Alien: Covenant picks up after 2012’s Prometheus but takes place before the 1979 Alien. With this franchise still going strong, few films have ever come close to Scott’s original film which is a classic. No matter how many times I see the original, it still scares the living daylights out of me. If you have not seen it, I cannot highly recommend it enough. Keep in mind, 1979 had no CGI effects. Everything was practical effects and yet, the film still holds up today. Alien: Covenant has the blessings of technology and CGI behind it but for these films (any film, really) to work there has to be characters and story behind it in order for the film to work. With Ridley Scott in the director’s chair, these films are still fresh and fascinating. Alien: Covenant is no exception.
Alien: Covenant, as I said, picks up ten years after Prometheus ended in disaster with only Dr. Elizabeth Shaw (Noomi Rapace) and David’s (Michael Fassbender) hightailing it in the Engineer’s ship to destinations unknown. The Covenant is the latest edition of Weyand/Yutani exploration fleet and it is on a mission to a distant planet to set up a new civilization. They receive a radio transmission in the form of a John Denver song and since the ship has been damaged in a solar flare solar flare, Captain Oram (Billy Crudup) decides to make for the origin of the transmission and repair their ship. On arrival and almost immediately, this turns out to be a mistake. Not just because of the alien species, but because they are found by David who is now back together and in one piece, thanks to Dr. Shaw.
For those who thought Prometheus was a disappointment because you did not see enough of the infamous alien creature or xenomorphic killers, you will not be disappointed with Alien: Covenant. You see plenty of them and they look terrifically terrifying still, after all of these years. Their design is pure genius. These creatures are nothing but pure evil. Even the Predator has been shown to have a sliver of goodness in past films. The Alien creature is a killing machine with absolutely no remorse, at all. The crew, who does not know David or what he is capable of, thinks they have been saved, for the moment. But this is where the film takes off. I will not divulge any more of the plot, because the less you know, the better to enjoy this film.
Alien: Covenant has its flaws which mostly happen in the final act of the film. One plot element I picked up on almost immediately and there are some logistical elements that myself and my two friends who accompanied me also noticed that did not seem possible. I have since seen an “ending explained” video on You Tube and it is does answer a couple of questions, but leaves others unanswered, still. At the heart of Alien: Covenant are the performances which are outstanding. Most notably is Katherine Waterston as Daniels who is stunning. Tough, strong willed, smart, resourceful but still maintaining her heart and compassion, Daniels is Ellen Ripley for a new age. Waterston (actor Sam Waterston’s real-life daughter) truly shines in this film. I was also very impressed with Danny McBride as Tennessee, the main pilot of the Covenant. Mostly cast in comedic roles, he is quite effective, playing a guy who understands the dangers of the mission, is devoted to his wife and the crew and still maintains his sense of humor. Well, for a while anyway.
Michael Fassbender has dual roles as David and Walter, a new synthetic (android) that is smart, but emotionally still naïve. Everything that Walter experiences seems to be something new for Walter. David on the other hand, it still diabolical and cruel and you will find out just how far gone he really is by the end of this film. Fassbender plays both sides of these characters perfectly. I also like Billy Crudup’s character as a Christian man who is vying for the crew’s respect but never seems to get it. He is a humble man who is able to admit when he is wrong and only looks for the good in people. The remainder of the cast is solid, as well. They are not given much to do, but with what they are given the enhance the story. Visually, Alien Covenant is striking. This is a handsome film and the CGI effects are limited and I respect director Ridley Scott’s decision to use more practical effects than CGI effects. CGI, if overused, tends to suffocate the story and dislocate the audience from the characters. I mean, if you have no one to root for, what is the point?
Scribes John Logan and Dante Harper have created a smartly written script and have not oversold us the material. The seem to know what the story needs and still have characters that are accessible to the audience so we are invested in these characters throughout the film. Jed Kurzel’s score (who score MacBeth and Assassin’s Creed, both with Michael Fassbender) is a homage not only to the original Alien score by Jerry Goldsmith but also there are brief passages that pay respect to Marc Streintenfeld and Harry Gregson-William’s score for Promtheus, as well. Kurzel’s score is tremendous on its own merits, though. Director Ridley Scott tends to use the same film score composer for a number of films, consecutively and then picks another composer for his next series of films. Scott knows importance of a great score that can make or break a film and he utilizes the music to his films better than just about anyone.
Scott’s direction for Alien: Covenant is, for the most part, spot on. The story does have some spots that don’t add up and there is one gaping element that I figured out almost immediately, but these flaws aside, I really loved Alien: Covenant. Scott is a master of creating a horror film where people are isolated, confined and cut off from any real help. The result is terrifying and Alien: Covenant succeeds on this level. The film has some of the same horrifying elements that worked for Prometheus and Alien but still seem fresh and inventive. Scott creates a mood and tone for these films that are simply chilling. Alien: Covenant answers questions from Prometheus and sets up the next film set for production to start, hopefully by next year, according to Mr. Scott, himself. I cannot wait to see where this franchise goes from here.
Alien: Covenant – **** out of 5
Alien: Covenant – Rated R for graphic violence and gore, language, nudity, scenes of terror
Alien: Covenant – Run Time is 122 minutes
Alien: Covenant is now playing in theaters. Check your local listings for times and locations.