian Bichir, Carmen Ejogo, Jussie Smollett, James Franco, Guy Pearce & Noomi Rapace. Director: Ridley Scott.

Are we all in agreement that 'Alien: Covenant' has our faces hugging cinema screens in blockbuster anticipation this summer? This is the real close encounter bursting through your chest like the great John Hurt (Rest Peacefully. From the original to 'Spaceballs' no one will ever do it like you). E.T...run home! Because here comes the Xenomorph. Snarling and slobbering all over 'Covenant' like Beethoven...and we aren't talking about the classical musician. Director Ridley Scott composes another spaceship, thrilling horror classic as claustraphobic as those air ducts. As the alien with two heads, one lurking beneath jaws butts the glass windows of our craft like it was at a Metallica gig. In a Marvel sequel reboot age of mummies, monsters and planets of apes this old girl still rocks too. Just like the bald ambition of franchise legend Sigourney Weaver's Ripley, who is still inspiring bob-cut, muscle vest, beautiful heroines to this day and film. Nothing can stop this beast. Not even the new 'Life' given to this space-station, sci-fi gore genre by the Ryan Reynolds and Jake Gyllenhaal homaged horror blockbuster of just a month or so back that some may see as plagirism, but others maybe view even better than this. And when it comes to the legendary great Scott coming off his life on Mars with 'The Martian' Matt Damon and right before the '2049' sequel redux of his other signature science-fiction cult, classic like his star Harrison Ford, 'Blade Runner', nothing can survive this. He may have given the replicant plans to 'Arrival's' Denis Villeneuve, but when it comes to fellow, new sci-fi pioneering director Neil Blomkamp (of 'District 9' and 'Elysium' modern Phillip K. Dick future forefather fable fame), this chappie will have to be patient for his 'Alien' sequel still lying in wait behind the rib-cages. Still just like the only out of this world franchise to top this intelligent life and force it to the side of the solar system, 'Star Wars', there will be an 'Awakening'. But before you feel it, make sure you get too close to this creature for cinema comfort. As Scott resurrects his iconic 'Alien' predator, setting it free for something that his halfway between a 'Prometheus 2' and Ripley's game. Looks like the beast that Ridley said was "done and cooked" is back to eat.

And boy is she hungry! It's a good job Scott is serving up a bloody laundry list of colonizing couples boarding this Noah's Ark two-by-two on the menu. For starters Katherine Waterson is locked and mother expletive loaded on this mothership against the alien queen. She wowed us in 'Inherent Vice' and recently put as spell on us in 'Fantastic Beasts' but this actress of the moment really finds herself and leads here. No matter how many there are of 'Steve Jobs' co-star, Michael Fassbender. Weaving between some Sigourney, Rapace pacing and her own breakout character arc. Machine-gunning and switch-blading between tearing tear ducts of raw emotion and the ability to defiantly demand to know where this astronauts worst nightmare is out of an out for blood desire. Still despite the bones of Katherine's bold and brutual performance, humans aside this is Michael Fassbender's androids movie. Restarting his career life after the 'Assassins Creed' mis-cut fatality, one of the best actors of our time still moves metal like Magneto and minds like 'Macbeth'. And this time replicating his David to a whole other Mr. Robot, Michael is mesmerizing as a machine looking to make mans emotions and world his own. Fassbender fascinates going blonde on brown and switching between the two units, cohesively and effectively in their shared circuits and different strokes of the engineers cursor. When it comes to Ridley Scott's cinematic creations it looks like humanoids dream of electric sheep too. But is Fassbender's familiar face wearing wolf's clothing? And isn't this meant to be an extra-terrestrial film? Not a man-made cyborg one? As much of an upgrade as Fassbender is this is more of an android movie than an alien one. Perhaps it is more 'Prometheus 2' but not sold the same or as seen for that blockbuster popcorn money. And therein lies the problem of duality. Sure more than merely tingling the spine, there is enough Alien scenes that scare and aren't scarce to bring the "oohs" and "aahhs", then followed by the running and screaming. But we are still just a few air lock restricting scenes-as tense as the vents-away from Jeff Goldblum tapping on the glass and asking if there plans to be any aliens in our...erm 'Alien' movie. Are you in covenant?

Monster meals come in all sorts of shapes and sizes however. Some cooked and some microwaved. Some even fun-sized too. As did you ever think you'd see 'Pineapple Express' bros Danny McBride and James Franco in something quite like this? If we told you these boys were bound for a fantasy horror you'd probably think a 'Your Highness' sequel was on the way. But fear not, these guys are actually the captain and the pilot of this ship. And they're official too. We always knew a fleeting Franco here could play frank and to be fair although he brings the lions share of the comic relief, 'Eastbound and Down's' McBride in Idris Elba's cockpit with a stetson shy of a few corks is seriously good at going straight. Like all the A grade talent here on the kill or be killed list. Like fellow skipper Billy Crudup as 'Watchmen's' Manhattan looks green in the face of a hugger. Or 'The Hateful Eight's' Demian Bichir still slinging artillery like it was the spaghetti west. Just like 'Selma' and Waterston's 'Beasts' co-star Carmen Ejogo too. Bringing pure, blood slipping terror on the form of her career that started with Eddie Murphy's 'Metro' express. Even T.V. singing 'Empire' superstar Jussie Smollett is here and hits all the right notes. Just like an unforgettable scene with a flute that plays like the most tense scene recorded. All singing from the same 'Prometheus' hymn sheet for a who's who, roll call that even in the footnotes features cameos from 'Prometheus' prequel favourites Guy Pearce and a Leia like Noomi Rapace like in this films prologue. Youtube debuted like the first five minutes and everything else in the name of immersed hype, In Utero. All told Scott's shot in the franchise arm merges the beauty of 'Prometheus' with the brawn of the original trilogy to give us an advanced 'Alien' movie with more brains. It may take things a little too self serious at time but 'Covenant' brings together closet hidden messages of our creation mixed with the behind the door reveal of mans destruction in this red shirt porn that flirts between soft and hardcore. 'Covenant' covets more even if all some want to see is gore and the morph. Or to have Blomkamp's idea taken out of cryosleep. These horrors were always able to make us do more than jump. And this requiem plays almost like what fanboys and girls dreams are made of. But in this paranoid androids dream of Chris Pratt and Jennifer Lawrence like, new life colony passengers, perhaps before the next 'Alien' it was time we were all awoken. TIM DAVID HARVEY.

See This If You Liked: 'Alien', 'Prometheus', 'Life'.

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