The oft-quoted tagline for 1979’s “Alien” was, “In space, no one can hear you scream.”
For “Alien: Covenant” the tag could be, “In space, no one can hear you scream, ‘NO, YOU IDIOT!’ ”
That pulsating extraterrestrial egg thing seeping gooey mucus? Sure, go ahead and look straight into the mouth of it. Uncharted planet? Hey, let’s walk around without spacesuits.
It’s clear the “Alien” anthology’s Weyland Corporation doesn’t have the most stringent of hiring practices.
None of this means the film is dumb. Ridley Scott’s “Alien: Covenant” might not have as much to say as his 2012 predecessor, “Prometheus,” but it bridges the gap between monster movie and navel-gazing thumb-sucker.
About a decade after “Prometheus,” the Weyland-assembled crew aboard the spaceship Covenant is boldly searching for a new planet to colonize. The cargo: Thousands of adult Earthlings in a state of suspended animation and file cabinets full of human embryos.
En route to their new home of Origae-6, the Covenant is damaged by a strange space storm. As the crew members make repairs, they intercept a familiar-sounding transmission from a nearer paradise. Naturally, they abandon their planned trillion-dollar mission to instead explore an unknown planet that surely is just as good.
“Covenant” is the eighth “Alien”-based movie but only the third for Scott. His 1979 original was basically a haunted house movie in space that launched a nearly 40-year-old franchise written and directed by other famous moviemakers — James Cameron, Joss Whedon, David Fincher.
Many fans didn’t care for Scott’s “Prometheus,” but I loved it, from its big questions about humankind’s beginnings to its more subtle points on sexism and reproductive rights.
“Covenant,” however, is heavy on monsters and light on mythos. It clues us in to the fates of two Prometheus survivors (Michael Fassbender’s android David and Noomi Rapace’s scientist Elizabeth Shaw) and whether they ever found the engineers of human existence they sought. But beyond that, “Covenant” is a lot of stabbing, slashing and shooting.
Thanks to CGI, the facehuggers, Xenomorphs and other alien life forms are faster and more violent than ever. Your new nightmare fuel includes a microscopic swarm of mold spores silently burrowing into an ear canal and a 7-foot-tall white walker with a penchant for decapitation.
Most of the cast is just monster bait. Demian Bichir, Jussie Smollett and James Franco all make appearances. Danny McBride is an inspired choice as the ship’s hillbilly pilot Tennessee, but Katherine Waterston’s Daniels is little more than a placeholder for the original’s Ripley, played by Sigourney Weaver.
The standout is Fassbender, who is fascinating to watch. As Walter, he’s a less sinister version of David. If David was modeled on a European with a Ph.D., Walter is more like a graduate student at a small Midwestern university.
In a lot of ways, “Alien: Covenant” is to “Alien” what “The Hobbit” prequels were to “The Lord of the Rings”: a return visit to a universe you love even if it’s not quite as thrilling this time. It’s scary and fun and leaves us looking forward to the next chapter.
But it also quashes any notion that humanity will get smarter in the near future.
Rated R for sci-fi violence, bloody images, language and some sexuality/nudity.