THE STORY – Bound for a remote planet on the far side of the galaxy, members (Katherine Waterston, Billy Crudup) of the colony ship Covenant discover what they think to be an uncharted paradise. While there, they meet David (Michael Fassbender), the synthetic survivor of the doomed Prometheus expedition. The mysterious world soon turns dark and dangerous when a hostile alien life-form forces the crew into a deadly fight for survival.
THE CAST – Michael Fassbender, Katherine Waterston, Billy Crudup, Danny McBride, Carmen Ejogo & Demián Bichir
THE TEAM – Ridley Scott (Director), John Logan & Dante Harper (Writers)
THE RUNNING TIME – 123 Minutes
By Matt N.
“Prometheus” was a unique film in that it found Ridley Scott returning to the world he had created in 1979 with “Alien” and the results were somewhat mixed. Many complained that it was too philosophical, the alien (Xenomorph) was not in it enough, characters made too many dumb decisions, etc. With his sequel, “Alien: Covenant,” Ridley Scott addresses these concerns in what ends up amounting to an “apology film” but this film also, unfortunately, ends up being a disappointment as well. It’s a different film than “Prometheus” in that it focuses less on the philosophical aspects that film brought up and instead goes for the more visceral thrills and horror that the 1979 original provided, while still incorporating action elements from James Cameron’s own iconic film “Aliens.” However, in an effort to try and please a very vocal segment of “Prometheus'” audience, Ridley Scott ends up creating new critical voices against “Alien: Covenant.”
The spaceship known as the covenant is traveling through the galaxy with 15 crew members aboard, with some two-thousand colonists and a thousand embryos on board in search for a habitable planet known as Origae-6, where they can colonize and start anew. The crew consists of the first mate Christopher Oram (Billy Crudup), terraforming expert and wife to the captain, Dany Branson (Katherine Waterston), the pilot known as Tennessee (Danny McBride), an android created by the Weyland-Yutani Corporation named Walter (Michael Fassbender) and a few others. When a tragedy befalls the ship, resulting in the death of a few crew members (Who are all couples on this voyage), the crew decides to take a detour from their original destination and instead inspects an unknown planet. They soon realize that a horrible organism (The Neomorph) inhabits the planet and threatens to brutally destroy them all. Along the way, they encounter an older android from the Weyland-Yutani Corporation named David (Also played by Michael Fassbender) who offers to help them get off the planet and back to safety.
“Alien: Covenant” is not a boring film by any means. The opening features a newly awoken David, meeting his creator/father Peter Weyland and right away we are blown away by the unique set design, cinematography and as it was in “Prometheus,” Michael Fassbender’s fascinating performance. After that, the film hits its “boring” patch like most of the “Alien” films where it sets up the crew members, their relationships to each other and how they get stranded/trapped with the creature that will inevitably finish them off. However, once the body count starts to rise, the momentum of the film really picks up until a heavily telegraphed ending that is well thought out on paper but sloppily executed.
This is ultimately Fassbender’s movie as he plays two androids this time around, each with different viewpoints (And slightly different voices) and stances on their place within the universe. The scenes where Walter and David interact with one another is the film’s strongest asset and it’s also here where those who were fans of “Prometheus” will find plenty to chew on in terms of large and complex ideas. All other performances are neither memorable or important. The screenplay does not give any of the characters any distinguishable qualities that help to make them stand out. They are the meat offered up to the slaughter.
One can tell that Ridley Scott is having a ton of fun with the more gory and horrific elements of “Alien: Covenant.” However, one element that is missing from his work here which helped to make the first “Alien” so iconic was his use of suspense. There are too many scenes where a character wanders down a dark corridor, only to be attacked by the Neomorph, without enough drawn-out dread and induced anxiety before the madness begins. It certainly does not help that all of the characters make some of the dumbest decisions possible which uncoincidentally lead to their deaths. At a certain point, you might as well be rooting for the Neomorph (Which does eventually evolve into the classic Xenomorph we’re accustomed to from the previous films in the franchise) to rip them all to shreds due to how ridiculous they can possibly be.
“There’s so much here that doesn’t make sense,” Dany tells Walter at one point when the storylines of “Alien: Covenant” and “Prometheus” collide. Yes, it’s true, a lot in “Prometheus” did not make sense and many were hoping that Ridley Scott would address some of the unanswered questions with “Alien: Covenant.” Unfortunately, that is not the case, as Scott decides instead to double down on the body count and unleashes the Xenomorph to gory and horrific results. While this may satisfy a small portion of the vocal fanbase that criticized “Prometheus” for not being enough like “Alien,” “Alien: Covenant” still manages to not be enough like “Alien” by forgetting about its characters and deep space suspense that made the 1979 an iconic horror classic. I suppose third time will be the charm for Ridley Scott and his “Alien Prequel Trilogy?”
THE FINAL SCORE
THE GOOD – Genre thrills. Action packed. Michael friggin’ Fassbender!
THE BAD – Does not answer questions presented in “Prometheus.” Does not contain the same level of suspense as “Alien.”