Well-crafted Alien do-over returns with horrific twists

(From far left) Katherine Waterston, Michael Fassbender and Carmen Ejogo in Alien: Covenant.
(From far left) Katherine Waterston, Michael Fassbender and Carmen Ejogo in Alien: Covenant.PHOTO: 20TH CENTURY FOX

REVIEW / SCI-FI THRILLER

ALIEN: COVENANT (M18)

122 minutes/ Now showing /3.5 stars

The story: Some years after the events of Prometheus (2012), the ship Covenant, loaded with the hibernating bodies of settlers, is en route to colonise another planet. A tragedy forces the crew - Daniels (Katherine Waterston), Oram (Billy Crudup), Tennessee (Danny McBride), Lope (Demian Bichir), Karine (Carmen Ejogo), the android David (Michael Fassbender) and others - to make an emergency landing on an uncharted planet.

Welcome to the rock 'em, sock 'em, back-to-basics action-horror Alien prequel, a new movie that looks an awful lot like the old ones.

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Not that this is a bad thing: Just as Star Wars: The Force Awakens (2015) was a reboot disguised as a new episode, this new film is a well-crafted do-over that should keep both old fans and newcomers to the franchise happy.

In the spirit of this film's ideas about genetic manipulation, this looks like a hybrid of Alien (1979) and Aliens (1986), with just enough Prometheus thrown in for continuity.

Director Ridley Scott has a new team of writers on board - losing Prometheus scribes Jon Spaihts and Damon Lindelof in the process - so this exercise can be read as starting with a clean slate.

With this new crew, the philosophical meanderings about gods and the origins of man that weighed down the first prequel are gone - in fact, so are any long bits of dialogue, except for the "cold" opening scene, intended to show how the android David came to be.

So the team of explorers speak in the clipped and pithy way of the 1979 and 1986 films, minus the strange tics that plagued Prometheus, such as Idris Elba's shaky Southern accent and the conveniently reckless behaviour of the crew.

Scott has a lot of balls to juggle - fan service, action and science-fiction - but he manages to keep them all in the air, while adding new, genuinely horrific twists to the life cycle of the creatures fond of outsourcing their childcare to humans.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 11, 2017, with the headline 'Well-crafted Alien do-over returns with horrific twists'. Print Edition | Subscribe