Last night at SXSW’s opening sessions, there included a special screening of the classic ’79 Alien. Before playing to a packed house of franchise faithful, director Ridley Scott was on hand in his first appearance ever at the festival. There had been some hope that there would be an actual screening of the upcoming Alien: Covenant, but it didn’t happen. However Scott did preview three clips comprising a total of nearly twenty minutes of footage.
The previews do nothing if not showcase that things have moved back towards the hard-R flavor of the spectrum. Scott seems to be back in his stride once again. Before the first clip was shown, he stated his intent with this film:
My goals don’t change. My mantra has always been to scare the living shit out of you.
The first clip shows the arrival of the colony ship Covenant to their destination planet and sending a shuttle down to the surface. As with a number of previous times, the run down from the mothership to the planet isn’t without some exciting turbulence. The Covenant’s pilot, Tennessee, played by Danny McBride, chats via comlink to the shuttle crew. They play it nonchalant but professional. There’s a new David model (the android from Prometheus, still played by Michael Fassbender, but this time named Walter) who is on the arriving shuttle as well. The humans make it to the planet shaken, but none the worse for wear, but Walter is cool and collected (Weyland Corp makes pretty chill androids).
The banter between the characters on the launch prep and the descent has the vibe of the post-stasis table chatter from Alien and the pre-drop briefing scenes from Aliens (and a bit of the Betty crew from Alien: Resurrection) making it feel again as a return to form.
The Backbuster & Bad Shots;
The next clip is the context around the backbursting scene that we’ve seen in the earlier trailer. Tennessee calls for a quarantine across the radio while Carmen Ejogo’s character (we don’t have a name for her yet) is closing on the shuttle supporting the unfortunate fellow (the one from the trailer with the exploding spine). Ejogo pleads across the radio to let them into the ship, as he collapses against her, coughing up blood, the crew relent and let them onto the ship. Fans of the original Alien film will know that quarantine breaking never, ever ends well.
We continue to the scene that we saw in the red-banded trailer in the infirmary. Faris, played by Amy Seimetz, is the one to close and seal the door and then runs to the shuttle’s bridge to call to the rest of the team on the surface that they all have to return immediately. The man starts to convulse and Ejogo embraces him trying to comfort his pain and terror, then after another shutter and spasm his back splits open and we get a freshly-minted alien baby emerging.
Faris leaves the bridge to head back to the medical bay, stopping to pick up a weapon. The baby alien attacks Ejogo repeatedly. Faris unlocks the door and enters, but slips on the bloody floor. She drops the weapon causing it to fire, getting the attention of the alien. She manages to turn and get out of the room and emergency-close the door, but it closes on her foot. She manages to get it free but is now injured and limping. The alien, enraged, beats it’s way through the door’s glass and continues the pursuit. She finally is forced to continue firing at the alien and misses, her shots going wild and causing a range of increasing damage to the shuttle. Outside the surface team is returning with Billy Crudup’s character, Christopher Oram, racing back in the lead. There is a final scream, one more shot, and then the ship explodes.
As the rest of the team return another member falls convulsing wildly. Walter watches coldly as the rest of the team hold him down. Blood explodes from his mouth as another alien comes crawling out.
Of the two alien births shown thus far, one is out the back, one out the mouth. It’s bloody, really bloody. It would seem that the xenomorph will take whatever way out of a host body that seems most convenient to it at the time and not always the classic chestburster approach.
It’s Perfectly Safe:
The third scene is a shift away from the immediate action to a laboratory where Fassbender is now playing as David (the android from the last film), who has been on the planet for the past decade, studying the aliens and the engineers. David speaks to Oram about some of his discoveries. As they talk, David takes Oram into another room to showcase some of his “successes”. They walk around a collection of eggs, finally David stops at one and touches it and it opens. David insists that it’s save, and Oram leans in closer seeing that something is moving just under the surface inside the egg. A facehugger bursts out, latching onto Orams head and clamps on. Oram fights against it’s legs and tail for a moment, then goes still. David watches unmoved, which reflects back to the way that Walter was passive during the descent through the atmosphere.
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