Alien: Covenant (Blu-ray) (2017)

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Released 16-Aug-2017

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Horror/Sci-Fi Deleted Scenes-Deleted and Extended Scenes (17:37)
Featurette-USCSS Covenant (Short films)
Featurette-Sector 87 – Planet 4 (short films and production galleries
Featurette-Making Of-Master Class: Ridley Scott (55:30)
Audio Commentary-Director Ridley Scott
Gallery-Production Gallery (copious)
Theatrical Trailer-x 2
Rating Rated MA
Year Of Production 2017
Running Time 122:03
RSDL / Flipper Dual Layered Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 2,4 Directed By Ridley Scott
Studio
Distributor

Twentieth Century Fox
Starring Michael Fassbender
Katherine Waterson
Billy Crudup
Danny McBride
Demian Bichir
Callie Hernandez
Amy Seimetz
Uli Latukefu
Tess Haubrich
Case Standard Blu-ray
RPI ? Music Jed Kurzel


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English DTS HD Master Audio 7.1
Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1
French Dolby Digital 5.1
Portuguese Dolby Digital 5.1
English Descriptive Audio Dolby Digital 5.1
English Text Commentary Dolby Digital 2.0
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 2.40:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 1080p
Original Aspect Ratio 2.40:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English for the Hearing Impaired
Spanish
French
Danish
Finnish
Norwegian
Swedish
Portuguese
Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

     It is 2104 and the colony ship USCSS Covenant is in deep space carrying 200 colonists and 15 crew members in cryosleep plus thousands of human embryos towards to distant planet where a colony of Earth is to be established. The sleeping humans are being looked after during the decades long journey by the android Walter (Michael Fassbender) but disaster strikes the Covenant when a solar flare damages the ship, kills its captain and some of the colonists and jolts the surviving crew awake. Oram (Billy Crudup) assumes command of the ship and repairs commence until they pick up a strange human voice signal from a nearby planetary system. The crew, reluctant to return to cryosleep, decide to investigate the mysterious signal, especially as the previously unknown planet it originates from seems to be almost a clone of Earth with water and a compatible atmosphere. The only dissenter is Daniels (Katherine Waterson), who believes that it seems too good to be true and is unexplored which may put their colonisation mission in jeopardy.

     Daniels is overruled and the Covenant approaches the mysterious planet which is covered by a violent electrical storm. While the Covenant remains in orbit above the storm with Tennessee (Danny McBride), Ricks (Jussie Smollett) and Upworth (Callie Hernandez) remaining on board, the rest of the crew board the Lander piloted by Faris (Amy Seimetz) for the rough trip through the storm to the planet. They land in what could be a paradise; tall trees and fresh water and a field of wheat. The question is, who planted the wheat when there is no-body around? The other unusual thing is that there is, in fact, no life around at all, no animals and no birds.

     Most of the group led by Oram move inland away from the Lander seeking the source of the mysterious signal while Karine (Carmen Ejogo) stays behind to gather samples guarded by Ledward (Benjamin Rigby). High on a hill amid shattered trees Oram’s team find a huge half circular crashed space ship (we of course recognise the ship from Alien). They enter to find huge statues and pods as well as the dog tag of Elizabeth Shaw, a crew member of the Prometheus which had disappeared 10 years before. Ledward and later Hallett (Nathaniel Dean) disturb small pods on the ground and ingest spores becoming sick so both teams start to return to the Lander. Karine and Ledward arrive first; taken to the sick bay an alien creature bursts through Ledward’s spine and in the resulting attempt to destroy it the Lander blows up killing Faris, Karine and Ledward. The rest of the crew are thus stranded, their communications with the Covenant distorted by the storm. As night falls, Hallett convulses and spews up an alien; the remaining crew are attacked by the small fast moving creatures until a hooded figure arrives, scares off the aliens and urges the crew to come with him. The figure, it turns out, is the android David (also Michael Fassbender), the only survivor of the Prometheus. He leads the survivors, Oram, Daniels, Lope (Demian Bichir), Cole (Uli Latukefu), Rosenthal (Tess Haubrich) and Walter, to an ancient city, across a plaza of incinerated human corpses. David has spent the last ten years in this abandoned, dark city but rather than safety the perils of the remaining crew members, with the Covenant trapped above in orbit by the storm, are just beginning.

     Thirty odd years after proving that in space no one can hear you scream, director Ridley Scott returned to the Alien franchise with Prometheus (2012). It was an ambitious, visually stunning film which divided critics and the audience into those who loved the film, and those who hated it! Whereas the original Alien on rottentomatoes.com received a critics score of 97% and an audience score of 94%, Prometheus achieved only 73% and 68%, fresh enough but hardly signalling the film to be a classic like the earlier film. For whereas Alien was a simple horror story which did not concern itself about where the alien lifeform came from, Prometheus was a much more complex and cerebral story, not so much concerned about the origins of the alien as about the origin of life itself. Alien: Covenant picks up this theme from its opening prologue between Peter Weyland (an uncredited ) and David, the android he has created. Thus the links to Alien: Covenant are established from the start of the new film, although it takes an hour before the connections are made. But while the origins of the aliens are explained, I don’t think we get any closer to discovering the origins of life!

     After the mixed reaction to Prometheus, Alien: Covenant is a return to more classic Alien creature scares and thrills with chest-bursters, spine-bursters, face-huggers, a wide range of alien creatures, big and small, and things that go bump in the darkness. Indeed, Alien: Covenant is a film with a very dark colour palate; the ship is steely grey, most of the film on the alien planet takes place in darkness while the ancient cityscape and buildings, including the dome, are huge, black and foreboding. This does not mean that there are not sections of stunning colour, such as the rich bronze sails of the Covenant in the black of space or the gold of David’s den, but these are the exceptions. The visual splendour of the film, and the film is certainly grandiose as Ridley Scott knows how to create stunning worlds, is the ship in space, the mountains, forests and lakes of the alien planet (shot in NZ), and the huge ancient city with its plazas, domes, columns and massive stone heads.

     Alien: Covenant does build up gradually but once the Lander launches for the planet the tension, action and scares are virtually non-stop, with the diverse alien creatures being revealed at regular intervals. The action is visceral, chaotic and exciting, with quick cutting as the aliens fleetingly appear from the darkness, the sound design replete with alien screeches, the screams of victims and the crash of gunfire and bodies. Katherine Waterson is the Ripley equivalent in this instalment of the franchise and although she is acceptable she cannot match the charisma of Sigourney Weaver, although I doubt few could. However, Michael Fassbender in the dual roles of Walter / David is superb, adding to the range of duplicitous androids with which the Alien franchise has been blessed.

     With Alien: Covenant Scott reacted to the criticism of Prometheus with a return to more classic Alien territory while retaining the complex questions raised in Prometheus which results in a rather uneven mix of action, aliens, mythmaking and exposition. One gets the feeling, however, that no matter which way Scott went with the film some people would be unhappy and its rottentomatoes.com score of 67% critics and 56% audience confirms this being lower than Prometheus. Perhaps the weight of the expectation, not to mention the popularity of the original films, would be too much for any filmmaker. Yet, if one puts expectations aside and watches Alien: Covenant as a sci-fi / horror / action film in its own right it is a visually stunning film that is exciting, thought-provoking and entertaining.

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Transfer Quality

Video

     Alien: Covenant is presented in an aspect ratio of 2.40:1, in 1080p using the MPEG-4 AVC code.

     As noted this is a dark film and the colours have been desaturated resulting a dark palate that is predominately steely grey / blue, black or dark brown, with dark crimson blood, although there are sections of vibrant colour such as the bronze sails of the Covenant or the yellow suits of the crew in the black of space or the gold of David’s den. Detail throughout however is very sharp, blacks and shadow detail are excellent, allowing everything in the dark backgrounds to be seen that the filmmakers want us to see, contrast and brightness are consistent. Marks and artefacts are not present.

     English subtitles for the hearing impaired are available in a large white text plus Spanish, French, Danish, Finnish, Portuguese, Norwegian and Swedish subtitles. The same subtitles, except for Portuguese, are available for the audio commentary.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

     The principal audio is English DTS-HD MA 7.1 and there are Spanish, French and Portuguese dubs in Dolby Digital 5.1, an English descriptive audio with a male voice (Dolby Digital 5.1) and an English audio commentary (Dolby Digital 2.0)

     I am not set up for 7.1 audio but even in 5.1 this audio rocks the room. During quieter moments there is always the ambient sounds of dripping water, clanking chains, the rattles and clinks of the ship, the rain or the wind. During the Lander sequence everything is noise and chaos, the roar of the engine and the storm, the crash and groans of metal and harnesses, the swish of the windscreen wipers as the Lander battles through the storm; during attacks there are alien screeches, the screams of victims and the crash of gunfire and bodies. One of the more ominous sounds is the “clicking” sound of the aliens off camera which tends to occur just before an attack. The subwoofer was active adding rumble to the Covenant’s engines, thunder, the Lander sequence and dread to many scenes as well as supporting the action. Through all this the dialogue was clear and easy to understand.

     The original score by Jed Kurzel is appropriate while music by Wagner is also featured.

     There are no lip synchronisation issues.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

Deleted and Extended Scenes (17:37)

     Twelve scenes; there is a “Play all” option. The scenes were cut late in production as they include dialogue, sound effects and completed special effects:

USCSS Covenant

     This consists of three short films:

Sector 87 – Planet 4

     This extra consists of two short films, plus a section with a massive number of drawings. These link the events after the end of Prometheus, such as what happened to David and Elizabeth Shaw, and the Covenant mission. The short films are:

     The final section of the extra is David’s Illustrations. This is a gallery of sketches supposedly made by David on the planet during the course of his experiments. It is divided into the sections “Flora, Fauna, Shaw, Specimens” and “Alien” and each section has a number of subsections (for example Flora has 18 subsections, Specimens 28) and within each subsection are up to 10 sketches. Each section, and each subsection, must be selected individually which makes it a very laborious exercise. Silent, no music. Each to their own – I admit I did not look at every sketch.

Master Class: Ridley Scott (55:30)

     An extensive and decent “Making of” using film clips, clips from Alien and Prometheus, behind the scenes footage and comments by a wide range of the crew and cast. Things covered include how Alien: Covenant fits within the cycle of Alien stories, the character and techniques of Ridley Scott, the characters of Oram, Daniels, Tennessee and David / Walter and the actors who play the roles are considered in some depth including the sequence when Fassbender has to fight himself, the construction of the huge sets including the Covenant, the Engineer’s planet and David’s workshop, filming in NZ and Australia. There is also an interesting look at how the various creatures were planned and filmed, using as many practical effects as possible including body suits, mechanical arms, puppets, prosthetics, dummies plus the CGI. Individuals who comment include Ridley Scott, DP Dariusz Wolski, screenwriters John Logan, Dante Harper, cast Katherine Waterson, Billy Crudup, Michael Fassbender, Danny McBride, Callie Hernandez, Amy Seimetz, Benjamin Rigby, Demian Bichir, Carmen Ejogo, James Franco and Uli Latukefu, the producer, stunt coordinator, production designer, special effects supervisors, visual effects supervisor, set decorator, costume designer and creature effects supervisors.

Director Commentary

     Director Ridley Scott advises that he has not prepared notes for this commentary so will be speaking “off the cuff” then talks non-stop about story points, choices he made, the cast, locations, what is real and what is CGI in scenes, links between Alien, Prometheus and Alien: Covenant, revisiting plot points and creature designs from Alien, plagues and virus’s including the Ebola virus, his techniques and intentions, the dangers of perfect androids. It is mostly non-technical and a bit rambling but always interesting.

Production Gallery

     This consists of drawings and sketches in a number of sections. Each section (and the subsections within the sections) must be selected individually although within the subsections there is the option for the drawings to advance automatically.

     Ridleygrams: 18 storyboards and script pages.

    Concept Art

    Creatures

     Logos and Patches: 34 images.

Theatrical Trailers

     Two quite different trailers for the film: 2:26 / 2:04.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

     The various Blu-ray releases of Alien: Covenant around the world are pretty much identical.

Summary

     Alien was close to a perfect sci-fi / horror film; compact, scary, visually stunning and with a wonderful heroine (and a cat). Aliens added superb action sequences to the mix creating a franchise, but one that following films could not match. Alien: Covenant tries to blend the horror of the first film and the action of the second with complex themes about the origins, and creation, of life. Perhaps, not surprisingly, it does not quite pull it off and it does feel a bit familiar as it rechannels sequences to those we have seen before. However, in its own right it is an exciting, spectacular, almost haunting, film with a mesmerising performance by Michael Fassbender and an ending that will stun. I thought it was more purely entertaining that Prometheus, but each to their own.

     The video and audio are stunning, the extras are extensive, almost exhausting, and genuine, resulting in an excellent Blu-ray package for those prepared to revisit the film.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Ray Nyland (the bio is the thing)
Tuesday, May 22, 2018
Review Equipment
DVDSony BDP-S580, using HDMI output
DisplayLG 55inch HD LCD. This display device has not been calibrated. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 1080p.
Audio DecoderNAD T737. This audio decoder/receiver has not been calibrated.
AmplificationNAD T737
SpeakersStudio Acoustics 5.1

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