BY ROGER THOMAS
As I wrote when the “Alien” prequel “Prometheus” came out, “I was sixteen in the summer of 1979 when Alien was released in the theaters.” Once again looking back in what seems to be two lifetimes ago, I realize that I remember the theatre and who I was with when I saw “Alien.” Likewise, I remember who I was with when we saw “Aliens” in 1986. Those two films and the experiences I had with my friends were both great times at the cinema.
Since those two classic films there have been others made: “Alien 3,” “Alien: Resurrection” and the aforementioned sequel “Prometheus.” Now there is a sixth film: “Alien: Covenant.” All of these are less than the first two.
This new film is a sequel to the prequel; it follows the story of the survivors of the Prometheus and a new crew of space explorers who man the ship Covenant.
The crew of the Covenant are many but most of the characters have qualities that set them apart from the others. I appreciate the glimpses into the characters but the film lingers longer on the crew than is necessary. If you are watching an “Alien” film, you are there for the title character.
Eventually part of the crew of Covenant take a shuttle down to a planet to explore and see if this may be a candidate for their new home. Then some strange things start to happen. Also the crew finds wreckage and an android from the Prometheus. In one of the twists of the story, the Covenant crew has a later edition of the same android they find on the planet. I liked the part of the film on the planet the most.
The second third of the film plays like a horror film. There is a structure where the older android, David, has been living. The crew stay there as well. The dark building ultimately turns into something similar to a haunted house or a camp for teenagers. One after another of the crew is attacked. Some of those scenes are more jarring than others, but if you have seen any of the “Alien” films, you know to expect scares, screams and blood.
The visual effects of “Covenant” are outstanding. I especially enjoyed the way the aliens enter the bodies of the crew in a couple of scenes. There are a couple of intense scenes in space as well that truly look incredible.
However, I do have some reservations. First, there was the slow beginning. The aliens should have been present sooner. Second, there are several mistakes that are made along the way; space travelers should be more stern when it comes to protocol. Then there is the final twist of the film. There are actually two, the first is highly predictable, and the second is a little bit smarter but not brilliant.
However, the biggest disappointment of the film is that it just did not scare me. I know I was a terrified sixteen year old when I saw “Alien” back in 1979, and I really liked being thrilled. Recent films, like “The Conjuring,” “The Boy,” and “Oculus” all gave me more chills than anything in in this latest chapter of the “Alien” saga. I simply wanted more scares, and possibly less blood and goo.
Here is my suggestion for the seventh film. It is time for the aliens to finally arrive on earth. Let their acid blood, which was hardly referenced in this new film, burn through some bridges and other structures.
Do you remember the tagline for the first film: “In space, no one can hear you scream.” Well, bring the aliens to earth and have the posters say, “On earth, everyone will be screaming!”
Roger Thomas is a member of the North Carolina Film Critics Association. He reviews films for The Stanly News & Press.