Blu-Ray Pick of the Week: Alien: Covenant

“How to be a Latin Lover” is also new to Blu-Ray this week. 

In spite of the name, the “Alien” movies have always been more about the people than the alien. This is true for the first movie and holds true right through to the most recent entry, “Alien Covenant.”

The “Alien” movies have also always been strikingly egalitarian. There is always a mix of races and genders in the crew, but the beauty part is that when push comes to shove, none of that really matters in these movies. Everyone is human, and anyone can be a hero or a coward. As the lone survivor in 1979’s “Alien,” Ellen Ripley (Sigourney Weaver) showed that a woman with bravery and ingenuity can defeat the alien. This can be contrasted most sharply with Covenant crew member Faris (Amy Seimetz), who is cowardly and winds up getting herself and fellow crew member Karine (Carmen Ejogo) killed because of her nervous bumbling with a shotgun. If Faris had been in Ripley’s place, the 1979 movie would have been an hour long.

“Alien: Covenant” takes place ten years after the events in “Prometheus.” Space ship Covenant travels through deep space carrying people to colonize a distant planet. After a disaster involving a solar flare damages their ship, sentient A.I. robot Walter (Michael Fassbender) wakes up the crew from hyper sleep, including first mate Oram (Billy Crudup), second mate Daniels (Katherine Waterston), and pilot Tennessee (Danny McBride). As if the name didn’t already give it away, Tennessee is a southern man, complete with drawl, ratty cowboy hat, and the ability to recognize a garbled transmission of John Denver’s “Take Me Home Country Roads.” He also loves a good whiskey. Even though his hand covers the bottle when he pours to mourn the loss of their captain (surprise cameo—will not reveal) who died during reawakening, I’d stake good money that it’s sour mash bourbon.

While there are interesting characters in the crew and the roles are well cast, I have a bit of a problem with the structure of “Alien: Covenant.” It doesn’t play quite the way a two hour movie should, with the classic exposition/introduction, rising and falling action, and denouement. I’m not such a bore where I say that every movie has to follow that pattern, but it is classic for a reason, and breaking with it needs to be done properly and for good reason.

I get the reasons, story-wise, why “Alien: Covenant” had to be told this way, I just wish it flowed better. The movie plays more like a two episode mini-series shown together back to back rather than one cohesive unit. It’s at the moment, about an hour in, where a flare gun goes off and the crew is rescued by David (Fassbender again) from “Prometheus,” in which “Alien: Covenant” stops and starts. I could even see that moment being a cliffhanger for episode one of a mini-series, and tune in next week to see who fired the flare gun. Instead we move right into the next section, which takes place primarily in a new setting and involves exposition of its own. It’s here where the movie stalls for a bit until the action picks up again.

At least there’s a payoff to make it worthwhile. For those wondering about the origins of the pods and the face huggers, or waiting to see an actual alien like we know and love from the previous “Alien” series, the movie does not disappoint. The chest bursting, second mouth jutting, and acid blood are all there. It may take a while until we finally see it, but patience pays off and the alien created for this movie is worth the wait.

The epilogue to “Alien: Covenant” may feel a bit extended, and those who feel that way should remember the advice of Russian playwright Anton Chekhov: Don’t introduce a gun in the first act if it isn’t going to go off in the second or third act. Now you know why those loader trucks are on board. Rent it.

More New Releases: “How to be a Latin Lover,” about a playboy (Eugenio Derbez) who learns to value of family after getting dumped, also starring Salma Hayek, Rob Lowe, Kristen Bell, Raquel Welch, and Rob Corddry; “The Case for Christ,” about an investigative journalist—and atheist—who seeks to disprove Christianity but gains some unexpected results, starring  Mike Vogel, Erika Christensen, Faye Dunaway, Robert Forster, and Frankie Faison; and “Once Upon a Time in Venice,” starring Bruce Willis as a L.A. detective who seeks out the ruthless gang that stole his dog.

To explain the caption in the main photo: It’s a reference to James Horner’s Oscar-nominated score of “Aliens” (1986):

Andrew Hudak is a lifelong film lover. His column on Blu-Ray new releases appears every Tuesday. He lives in Connecticut.

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