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  • 2.5 out of 5

Alien: Covenant - Set your expectations to "low"

You are now entering a spoiler-free zone; well as much as a spoiler-free zone as possible given that this is an Alien movie and we all know how they usually end.

So Alien: Covenant is the second of Ridley Scott's Alien-prequel series. I'm not giving anything away by saying that the end of this one lays the basis for the next one. Reports suggest there may be four prequels. We have been threatened with worse. I refer to James Cameron's plans for four more Avatar sequels!

If you have not seen the first prequel, Prometheus you need to see it before seeing Alien: Covenant. That is a must. You will be lost otherwise. Even if this is your very first time to see an Alien film, please see at least one other first.

Once you have seen Alien or Aliens, then the B-story of this film will make sense. In fact the last act is almost a beat for beat copy of either of these two. We'll come back to the A-story later.

1979's Alien was the first outing for Ridley Scott with the creature. It had a very strong script and featured the famous mess-hall scene with the wonderful John Hurt and our first look at the chest-burster as it was known then. It was a straight-forward horror story set in space, complete with jump-out-of-your-seat moments. Seven years later James Cameron brought us Aliens which changed gears and gave us, what was essentially, a war movie. It was a different take utilising the same villain. Both stand alone and both are memorable. This writer has watched both movies many times. Let's forget Aliens 3 and 4 and the various Aliens vs Predator rip-offs.

Enough history, what of this latest movie. Let's start with the plot. There are no less than six writers involved in developing the story and crafting the screenplay. When you have half-a-dozen writers involved it usually shows and this film is no exception. The writing is all over the place and when one character exclaims "I don't know what's going on" you can feel the cinema-going audience, to a person, empathise.

The B-story has the crew of the colony ship Covenant, bound for a remote planet on the far side of the galaxy, discovering a signal from another planet on route to their destination. The signal is a broken but identifiable as "Take me home country roads". This intrigues our intrepid crew who decide to investigate. One can almost hear the audience shouting "don't do it!" but they do and discover what they think is an uncharted paradise, but is actually a dark, dangerous world. When they uncover a threat beyond their imagination, they must attempt a harrowing escape. Enough said - you get the gist.

The A-story continues Scott's preoccupation with faith, human origins and our destiny as a species. Prometheus started this examination but was slow and plodding not to mention confusing and with an ending that made no sense. We get more of the same here only it's not shoved in your face as much as the first prequel.

The crew are instantly forgettable. Yes we have a woman in a vest shooting at a monster which again, is a step too far in trying to recreate the Ellen Ripley character - without success. The ship, the Covenant is too shiny and there is the odd JJ Abrams lens flare on the bridge. Our alien movies need to be grimy!

The film is receiving widespread criticism. I understand why. The A-storey is, well boring at this stage. The B-storey is not satisfying and the twists at the end are so well sign-posted that it takes away from the ending.

I went in with very low expectations and was surprised.

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