Four decades ago, a science fiction franchise began with the crew of the Nostromo being picked off one by one at the hands of a creature that has since become synonymous with causing death and destruction for brave space travelers. Fast forward to 2017 where director Ridley Scott who first started this franchise has returned yet again after the quote unquote prequel Prometheus released in 2012. This time – not much has changed, the new crew, is on a colonizing mission in deep space which feels vaguely familiar as if déjà vu is settling in.
In the year 2104, after a mysterious ping alerts the crew of the Covenant, the crew members after being woken from Cryosleep by Walter (Michael Fassbender) an android who has been perfected by its creator Peter Weyland (Guy Pearce) decide to take a detour from their mission to planet Origae-6 to investigate the message on what appears to be an even more habitable planet. Things instantly turn sour for the crew of the Covenant as they encounter more than what they bargained for. The similarities between Alien: Covenant & Alien smack you right in the face. It’s literally the same story just with different characters.
Covenant is a return to what makes the Alien franchise one of the best science fiction franchises ever created but it glorifies unoriginality. We’ve seen all of this before – Daniels (Katherine Waterston) is second in command after her husband dies while in his Cryosleep chamber. She is this crews Ripley (played by Sigourney Weaver) and is the main focal point this story is centered around. Daniels is the strong female lead but this character type has been perfected by Weaver leaving Daniels to be not all to particularly interesting. The main difference between Alien: Covenant & Alien is the shiny coat of paint slapped on it and upgraded visual effects that make the Xenomorph feel more terrifying than just a man in an oversized practical costume.
“David, I met the devil when I was a child, and I’ve never forgotten. So, David, you’re gonna tell me exactly what’s going on… or I am going to seriously fuck up your perfect composure.”
The main focus of Covenant shouldn’t have been Daniels at all, instead it should have been on Walter and David, both played exceptionally well by Fassbender. The android David serves as the film’s main villain – he’s the puppeteer pulling the xenomorphs strings. The two have a unique relationship, they’ve bonded over the years since the Prometheus landed and left Shaw and David there to remain. Fassbender is fascinating in his dual role androids – he steals the spotlight on what is meant for other characters. David is yet again the anchor for this films success if it were to match its predecessors.
Covenant strays a little too off the path that Scott had in mind here. There are noticeable things that will make anyone scratch their head and wonder aloud what is happening. In the previous film Prometheus, when the crew lands on the planet, they each, including David have a space suit on to protect themselves from the unknown planet, but no one on the crew in Covenant has a space suit on when they land and explore the terrain. This is an alien, unknown planet – habitable or not a suit is necessary. As the crew is so smugly confident this planet is breathable enough, they don’t need any sort of protection, there are other elements that can cause severe damage to a human.
And that damage comes from spores when a certain sort of fungus finds its way into two of the expendable characters, burrowing and growing into a milky white baby morph that bursts out of the characters spine. Another difference than the classic Alien – Scott utilizes the Xenomorph in a completely different manner making it more of a true predator stalking in the shadows, waiting to strike at the opportune moment. The aliens in Covenant are more out in the open which is uncharacteristic for the breed.
“When one note is off, it eventually destroys the whole symphony, David.”
Just like Prometheus, Covenant is a visually pleasing to look at. The landscapes of New Zealand are breathtaking but sadly there are no hobbits on an adventure or wizards dueling it out of over the sake of Middle Earth. The effects are top notch and with the advances in technology the Xenomorph looks even more terrifying than its previous iterations. The Xenomorph has evolved – its gorgeous to look at regardless of how terrifying they are to look at, you won’t want to miss it as it sprints by to kill another expendable character.
One thing the franchise is known for its characters as we have been graced with Ripley strong presence and legend. Elizabeth Shaw (Noomi Rapace) and Daniels don’t live up to the standard Weaver has set but I’d take Shaw over Daniels any day of the week. As Alien: Covenant unfolds into its simple narrative, a drinking game can be made as to guesses on which character will die and which will live. The Alien franchise has become more than just a simple horror flick. Like with Prometheus Scott focuses less on the Alien and the horror element and rather puts his efforts into the ideals of morality of humanity. These characters are deeply religious and their values steer their judgement. This allows mans greatest creation (androids) more power and the clear advantage over them as man searches the cosmos for answers about their creation.
Where past films in this franchise have had a strong focus on character and story, that element is clearly missing from this chapter. There is no connection to any of these characters in fact, do they even have connections with each other? All characters are married and not a single one is interesting at all. Tennessee (Danny McBride) feels completely out of place – it’s hard to take his character seriously when his only purpose is to fly the USS Covenant. He’s given more screen time then he deserves. Just pilot the ship.
Morale of the story, if you’re traveling to a distant unknown planet, wear a space suit and be careful not to step on anything. Act as if you’re traveling to the past. Don’t interact with anything or you’ll be killed.
Overall, Alien: Covenant is a step toward familiarity but comes up just shy of mediocrity. Many of the characters feel similar and uninspired but the true strength lies in the cinematography, landscapes and visual effects. Instead of focusing on character and suspenseful storytelling, the focus shifts to existential questions with religious hypocrisy. If I were to rate Alien: Covenant, I’d rate it a 2.5 out of 5.
So, tell me, have you seen Alien: Covenant and if so, what do you think about it? Do you agree or disagree with me? Comment below or send me an email and let me know what you think.
Alien: Covenant is directed by Ridley Scott is Rated R and has an 65% on Rotten Tomatoes. Alien: Covenant was released on May 19, 2017 and has a runtime of 2 hours and 3 minutes. Prometheus can be purchased on Retailers such as iTunes, Google, & Vudu.
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