Home > Reviews > REVIEW – Alien: Covenant

REVIEW – Alien: Covenant

Directed by: Ridley Scott
Produced by: Ridley Scott, Mark Huffam, Michael Schaefer, David Giler, Walter Hill
Screenplay by: John Logan, Dante Harper
Story by: Jack Paglen, Michael Green
Edited by: Pietro Scalia
Cinematography by: Dariusz Wolski
Music by: Jed Kurzel
Starring: Michael Fassbender, Katherine Waterston, Billy Crudup, Danny McBride, Carmen Ejogo, Demián Bichir, Amy Seimetz, Jussie Smollett, Callie Hernandez, Nathaniel Dean, Alexander England, Benjamin Rigby
Year: 2017

 

Alien: Covenant has a lot to live up to. Not only does it have to one-up a film that has largely come to be known as (inexplicably) a reviled film, Prometheus, but it must also bridge the gap between that film and one of the more widely respected sci-fi films ever made, Alien, just by taking on a more direct title, thus negating any “it’s just a side story” hand waving should it fail to live up to the standard of the first two films. Personally, I’m with everyone else in considering Alien and Aliens to be masterpieces, but I also think that the hate reserved for Alien 3 and Prometheus is largely overblown, too. (Resurrection and the AvP films can pretty much just go to hell, though.) As such, while I was certainly hoping for a masterpiece in Covenant, I also realize that this was probably never going to come to pass, and so I also had my expectations set accordingly – and had a pretty good time as a result, it turns out.

Picking up 10 years after Prometheus, we join the crew of the latest ship to be sent out into deep space, the Covenant, which is carrying more than 2,000 people – and an android known as Walter – to the first large colony beyond Earth’s solar system. A potential disaster strikes, however, necessitating the awakening of key crewmembers some seven years prior to reaching their destination. The ship is salvaged, but a previously unknown habitable planet is discovered in the process. With the likelihood of facing further incidents in the future, the crew considers calling it a day and cutting the trip short. A team is assembled and sent down to the planet to investigate its potential, but, of course, it holds secrets that none of the Covenant crew expected to face.

While the previous film certainly sprinkled on some horror, Covenant is a notable, full force return to the dread and fear of the first Alien, albeit while still somewhat continuing to explore Prometheus’ ponderings on the relationship between humanity, their creator, and, in turn, their relationship with their own creations. Covenant is hardly a profound exploration of these themes, however, and does little more than raise the questions for audiences’ consideration, but, at the very least, it does so within a very entertaining and stunningly gorgeous package – oddly enough, even when it’s ripping its cast of helpless explorers apart.

The cast is largely serviceable to the film, with no actually bad performances, but featuring almost no characters that will likely stand the test of time the way that Ripley, Newt, or Hicks have. I would even say that the entire cast of Prometheus was more memorable than any of the newcomers here, which does make it hard to care about them beyond basic human empathy for their suffering. It really is kind of a bland cast of characters, which is a shame. Conversely, while the crew is basically an assemblage of expendables, and while they do sometimes make even more stupid decisions than the crew of Prometheus, they’re not nearly meant to be as intelligent, either. It also helps that the threat they’re facing is largely to blame for any lapses in thought, rather than, say, actively trying to coax a snake-like creature into being their new best friend. It also helps that Michael Fassbender returns to the franchise in a big way. To share details on the nature of his role would probably amount to spoilers, but let me just say that Fassbender is as fascinating to watch here as Ian Holm and Lance Henriksen were previously, while certainly taking his own path with the android concept.

Where Covenant excels, however, is in the visual presentation, and its pacing is actually pretty good, too, taking its time to build up the dread while even eschewing bombastic scares for some uniquely disturbing sequences and imagery. The blending of the high-tech ship sets, the nearly monochromatic and lifeless forest, and the cave-like, gothic architecture of a bygone alien civilization works to diversify the visuals, despite the isolation, while also serving to emphasize those aforementioned but largely superficial themes. That the film is largely a master of style over substance is perhaps not encouraging to some, but it’s seriously gorgeous, and combined with the serviceable, streamlined plot and the film’s exceptional creep factor prevent the film from feeling like an ultimately disappointing stepping stone between another generally-good-but-flawed film and two classics that will probably always overshadow any future installments, no matter how good they may end up being.

Covenant really is a good film, but it’s unfortunately also not a great one. In terms of ranking the series, it’s definitely better than Alien 3, and, in many ways, it’s even an improvement over its immediate predecessor, as well, which may be damning it with faint praise for some. (I still don’t and won’t ever understand you anger-filled people!) For all its floweriness in dialogue, it’s still pretty superficial in its philosophical explorations – thoughtful but not especially intelligent. And yet, I’m still compelled to give the film the benefit of the doubt that further viewings will unfold currently unseen depths. I’m also still compelled to see where this series is going and look forward to whatever Ridley Scott has cooked up for the inevitable next installment. Sure, it’s been a rocky road, but we’ve also definitely been through worse, and I’m ultimately just happy to enjoy some well-made Alien movies again.

The Viewer’s Commentary Rating: 3.5 / 5

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  1. May 20, 2017 at 6:51 am

    I actually liked Prometheus, but have never really been able to ascertain why. I also agree that this film was slightly better, but chalk that up to Fassbender’s dual performance. However, I left feeling confused about motives of various entities, and still have unanswered questions about some things. I guess it wouldn’t be a Ridley Scott film if I didn’t.

  2. Jorge de mattos
    May 21, 2017 at 10:14 am

    The lack of details was not a surprise,changing route with out discussion with earth permission,landing on a strange planet without any especial suit, the planet was the home of a superior race the “engineer ” many spacecrafts ,a race that go planet after planet get kill all at once very easily and was explained on less than two minutes.The star of the movie was David,but even his carácter was confused. I think people need to come back 1979 when the movie relay on the actors representation,emotions ,then just the effects and director.I want to feel afraid, panic,surprised ,the terror of encounter a knew espécies the pain of loosing the love of my life,pain and a real fight for survival,this movie make feel confused ,was a Saturday redbox movie no a Saturday night theater movie.

  1. October 1, 2017 at 10:24 pm

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