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MOVIE REVIEW: Once 'Alien: Covenant' finally gets going, it cranks out the thrills

Posted at 9:30 AM, May 19, 2017
and last updated 2017-05-19 12:30:32-04

In space, no one can hear you yawn.

That's a good thing, because the slow-rolling "Alien Covenant" tests your ability to keep your eyes pried open through an agonizingly slow first 40 minutes. The slow burn is by design, setting the scene for the terror to come by introducing key characters and establishing the grim, antiseptic setting. That's before it shifts into the arena for a bloodbath everyone can see coming but the hapless alien-munchies space crew.

A half decade after the divisive prequel "Prometheus" (2012), director Ridley Scott goes back to the well by giving "Alien" fans just what they want: Vicious creatures clinging to faces, bursting out of stomachs and spewing acid-blood all over everything.

Unlike the copious sequels, this is an acid bloodbath with a purpose. Bursting with challenging ideas about the nature of genetic engineering, artificial intelligence and space colonization, the film is as much a high-minded think piece as it is an excuse to roll out horrifyingly claustrophobic carnage.

"Alien Covenant" is a bridge between "Prometheus" and the original "Alien" films, deepening the mythology that led to the creation of bloodthirsty, seemingly mindless creatures that used to make Sigourney Weaver scream her head off.

A space colonization crew happens upon a planet inhabited by the race of aliens. After perhaps too much slow-going buildup, the expedition leads into an all-out war for survival. The chess pieces include a ground crew of no-name actors, a wise-cracking pilot (Danny McBride) and a mysterious set of android helpers, both played by Michael Fassbender.

The interaction between Fassbender's two charcters make for some of the movie's more absurd moments, including potentially meme-inspiring silly dialogue, an awkward semi-romantic encounter and a silly bout of robot-fu.  

The real stars, of course, are the aliens. While past films have kept them in the shadows, building the tension by focusing on the victims as they haplessly scramble to survive, "Alien: Covenant" brings the beasts into the light, showing off their formidable speed and power in the face of brutal firefights.

A distracting false ending aside, the film maintains its hurried momentum throughout once it shakes off the slow start, and it's hard to imagine any fans of the series leaving the theater with anything other than delightfully dazed grins.

One of the great horror franchises has achieved liftoff once again.

RATING: 3 stars out of 4.