With the unexpected but widely applauded 2015 sci-fi thriller “Ex Machina,” film-goers saw how intriguing and tricky the evolution of artificial intelligence (AI) can be for humanity. These synthetic lifeforms, built to accomplish tasks faster and more efficiently than us, quickly turned the lab tables on their human creators in an epic battle for survival. Computers and android’s have always malfunctioned in movies to create pandemonium for space crews—but rarely with such malice as we find in this latest prequel to Ridley Scott’s 1979 “Alien.”
In director Scott’s third “Alien” installment, “Covenant” marks the sequel to “Prometheus” (2012), taking place a decade after that spaceship’s demise. We find Covenant and her small crew carrying 2,000 sleeping pods filled with colonists and 1,000 frozen embryos to a far-away planet named Origae-6.
Along for the ride is Walter, an artificial intelligence crew member who helms The Covenant for the crew while they remain in deep sleep and until danger looms.
Give Ridley Scott credit for infusing desperately needed thrills and chills back into the “Alien” legacy. The boring mythology time stamp from “Prometheus” is nowhere to be found in this faster-paced and shocking death match. Within the Within the film's first 30 minutes, the Covenant colony mission is thoroughly explained to viewers and the space crew is left fighting for their lives on a planet’s surface.
“Alien: Covenant” presents terrific tie-ins to “Prometheus” and her crew, especially archaeologist Elizabeth Shaw and her AI crew member David, earning this chapter serious style points. The is movie, however, smartly moves away from the doldrums of God-like creators of man-kind and instead focuses on the creation of robotic life by man.
At the core of this philosophical question resides trust issues between the synthetic lifeforms and humans.
It’s good to see the “Alien” trademark return in a novel and successful sci-fi story. The gruesome on-ship medical station attacks are back! A crew we hardly get to know is chased down and eliminated one at a time in thrilling fashion. A simplistic plot allows the time and energy of “Covenant” to emerge as a worthy precursor to Sigourney Weaver’s terrifying 1979 ordeal. Fans of deadly space creature encounters will squirm in their theater seats. And those viewers who enjoy contemplating the role of artificial intelligence in our lives will embrace Ridley Scott’s keen AI proposition. Who would have thought that we’d have the late John Denver—crooner of “Take Me Home, Country Roads”—to thank for all this? Not me.
Grade: B“Alien: Covenant” is rated R for sci-fi violence, bloody images, language and some sexuality/nudity. Its running time is 2 hours.