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SXSW First Look – Alien: Covenant


Opening night of SXSW Film is always a time of incredible movie moments and memories over the years. This year’s was no exception. I’ve had the pleasure of seeing Alien, a personal favorite and all-around masterpiece of cinematic horror, in a theater on a few occasions but tonight’s was different. Tonight, Ridley Scott was in the house.

Not only was Ridley in the house, he also brought along clips of his latest venture back into the world of the xenomorph, Alien: Covenant. Along with the unseen footage on display, Ridley brought a few friends, namely Katherine Waterston, Danny McBride and Michael Fassbender. Everyone took part in a brief Q & A and mostly let the footage speak for itself.

First, the good stuff. Say what you will about Ridley’s end results over the last few years, but damn that man can shoot a beautiful looking film. It has an aesthetic that feels as wondrous and expansive as Prometheus in it’s scope while borrowing from the original Alien‘s color palette. This feels like a true bridge between the two in style and in setting. The tech, clothing and all around set pieces feel more in line with the ’79 masterpiece. Out of the 20-ish minutes of footage shown there was definitely some wonderfully tense and horrific moments which are sure to please fans new and old alike. Many of these moments seemed to even have a fair amount of practical work at play.

Now for the bad or, at the very least, the troubling. Almost all of that wonderful looking practical effects work is hindered by some incredibly lackluster CGI. The film doesn’t come out until May so hopefully it still has some time in the technological incubator because as it stands right now much of it was blatant and not only hurt the good work of the practical effects underneath the mire but it also robs the viewer of the visceral horror something tangible brings to the table. There’s also some borderline shaky cam going on at times that seems against the film’s aesthetic grain and admittedly felt a bit like giving in to modern “scare” tactics when it’s unnecessary.

And lastly the truly WTF moment that legitimately made my heart swoon. Reader beware, beyond this point there be spoilers!

During the brief Q & A, Ridley made mention of Fassbender’s David being the glue binding his modern Alien films together and while an earlier scene involving the whole crew seemed to have one of the new Walter models amidst them, we were treated to a scene featuring our old pal David in what could best be described as a terror cave, surrounded by years and years of experimentation; experiments solely involving the black goo he and his old “pals” stumbled upon so many years previously in Prometheus. Let me tell you, that cave is horrifying and will give fans of the small haunted house-vibe of Alien something to smile about. It’s admittedly a brief scene but it appears that David, through his various experiments, is the one responsible for the xenomorph we all know and love. The biggest reveal was him having created what we know as the eggs and a single line mentioning all he’s been waiting for is “mother”. This is not only a big addition to the Alien mythos but also works as a cautionary tale with our advances in technology eventually being our own undoing.

Despite my grievances, I’m admittedly much more excited about the film than I was previously. There’s definitely some strong performances on display. I could honestly watch Fassbender play David for probably the rest of my life there’s so much nuance and layers to his performance. The cave scene certainly felt like a true return to the atmosphere of Alien and I can only hope there’s much more of that within the film’s run time.

Check out the red band trailer:


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