In space no one can hear you scream, nor can they hear the audience yawn as Ridley Scott flogs a dead alien for the umpteenth time – well, for the eighth to be precise (if you include the two dire Alien vs Predator movies).
For screaming out loud, there are only so many ways in which hapless crew members can be sliced and diced in space, as evidenced (yet again) by Alien: Covenant, a second Alien prequel following on from 2012’s disappointing Prometheus.
That film was the first time Scott had retaken the helm of the series since his 1979 original and it was an over-hyped dud, disappointingly free of the tension and memorable horror which made Alien such a classic.
The story concerned a crew’s search for the very origins of the universe, introducing a pretentious element to the narrative that is not wholly extinguished in the so-so new film.
Alien: Covenant, in which a team of “colonisers” divert to a planet which looks promising for human habitation, has a few more effective set pieces than Prometheus, including a nice twist on the famous “chestburster”. Call it a “backburster”, as one evil little alien rips through the spine of an unfortunate female crew member before growing in seconds into a monster-sized beast.
Yet there is no escaping a colossal sense of deja vu as once again aliens prove their dominance in the food chain.
People running for their lives down airlocked corridors? Check. Unfortunates trapped in cabins with nasty creatures, pleading to be let out? Check. Face-hugging monsters leaping onto unsuspecting victims? Check.
Are we really doing this all over again? Alien was a brilliantly made horror film that used the confined spaces superbly and, in a novel touch, portrayed the crew members as blue collar trucker types rather than whizzy astronauts.
What it wasn’t, was a Star Wars-esque saga with a dense mythology and universe that could be explored in multiple sequels and spin-offs, nor did it have the kind of complicated characters and relationships which could be untangled and developed in future episodes.
Yes, it had a strong female heroine, Sigourney Weaver’s Ripley, but beside being a gutsy, kick-ass alien destroyer she never had much else to do. The character’s apotheosis came in James Cameron’s action-packed Aliens in 1986, in which she mows down scores of aliens and saves a young girl.
Job done. Except it wasn’t.
Six years later Ripley returned for the ill-fated Alien 3, the weirdly boring directorial debut of David Fincher, and she was back yet again in 1997 for the suspense-free Alien: Resurrection directed by arty Frenchman Jean-Pierre Jeunet.
Neither film made much money relative to their large budgets, nor did they justify their existences creatively. To keep star Sigourney Weaver in the franchise her long-dead character had to be “cloned” for Resurrection and the stories were all the same: crew in a confined space become Alien lunch.
Then we were treated to 2004’s mash-up, Alien vs Predator, which did just well enough to justify a sequel in 2007.
Neither did anything for the lustre of the franchise, however, and so original creator Scott returned to much fanfare with 2012’s Prometheus.
That film introduced Michael Fassbender’s comically creepy android manservant, David, an upgraded version of whom appears in Alien: Covenant, causing several philosophical longueurs on the meaning of creation.
The best thing about the picture is a deliciously creepy twist ending which artfully paves the way for the inevitable next sequel-prequel.
It may be tempting Ridley, but please – just scream a very loud “no”.