Film Review – Alien: Covenant
To watch Alien: Covenant, you might want to prepare by watching a couple of videos released prior to opening day: Meet Walter and the prologue. Both will enlighten the experience of watching the film and may fill in some gaps. As far as the prologue goes, not all of it is seen in the film.
If you have never seen Prometheus, do so before taking the adventure that is Alien: Covenant. And if you have not watched it recently, go ahead and do a re-watch.
(Spoilers about the film lie ahead in this review. If you want to be kept in the dark completely, and I would recommend it, skip this review for now.)
These tips should make it clear that Alien: Covenant is not a stand-alone Alien film. It builds on what is seen in Prometheus, but with a (seemingly) new cast of characters destined to meet the creature we all know as the “Alien.” While the audible groans of Alien purist fans (is there such a thing?) can already be heard when you mention Prometheus, Alien: Covenant does not forget anything that has already happened in Ridley Scott’s prequel. This film is yet another prequel, and an interesting one at that. It takes place before Alien and any appearance of Ripley.
With the outpouring of dismay and scoffs from Alien fans after seeing Prometheus, Ridley Scott has some balls to do his own thing and proceed with the journey he began. And rightly he should, as he was at the helm of Alien (1979), where it all began. Personally, I loved Prometheus, appreciated it for not being a typical Alien film, and investigating and introducing us to The Engineers. There is more to be explored in this futuristic world with Aliens looming, and Scott is keen to keep peeling back the layers.
I had doubts as to the plot of Alien: Covenant, as all the promotional material released prior to the prologue hinted at the typical Alien plot we all know (and some love). A crew lands in a new world and is overcome with Alien attacks. This is all so familiar and not really enticing to see the same thing again just with new people. The opening scene of the film lays all of that to rest with the reappearance of Weyland (Guy Pearce) and David (Michael Fassbender). The scene lets the audience know that Prometheus should not be forgotten and foreshadows things to come. To me, the scene is a relief as it confirms that this is not one and done Alien film. Others may have already gathered this prior to the first few minutes with the reappearance of Michael Fassbender’s robot in the film’s trailers, but he is another incarnation of David named Walter.
The film takes place about ten years after Prometheus, and the crew know fully well that the ship Prometheus disappeared and were never heard from again. This time the ship is named Covenant is embarking on a colonization trip to a new world. The crew is in hypersleep along with a large cargo of sleeping colonists and embryos. Things happen in the journey to the new world, and the crew is awakened to fix the ship. What makes this crew dynamic more interesting is they are all couples, destined themselves to copulate and re-populate in the new world as well. After things are fixed, they find a new place closer to where they were headed, and after much discussion, decide to go and investigate this potential new home. As you can expect, things don’t go well, and the proverbial “shit hits the fan” about 45 minutes into the film.
The main characters of the film are David and Walter (Michael Fassbender), Daniels (Katherine Waterston), Oram (Billy Crudup), Tennessee (Danny McBride), Lope (Demián Bichir), Karine (Carmen Ejogo), Ricks (Jussie Smollett), Upworth (Callie Hernandez), and Faris (Amy Seimetz). They all have their part to play in the crew and their investigation of this new world, alas some never even touch the ground. This doesn’t mean that they die in space and never leave, it is more like someone has to stay with the ship and protect the precious cargo. Mother, the Covenant’s brain, can’t do everything. The standouts in the cast are Michael Fassbender pulling a dual role, but doing it so well that the audience can immediately tell which is which, David or Walter. Waterston plays a conflicted member of the crew, but ends up being smarter than all of them. Her relationship with McBride’s Tennessee is pretty much casting gold; they are basically yin to each other’s yang. Elizabeth Shaw’s (Noomi Rapace) presence still looms large in this film, and she still has an important part to play in the story.
While elements and callbacks to what happened in Prometheus are there, the fate of The Engineers is marred by cuts in makeup and wardrobe for important scenes. They had a distinct look in Prometheus, and this seems to be glossed over in Alien: Covenant. It basically looks like they threw some villager garb and white powder on some extras and called it a day.
There is not much to be disappointed in with Alien: Covenant, in my humble opinion. However, I knew how it was going to end, and it is too predictable. The disappointment with that is the ingenious lead up to the two climactic scenes is just thrown out the window for a couple of sequences we have already seen before.
Alien: Covenant can be enjoyed immensely if you are not in it for the typical Alien film. If you liked Prometheus and what Ridley Scott did to the franchise, you won’t be disappointed. If you are a fan of the earlier Alien films, there is plenty to love as well. This film gives more background on how those pesky Aliens came about. Natural selection, genetics, and selective breeding have never found such an odd home in a film before. I find this all so much more interesting that the run, hide, gore, and die with some acid blood mixed in that we are used to seeing. Alien: Covenant is a blending of both these elements as there is something Prometheus fans will love and also those looking for some xenomorph Alien action. Bottom line: I will gladly see this one again, and look forward to what Ridley Scott has in store for fans next.