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Alien: Covenant (Blu-ray Review)

15 Aug, 2017 By: John Latchem

Box Office $74.23 million
$29.99 DVD, $34.99 Blu-ray, $39.99 UHD BD
Rated ‘R’ for sci-fi violence, bloody images, language and some sexuality/nudity
Stars Michael Fassbender, Katherine Waterston, Billy Crudup, Danny McBride, Demián Bichir.

Alien: Covenant is the second of two movies, following 2012’s Prometheus, devoted to answering the question no one really asked, which was where the deadly alien xenomorphs came from.

Well, apparently director Ridley Scott had the question, as he laments in his solo commentary that none of the previous sequels to his 1979 original film addressed the subject, prompting him to make Prometheus, Covenant and whatever future installments the studio will allow (with a script for a third film in the cycle already written, he says).

While the necessity of Prometheus’ additions to the franchise might be debated by fans, the film certainly raised a number of questions for sequels to address. Covenant does answer some of them, but in a way that is sure to inspire more debate. Scott’s latest take on the franchise has focused less on the gore and horror and more on ruminations on the nature of life and creation.

The film cleverly echoes the structure of the original Alien, even going so far as to include Jerry Goldsmith’s theme music. A colony ship, the Covenant, receives a signal from a strange planet and decides to investigate, but isn’t quite prepared to deal with what they discover.

That would be the aftermath of the Prometheus mission from the previous film, and the only survivor, the android David (Michael Fassbender). Viewers might recall that Noomi Rapace’s Dr. Shaw also survived that film, but David explains that she was killed when their shipped crashed onto the planet.

Aside from David and some retread of certain plot points, Covenant mostly glosses over the events of Prometheus, which can be a bit frustrating. A more direct follow-up was given in a two-and-a-half minute short called The Crossing that was released prior to the film (and included on the Blu-ray) to show David and Shaw’s journey to this planet. Part of this footage is in the film itself to explain a key plot development, and Scott confesses in his commentary that even this connection to Prometheus wasn’t initially planned.

Another frustrating aspect of the film is the way it raises additional questions in what can only be assumed is Scott’s master plan to lead back to the story of the original film. These latest films also disregard the timelines implied by the two “Alien vs. Predator” movies, which weren’t the most well received entries to begin with, though it does present a contrast in style as to what people might expect from an “Alien” movie. However, the Blu-ray seems to offer some means of reconciliation for fans with a nearly seven-minute video called Advent that spells out a bit more clearly what happened and might provide some threads for “AvP” fans to hold onto hope that those movies might still have a place in the overall canon.

The visual palette of the film is gorgeous and the special effects are first rate, with even Scott commenting on how far the tools have evolved since he made the first film using puppets on sticks. And the film does provide its fair share of scares in between its attempts at profundity. The human characters are more or less disposable, the most significant being the ones played by the more-recognizable among the cast, such as Katherine Waterston, Billy Crudup and, surprisingly, Danny McBride, whose reputation for comedy doesn’t become a distraction. There’s also a surprise cameo who makes more of an appearance in some supplemental videos on the Blu-ray that show off the life of the Covenant crew (made for the film’s marketing campaign).

Aside from the aforementioned revelations and some interludes about technical details about visual effects, Scott’s commentary is mostly him just explaining what’s happening on screen. A better picture of the making of the film is available through the 55-minute “Master Class — Ridley Scott” featurette.

The Blu-ray also includes nearly 18 minutes of deleted and extended scenes, plus a trove of photo galleries and concept art.



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