Has there ever been a franchise as badly treated as Alien? A slow decline that reached a trough with two (two!) crossovers with the Predator series; could even a hardy xenomorph with acid for blood survive that, one wondered? Ridley Scott’s return to the series, to direct the prequel Prometheus, was a mixed blessing. Scott’s 1979 original still stands up as a terrifically tight, claustrophobic shocker. But Scott’s filmography since is frequently patchy; he is prone to privileging visuals over narrative. And – as if often the case with big budget sci-fi movies nowadays – Prometheus was muddled, quasi-mystical, po-faced, nowhere near as lean or mean as its late Seventies’ ancestor.
Prometheus was a kind of grandiose creation myth that essentially recycled von Däniken’s hoary ideas from Chariots Of The Gods. This follow-up at least draws from a more diverse pool of influences. Frankenstein fans will note the sci-fi equivalent of a mad scientist living in a remote castle – while allusions to the works of Piero della Francesco and Michelangelo become, in their own ways, critical plot points. The aesthetic is a bit Bosch with the Chapman brothers’ Hell thrown in.
The Covenant is a colonists ship transporting couples – multiple Adams and Eves, if you like – to a new home among the stars. Prematurely awakened from artificial hibernation, they receive a transmission from a nearby planet. Among the cast are Katherine Waterston, Danny McBride, James Franco and Billy Crudup, as well as Michael Fassbender, here playing two androids. Inevitably, watching Fassbender out-Fassbender himself provides a welcome distraction while we wait for the Xenomorphs to arrive and chew up the cast.
Alien: Covenant knowingly replays many of the greatest hits of the original film (and, to an extent, James Cameron’s sequel), albeit with some tweaks here and there. You remember the chest-burster; how about a back-buster? But these suggest a creative inertia for the series; merely playing to Alien’s strengths rather than pushing forward. It is a better film than Prometheus, at least. Though as is common with all the series’ sequels and prequels, it lacks freaky, dystopian spirit of Scott’s original.
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The June 2017 issue of Uncut is now on sale in the UK – featuring our cover story on Summer Of Love, talking to the musicians, promoters and scenesters on both sides of the Atlantic who were there. Plus, we count down the 50 essential songs from the Summer Of Love, from The Seeds to The Smoke, and including The Beatles, The Rolling Stones and Pink Floyd. Elsewhere in the issue, we remember Chuck Berry, go on the road with Bob Dylan and there are interview Fleet Foxes, Fairport Convention, Fred Wesley, Jane Birkin and David Lynch’s Twin Peaks’ co-conspirators Angelo Badalamenti and Julee Cruise. Our free CD has been exclusively compiled for us by Fleet Foxes’ Robin Pecknold and includes cuts from Todd Rundgren, Neu!, Van Dyke Parks, The Shaggs, Arthur Russell and Cate Le Bon. Plus there’s Feist, Paul Weller, Perfume Genius, Ray Davies, Joan Shelley, Nick Cave And The Bad Seeds, Johnny Cash, Alice Coltrane, John Martyn and more in our exhaustive reviews section