Will ‘Alien: Covenant’ give fans exactly what they want?

The trailer for Ridley Scott’s new film suggests it will be a lot like the original – and a lot of fun

Tunnel vision:  Alien: Covenant will likely premiere at the Cannes film festival in May.

Tunnel vision: Alien: Covenant will likely premiere at the Cannes film festival in May.

 

If the new trailer for Alien: Covenant represents Ridley Scott’s upcoming film in any way accurately, then those allergic to “spoilers” should run quickly in the opposite direction (from both the video and this article). Mind you, if you’re even half-interested in the picture you’re almost certain to have seen Scott’s imperishable 1979 original. Relax. You’ve already been spoiled.

The trailer shows humans landing on a distant planet within whose woods a horseshoe-shaped ship has earlier crashed. They encounter a collection of egg-shaped things. One of those horrible entities throbs its way open and thrusts its innards at a crew member. Later on something seems to be bursting out of his torso. Everyone looks very frightened, but, luckily, a tough woman in a vest seems set to save the day. Hang on a minute. Didn’t I see this when Jimmy Carter was still US president? (Actually, I didn’t. It was an 18 cert here and I’m not quite that old. But you catch the drift.)

Sir Ridley is nothing if not shameless. On its release in 2012, Prometheus, a near-prequel to Alien, could reasonably claim to be the most anticipated film since The Phantom Menace 13 years earlier. It would be unfair to say that it was equally disappointing. There are some very nice things in it. Most everybody liked Killarney’s Michael Fassbender as an urbane robot. Noomi Rapace swelled with eccentric charisma as a religiously minded archaeologist. But Prometheus did not work as a standalone story and it didn’t offer nearly enough Alien action to qualify as a proper chapter in that franchise. We don’t want a washed-out retread of 2001: A Space Odyssey. We want a cynical retread of all the key elements from Alien.

Scott more or less admitted that he intended to give fans exactly that. “There was always this discussion: is Alien, the character, the beast, played out or not?” he told The Wrap. “We’ll have them all: egg, face-hugger, chest-burster, then the big boy. I think maybe we can go another round or two.” When asked if the picture was a sequel to Prometheus, he replied: “Well, really it’s Alien.” Got that? This is rather as if, after The White Album, the Beatles agreed to ditch all the awkward bits and return to stompalong beat music.

The trailer confirms some things we already knew about Alien: Covenant. Originally titled Alien: Paradise Lost, the picture follows a party composed of sexual partners that sets out to colonise an apparently friendly planet. We already knew that Fassbender is Ian Holm. We now know for certain that the excellent Katherine Waterston is Sigourney Weaver and that the equally strong Billy Crudup is John Hurt. Danny McBride might be a comedy version of Tom Skerritt.

Most attention will be focused on the Alien (or “xenomorph” as fans have it) that appears at about 2’ 20”. It looks pretty scary. It looks pretty mad. But we are again reminded that the Alien is at his best when only half-glimpsed.

For all the grumpiness expressed above, Alien: Covenant looks like a heck of a lot of nihilistic fun. We can’t wait for more of the same. The picture opens on May 19th. Noting that this is the first Friday of the Cannes film festival and remembering Scott’s happy relationship with the event – The Duellists won an award in 1977, Robin Hood opened festivities in 2010 – we expect Covenant to make its first public appearance there on the Thursday. That’s the Mad: Max Fury Road slot. A good omen.

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