BLU-RAY REVIEW: ALIEN COVENANT
Alien Covenant is a very worthy entry into the Alien franchise and light years beyond some of its predecessors. there’s a lot to like here. Alien Covenant moves along at a breakneck pace, particularly in the last half of the film, chewing through its ...
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Listening to the Alien Covenant soundtrack and writing this review brought back memories of the grandeur of 2012’s Prometheus.
Taking the franchise in a new direction, Ridley Scott created a vastly different film to its predecessors. And it was spectacular, in terms of both story and visuals, the Blu-ray more than capable of showcasing the video and audio capabilities of home theatre systems.
Unfortunately, Prometheus drew more than its fair share of critics. With Ridley Scott at the helm, I suspect fans expected a movie closer in feel to the original Alien, which answered more questions than it asked. In some ways, I strongly suspect that the criticism Prometheus received may just have been Alien Covenant’s undoing.
It’s not that Alien Covenant is a bad film, in fact, it’s a very worthy entry into the Alien franchise and light years beyond some of its predecessors. Rather it feels like two different movies rolled into one. While it is closer in feel to Alien, this comes at the expense of Alien Covenant feeling less like a Prometheus sequel.
Alien Covenant picks up ten years after the events of Prometheus, with the USCSS Covenant transporting 2000 hyper-sleeping colonists to Origae-6. Intercepting a rogue transmission of human origins, the crew of the Covenant traces the transmission to a nearby planet. Scans of the unchartered planet reveal it has much better prospects for colonisation than Origae-6, which is still some six years away.
After tracing the source of the transmission to a crashed alien ship, the team both discover the fate of Dr. Elizabeth and David (Prometheus) and in inadvertently activate an alien pathogen, with devastating consequences. The landing team, now fighting for their life, must not only contend with the alien pathogen but try and find a way back to the Covenant if they are to have any hope of survival.
Alien Covenant feels a lot like it’s trying to be ‘all things to all people’. On the one-hand it’s more of a traditional Alien film, on the other, it’s the continuation of the storyline established in Prometheus.
While the question of Dr. Elizabeth Shaw and David’s whereabouts over the last 10 years is answered, this aspect of the story takes a back seat to the more action orientated elements of the film. This results in the film feeling a lot less like a Prometheus sequel.
While it may sound as though I didn’t enjoy Alien Covenant, this couldn’t be further from the truth… there’s a lot to like here. Alien Covenant moves along at a breakneck pace, particularly in the last half of the film, chewing through its two-hour running time rather quickly. If you’re a fan of the more action orientated elements of the Alien films, you’re going to have a great time with Alien Covenant…despite the odd cliché.
While Alien Covenant doesn’t really ‘feel’ like a Prometheus sequel, Ridley Scott’s a master film-maker with the Midas touch. What it lacks in subtlety, Alien Covenant makes up for in pure entertainment and fun. Maybe it’s not exactly the Prometheus sequel I was hoping for, but it’s one hell of a ride and one which I will undoubtedly be revisiting in the future.
Alien Covenant has a varied colour palette, at times appearing quite natural, at others favouring a more stylised shift towards cyan. While the whole ‘cyan-look’ is nothing new to Hollywood, Alien Covenant uses it both sparingly and effectively to enhance the alien nature of its environments.
Unsurprisingly, given the nature of the film, the use of colour is quite constrained. When it is used, it’s used to great effect and pops quite nicely, particularly against more neutral backgrounds, such as space.
Despite the varying colour palette, skin tones are both natural and convincing, perhaps only appearing somewhat ashen during the films gloomier moments. Facial shots reveal an excellent level of detail and resolution, revealing skin pores, blemishes and stubble. In fact, the resolution is excellent throughout Alien Covenant with sets revealing a great amount of background detail that is often razor sharp.
As the film opens and the title appears against the backdrop of space, the stars are nicely contrasted against inky blacks. The excellent black levels of Alien Covenant imparts an excellent sense of depth. This excellent black level performance, combined with sharp images give the film a beautiful sense of depth and dimensionality.
The sense of dimensionality found in Alien Covenant is one of the most pleasing aspects of the video transfer.
Numerous examples are present within the film, for instance as the crew of the USCS Covenant attempt to repair the space sail at 20.01. Walter hurrying through the corridors of the Covenant at 8.55 is another excellent example, with the image looking three dimensional and placing you right in the action.
Alien Covenant’s video transfer is nothing short of reference grade and both the Blu-ray and UHD versions will look stunning in a good setup home theatre.
This is a movie that’s going to benefit from being viewed in a darkened room, with a display that’s black level has been set correctly.
Somewhat disappointing, at least for those of us still gearing up for UHD playback, is the exclusion of a Dolby Atmos soundtrack.
While the UHD version of Alien Covenant features a Dolby Atmos soundtrack, the Blu-ray is limited to DTS-HD 7.1.
However, as I soon discovered, the DTS-HD soundtrack is more than up to the task and the oversight soon forgiven.
One of the most compelling aspects of Alien Covenant’s DTS-HD 7.1 soundtrack is its ability to create a large sound-field, in terms of width and often height. Both the rear and height speakers are employed to great effect for ambience and directional cues, particularly during the film’s more frenetic moments.
The storm found at 59.30 is an excellent example, with the DTS Nero upscaling on my Denon AVR-4300H creating a very convincing sense of height.
Building on this, the sound engin-eers have created a detailed and nuanced soundtrack, with effects placed accurately within the sound field.
All of these aspects tie together nicely to create a sound-field that feels both open and airy placing the viewer right in the middle of the action.
When it comes to this sort of fare, the soundtrack needs a good handle on dynamics or ‘punch’ and once again, Alien Covenant’s DTS- HD 7.1 soundtrack delivered.
While I did find myself nudging the volume a little more than usual, the dynamics were there, although crafted with a steady hand. My dual subs delivered bass which was not only tight, but felt in control the whole time. Rather than a soundtrack which overwhelms the senses, dynamics are used nicely to support the onscreen action.
While the DTS- HD 7.1 isn’t quite reference, it comes pretty darn close. All in all, this is an excellent soundtrack, which is more than up to the task of creating both an immersive and engaging home theatre experience.
PICTURE QUALITY -
SOUND QUALITY -
MOVIE RATING -
Available on Blu-ray and DVD: August 16th, 2017
As the owner of Adelaide based ‘Clarity Audio & Video Calibration’, Tony is a certified ISF Calibrator. Tony is an accomplished Audio-Visual reviewer specialising in theatre and visual products.