By Nick Durham
WARNING: THIS ARTICLE IS FULL OF SPOILERS. IF YOU HAVEN’T SEEN THE FILM YET, DO NOT READ ANY FURTHER.
Ridley Scott’s follow up to 2012’s mostly maligned Alien prequel Prometheus has finally been unleashed in the form of Alien: Covenant, and goddamn it I finally got around to seeing it. Before I get to my thoughts on the film, I just want to express that it feels good to finally see the Xenomorphs back on the big screen slaughtering people after 20 years since the last real installment of the franchise (no, I don’t count the Alien VS Predator abortions), so no matter how the film would end up turning out, at least I had that little nugget to tide myself over with. With that in mind, let’s dive right in and see if Ridley Scott made a gem of a film here, or if he pissed all over his own legacy, which I was very fearful of him doing in the past.
Alien: Covenant picks up about a decade or so after Prometheus ended with a ship called Covenant that features a terraforming crew and colonists aboard. We’re introduced to a synthetic named Walter (Michael Fassbender with an American accent), and after a tragic accident befalls the ship, we’re introduced to the surviving crew, including Daniels (Katherine Waterston), pilot Tennessee (Danny McBride), religious acting captain Christopher (Billy Crudup), and more. On their way to a habitable planet to begin new lives, the crew comes to realize that there is a never-before known planet in closer proximity that appears to be able to sustain human life. Upon investigating it they find unhinged synthetic David (Fassbender again), the only survivor of the Prometheus. As Daniels and co. begin to discover what horrific secrets lay in wait in this world, they also discover that David has been quite busy with some experiments; namely creating the Xenomorphs.
That revelation in itself is probably what my own personal biggest problem is with Alien: Covenant. The fact that the Xenomorphs aren’t an evolutionary step of a parasitic alien being, but rather are a race of creatures that through trial and error are engineered by David. If you’ve heard of people complaining that this is how Ridley Scott messes with the lore of the series, this is what they’re mainly talking about. This revelation raises so many questions about what we’ve been led to believe that it’s honestly kind of hard to digest. It’s something that I myself have wavered with trying not to make a big deal about, but part of me wants to shit all over this movie just because of that alone. Looking back on it, I honestly try not to think too much about this revelation, and instead focus on the rest of the film, which is actually pretty good.
First and foremost, Alien: Covenant is much more enjoyable than Prometheus was. The characters here are written better, even if a few of them suffer from the syndrome of being really smart yet do some really stupid things that lead to their gory deaths. And speaking of which, there are some balls-to-the-wall gore-drenched moments that will make any fan of the franchise stand up and cheer. The Xenomorphs, what little we see of them, are brilliant looking; even when CGI effects take over for them. The other creature effects are pretty good too, and are designed well enough that it would probably make H.R. Giger proud.
From a technical standpoint, Alien: Covenant is gorgeously shot, as it should be since this is a Ridley Scott film. Even with his worst directorial efforts, Scott’s films are sights to behold, and this film is no different. There’s a great deal of suspense and tension and dread permeating throughout the film, which is a massive plus and evokes the original film in terms of this as well. The acting is pretty good as well, and Fassbender is absolutely fucking dynamite in his dual role. The only saving grace for David being responsible for the creation of the Xenomorphs is that this practically guarantees Fassbender will be around for a while, and I’m very, very okay with that. Katherine Waterston is good as well as the heroic Daniels, although the Ripley-esque haircut is a little much. Danny McBride does pretty well being cast against type as our cowboy-hat wearing pilot, and the rest of the cast is alright as well. The ending stinger though you will see coming a mile away, which is fairly disappointing, meaning the whole film kind of ends on a bit of a whimper.
In closing, Alien: Covenant is a better film than Prometheus, and probably the best Alien film in the franchise since Aliens. Granted that isn’t saying too much when compared to Alien 3 and Alien: Resurrection, but you get the point. If for some reason you haven’t seen the film yet and continued to read this after the spoiler warning, I still recommend seeing it to form your own opinion, and judge for yourself if Ridley Scott redeemed himself for Prometheus or continued to piss on his own legacy. Either way, it looks like we’re getting more films in the series one way or another, so maybe the best (or the worst) is yet to come.