Jack Bottomley, Media Correspondent
Since 1979, Ridley Scott's Alien has not only birthed a franchise, it has inspired a generation of filmmakers and of genre filmmaking.
From James Cameron's incredible 1986 sequel Aliens to David Fincher's hecticly assembled Alien 3 (1992) and Jean-Pierre Jeunet's utterly odd Alien: Resurrection (1997), say what you like about this series but it has not been business as usual.
The Giger-inspired Xenomorphs over the course of nearly 4 decades have prowled in the dark, vacuous areas space and wormed their way into the minds of many a viewer. So naturally, exploring the origins of these cinematic chillers would prove a challenge.
In Scott's 2012 film Prometheus, he started the ball rolling on a new pre-Alien series that prioritised ambitious themes, as it started to chart the unexpected roots of his iconic creation.
This was met with polarising reception but if you thought Prometheus was a tad divisive, wait until you witness Alien: Covenant.
In mapping out the genesis and backstory of a character or story you always run the risk of diminishing the impact of what came before (see Insidious: Chapter 2, Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning and Hannibal Rising) but where Scott could have just filled his films with Xenomorphs and made, frankly, easy money, he should be applauded for telling a different story and one which he continues to ideologically expand in Alien: Covenant, whilst also increasing the bloodshed, action and extraterrestrial monster quota.
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The film sees the crew of The Covenant, comprised of couples, heading for the new remote human homeward Origae-6 and escorting two thousand colonists and a thousand embryos with them.
However a space anomaly awakens them from hypersleep, where a signal is intercepted from a planet that appears to be habitable for humans.
Against some better judgement of the crew, the team head down to the surface to explore this potential new home, where potential paradise soon turns into literal Hell.
Best say this first and foremost, this is in no way the film it is promoted as being; chances are Fox executives took one look at this and were tearing their hair out.
Fox have really promoted the least risky aspects of this film, as Scott has made a film that many will suggest sees the Oscar nominated director disappearing up his own black hole, while a few others will cherish this as a warped piece of twisted Sci-Fi/Horror.
Sharing many similarities with Alien Resurrection, in terms of its level of bizarreness, this film never feels quite so random and at no point do you think there is not a trajectory for this story and franchise.
Questions are answered, as about five more are raised in this dark and violent parable about creation, faith, simulacrum and playing god.
Fassbender is faultless in a role I will reveal nothing about but needless to say, he and Ridley are invested in this lore up to their eyeballs. While Danny McBride, Billy Crudup and Katherine Waterston also deliver some game performances. However some of the supporting cast do feel essentially like mere Facehugger fodder and, much like Prometheus, many will be calling out the crew on a few unwise decisions made.
As much a film about the nature of synthetic consciousness as it is the Xenomorphs, most will be pretty taken aback by it but Ridley clearly has a goal going forward.
There will be so many walkouts for this one in cinemas mark my words.
However this is an impressively shot (Dariusz Wolski's cinematography is darkly engaging) and scored (Jed Kurzel harnesses the essence of Goldsmith and Horner in his music) and a really unexpected journey for this franchise.
Is it all overcomplicating things and robbing these movie monsters of their abominable ambiguity?
Perhaps but even as Alien: Covenant splits people, whatever side of the egg chamber you fall on, it deserves respect for not betraying thematic weight to play it safe. A very impactful big screen experience that raises a lot of questions going forward.
In short: Impressive, surprising, blood-drenched, ambitious and in need of being watched again I reckon. Though that may not be how most feel upon leaving the cinema.
Director: Ridley Scott
Starring: Michael Fassbender, Katherine Waterston, Billy Crudup, Danny McBride
Release Date: Out Now
Alien: Covenant, 12th May 2017, 16:11 PM