Review

Idle hands

‘Alien Covenant’ heartily agrees to scare the pants off you

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Mothers and their children — good, bad, saintly or incredibly, violently evil — have always been at the core of Ridley Scott’s “Alien” saga. Even the ship’s computer is named “Mother.”

In Scott’s second film of a planned trilogy that winds up preceding the fateful journey of The Nostromo, the theme continues to run true. Here, we follow the crew of a gigantic spaceship ironically called, The Covenant, filled with people and human embryos in-stasis as it travels to a distant planet called Origae-6 upon which they hope to establish a colony. Seven years away from the end of their journey, an unforeseen mishap causes the crew to awaken and deal with a near disaster.

Once repairs are made, however, they detect a signal from a nearby planet — one that could be just as hospitable as the one for which they were headed.

Yes, it’s familiar territory for Scott, but here there is something more and you have to wonder if it’s in the mind of the beholder. Scott has become a visionary of humanity’s future with stunningly lived-in depictions seen in movies such as “Blade Runner,” “The Martian” and, of course, the “Alien” series. In this future, technology has gone way beyond performing as just a tool to accomplish some manner of work. It is as much the user as the used, and unlike most space operas this looks like a future that works, suggesting that at some point in a few decades humanity will have set aside petty disputes over borders, religion and economy and has embraced what corporations like Weyland-Yutani can offer.

This idea is personified by David (Michael Fassbender), the “synthetic human” who traveled with the explorers and who hoped to commune with man’s makers in the previous film, “Prometheus.” We’ll get to him in a moment, but when this story opens we meet his virtual twin, the one named Walter. You can tell them apart because Walter has a distinct American accent, while David has a cultured British lilt. Walter is skilled, helpful and tied into the vast compendium of human and techno knowledge, but he is also built of the same stuff from which David was sprung. Both function best when around humans, from whom they get things like compassion.

But, as see in a brief prologue, David believes he is the son of corporation head Peter Weyland (Guy Pearce) and even selects his own name after appreciating Michelangelo’s statue of the same name. Weyland seems to have planted a psychological seed in David, one that will sprout as a horror on a distant world.

The ship’s crew reluctantly go along with Christopher Oram (Billy Crudup), the first mate who is promoted to captain following the accident, who thinks checking out this habitable planet is a good idea because it’s close and nobody wants to get back into their sleep chambers after what just happened to them. So, they do, and what they find right off the bat is a world that was home to The Engineers, the strange race of giants discovered by the Prometheus. It is also a world seriously infected by something that is virtually unstoppable and associated with the presence of someone familiar who has been isolated for far too long. Let’s just say the old expression, “Idle hands are the devil’s workshop,” is frighteningly apropo. 

Most of the action takes place through the eyes of Daniels Branson (Katherine Waterston), a terraforming expert who was the wife of the captain who died in the disaster. Basically, she becomes the “Ripley.” 

Although this film may not answer the nagging big questions posed by “Prometheus,” it nails the horror and gore right to the wall. This is one scary movie. You have been warned.

“Alien Covenant” is rated R for sci-fi violence, bloody images, language and some sexuality/nudity.

This film will be screened daily at Mitchell Storyteller 7 Theatres, 110 Old Talpa Cañón Road. For show times, tickets and additional information, call (575) 751-4245 or visit storyteller7.com.

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