To start, Alien: Covenant is a solid film. It’s not great and it’s not horrible. However, it is quite confusing at times and there are more than a few pitfalls in its script. As a hardcore Alien fan , lately I have felt quite let down by the whole extended universe producer and director Ridley Scott is trying to create. To me, it feels as if he’s simply making up worlds that have no true substance or backstory, which inevitably takes away the best part of the Alien films; the alien. While I certainly did find myself enraptured with this film at times, overall, I felt that it had a lot of downsides even with its visually pleasing palette.
Following in the footsteps of Scott’s 2012 vehicle Prometheus, Alien: Covenant takes us further into the future, past the time of the eponymous Weyland-Yutani Corporation of the older films. The giant Covenant starship is traveling the vast reaches of space in order to reach Origae-6, a habitable planet where the roughly 2,000 colonizers and embryos who are on board will start again. After the ship suffers a freak accident, however, the new captain Oram (Billy Crudup) decides to follow a freak transmission to another planet that is en-route to Origae-6. The new planet, while initially appearing to be completely hospitable to human life, isn’t. One by one, crewmembers are picked off by vicious alien lifeforms. But, in the end, nothing is more vicious than a certain android named David (played impeccably well by Michael Fassbender).
The acting in Alien: Covenant is definitely solid, as there are a few newcomers mixed in with seasoned actors. Billy Crudup is great as Oram, playing a conflicted captain who would rather use logic over emotions (that is, until he starts using emotions over logic and problems set in). Katherine Waterston commands as Daniels, who becomes the second-in-command after her husband Branson is killed in the freak accident. Daniels is the voice of reason throughout the film, but, unfortunately, most of her calls go unnoticed. She’s a Ripley-esque character but doesn’t completely pack the punch that Sigourney Weaver brought to the earlier Alien films. My favorite minor character would have to be Tennessee, played by Danny McBride. When his helmet picks up a rogue transmission from the hostile planet, he thinks that the person in the transmission is singing John Denver’s “Take Me Home, Country Roads.” It’s a funny little comedic bit.
If there’s one character who really steals the show, however, it would have to be David (Fassbender’s humanistic android). David has been stuck on the planet for ten years, ever since he and Dr. Elizabeth Shaw (Noomi Rapace) landed there. Shaw is long dead but David remains, and his motives remain unclear until a rather chilling moment. The android from the Covenant, Walter (also played by Fassbender), finds something even more chilling: David thinks humans should be eliminated in order to create something even greater (i.e. a planet filled by xenomorphs ruled by him, a controlling and manipulative android).
If this sounds confusing, it’s because it is. A lot of Alien: Covenant doesn’t make sense, both narratively and logically. I was glad that it was a bit more straightforward than Prometheus, but that only lasted for the first half of the film. Any semblance of structure sort of disappeared as soon as David was introduced. While he most certainly was a captivating character to observe, his supposed plan doesn’t have much depth to it. Along with this, most of the main characters are just plain stupid. This film comes across a lot of the time as a lesson in what not to do in every aspect of adventuring into a foreign environment. Even Oran, the supposed voice of reason for the film, is super dumb in a pivotal scene at the end of the film’s second act. Along with this, I definitely wanted to see more of Daniels’s character, as I was looking forward to seeing a revitalized Ripley.
I can’t argue that Scott’s direction isn’t completely terrible because it isn’t. The film is definitely visually pleasing. Shot by Dariusz Wolski (who also shot Prometheus), there is certainly a wonderful palette of different cinematic colors and textures. At the same time, this doesn’t matter when the storyline of the film is just plain weird most of the time. The special effects in Alien: Covenant are also quite good, as even minor details on the xenomorph specimens can be seen. My favorite minor element of the film by far, however, would have to be its score by Jed Kurzel. I was a big fan of the melodic refrains that he continually threw into the film. They gave the movie an extra creepy edge.
Honestly, this whole extended Alien universe thing needs to go. I have always enjoyed the pure simplicity of the first film. While I do realize that there were a few questions left unanswered by the end of the first film (chiefly among them, the wrecked Prometheus ship and the space jockey), it is remembered for one thing: a xenomorph that stalks and eviscerates its prey. I like the fact that Ridley Scott wants to answer all of these questions, but I ultimately feel like he’s doing it in a really convoluted way that doesn’t make a lot of sense to a casual viewer of these latest films. I know that I will still see whatever comes next for this series, but I seriously hope that the narratives of further films make more sense and have more of a complete correlation to the original.
Alien: Covenant still fits in decently with the rest of the films in the Alien franchise. It definitely surpasses both Alien 3 and Alien: Resurrection in almost every aspect (we don’t really speak about those two films, as to true Alien fans such as myself they are completely irrelevant). It contains a lot of scares and an interesting batch of new characters. And of course, the xenomorph is featured quite a bit. At this point the xenomorph is pretty much a pop icon, and I am glad that it is being revived in this modern day and age. In conclusion, Alien: Covenant is a solid film that is good popcorn fare. Don’t go expecting much, though, if you’re an Alien junkie.
3 out of 5 stars