Editor’s Notes: Alien: Covenant is out on its home video formats August 15th.
Back in 1979, a friend who worked as a publicist for 20th Century-Fox told me about a new science fiction/horror film called Alien. He had seen it, and I asked how he thought it would do at the box office. His answer: “Money in the bank.” And he was absolutely correct.
Now, close to 40 years later, we have the sixth film — Alien: Covenant (20th Century-Fox Home Entertainment) — in a franchise that has proven a cash cow for the studio. Covenant takes place ten years after the events in Prometheus, a prequel intended to answer questions about the alien creatures.
The Covenant is a huge vessel cruising through space, carrying 2,000 colonists in hyper-sleep with several years to go until they reach their destination. A shock wave from a solar flare jolts the crew awake, and they hear a faint transmission coming from an Earth-like planet. The captain (James Franco) doesn’t survive the shock wave. Second-in-command Oram (Billy Crudup) takes over, ordering the crew to pilot the ship to the planet to investigate.
The planet is lush with vegetation yet creepily silent, with no sounds of animals or birds. Half the crew set down to seek the source of the radio transmission, while the rest remain hovering on the mother ship. It doesn’t take long for mayhem to break out after the aliens infiltrate their human hosts through spores that enter through various bodily orifices.
Alien: Covenant gives viewers exactly what they expect — suspense punctuated by several bloody attacks with lots of shots of the aliens — in stages ranging from hatchlings to King Kong-size behemoths. The effects are truly amazing, with a fluidity and attention to detail that outshines the original film by miles. With improvements in special effects technology over the years, the bizarre monsters from designs by H.R. Giger have become more frighteningly mobile as they attack with ferocious determination, giving their victims little time to defend themselves.
The story parallels the original, with its theme of exploration of alien worlds. The crew members are generic fodder to be picked off one by one, as the aliens target them. Among the crew is Walter (Michael Fassbender), an android who appears to be standard equipment on long space journeys to help monitor controls while the human crew sleeps. With his emotionless expression, Walter’s loyalties are never quite clear, adding to the mounting tension.
Director Ridley Scott, who also directed the original Alien, has fashioned a fast-paced, exciting film, heavy on violence and intensity. Because of computer generated imagery, Scott is not constrained to keep his creatures in deep shadow or to limit their appearances. We get generous, extended sequences of the slimy beasts as they go on their murderous spree.
Rated R, Alien: Covenant shocks in appropriate places, as intended, but also manages to make us pleased to see these awful monsters once again. Like King Kong, Godzilla, or the Creature from the Black Lagoon, they have become iconic movie stars in their own right.
Bonus materials on the 2-disc widescreen Blu-ray/DVD Combo Pack include audio commentary by director Ridley Scott; 12 deleted and extended scenes; 5 behind-the-scenes making-of featurettes; “Master Class with Ridley Scott;” theatrical trailers; and image gallery. The film is also available in a single-disc DVD edition and as a 2-disc 4K Ultra HD/Blu-ray Combo Pack. A digital HD copy is enclosed in all editions.