Ridley Scott! Put down the Alien franchise and back away slowly!
Warning: This review contains major spoilers!
I’ve written about my love for the Alien franchise many times here at The Unheard Nerd, so it was with a mixture of trepidation and excitement that I sat down to watch the latest entry.
I consider the original Alien and Aliens to be classics and I prefer the assembly edit of Alien³ which presents a better cut of that film. After that, the poor Alien creature has been submitted to films of a steadily decreasing quality.
Prometheus saw Alien’s director, Ridley Scott, return to the franchise. However, the film was flawed and was met with a mixed reaction from fans and critics.
Now Ridley has returned with the sequel to Prometheus, Alien: Covenant.
Bound for a remote planet on the far side of the galaxy, members of the colony ship Covenant discover what they think to be an uncharted paradise. While there, they meet David, 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.
Prometheus was a disappointing film that tried to explain a little back story to the whole mythos of the alien creatures. Something, in my opinion, that wasn’t really needed.
Alien: Covenant is a sequel to Prometheus set ten years later.
The Covenant of the title is a large star ship carrying over 2000 colonists through space to a new home. A trip that will last several years.
As well as the colonists, the equipment and supplies to set-up a new home is the crew of the Covenant itself which includes a synthetic called Walter.
During a routine recharging cycle, the Covenant is extensively damaged by a random stellar neutrino burst. Several colonists and crew members are killed during the accident including the captain.
Whilst the ship is under repair, they receive a random transmission which turns out to be of human origin. This is theoretically impossible as no other human has come this far into deep space.
Tracing the transmission back to its original source reveals a planet of Earth like conditions that may be a better place for colonisation than the Covenant’s original destination.
It’s decided to take a lander craft and visit the planet for further investigation.
Once they arrive. They discover the strange alien craft which contains Dr Shaw’s dog tags, the only human survivor from the original Prometheus mission.
Meet the crew of the Covenant
Whilst investigating the environment, two crew members become unwillingly infected by alien spores and soon become ill.
One of the infected crew manages to make it back the medical bay of the lander craft with the help of two fellow ship mates. Unfortunately, he succumbs to a violent bloody birth of an alien creature.
This new alien species kills another crew member and hunts down the third. In the resulting firefight, stray gunfire causes an explosion and the destruction of the lander vehicle.
The other infected crew member also gives birth to a bizarre life form that starts to attack the remaining crew.
A hooded figure shows up out of nowhere and rescues the remaining crew of the Covenant. The strange figure is revealed to be David, the synthetic from the Prometheus and he has been very busy for the last ten years.
Can he be trusted to help the remaining survivors?
Alien: Covenant was…interesting.
Let’s start with the positives of which there are many. The film certainly looks beautiful with the ships and technology all looking great as you’d expect from a high budget science fiction film.
It’s a stark contrast to the simpler homes of the engineer species who live on the recently discovered new world.
The acting was also of a high standard especially from three actors that really stood out for me.
The most obvious was Michael Fassbender who reprises his role of the synthetic David from Prometheus as well as the newer model synthetic Walter from the Covenant’s crew.
His role as David, a character who has obviously got a screw loose which has amplified over the last ten years, was suitably creepy and impressive.
Katherine Waterston (Daniels) and Michael Fassbender (Walter)
Katherine Waterston plays the captain’s widow Daniels. Whilst the media has labelled her with the “she’s a girl in an alien film, she must be a Ripley figure!”, I feel this is rather unfair.
Katherine plays a great hero in her own right and was one of the few cast members I cared about as the film progressed.
The final of my three choices is Danny McBride as Tennessee “Tee” Faris, the Covenant’s pilot. I had never seen Danny in anything before and apparently, he is commonly referred to as a comedy actor. In Covenant, he plays the role seriously and it was entertaining watching him break the rules in order to play a part in the climax of the film.
Not everything was great about the film though.
For me, it felt like Ridley had slammed on the brakes for any continuation of the Prometheus mythos and wanted to return to the Alien films of old to appease both the fans and critics.
The final third of the film does feel like a traditional Alien film with the remaining crew members trying to survive any attack from the deadly beasts.
Speaking of which, as you’ll have seen in the trailer, the alien creatures towards the end of the film now resemble the more classic look we are all used to. Is this Ridley Scott moving back to the norm to say sorry for Prometheus?
Maybe to try and push this idea even further, that this is an Alien film the fans will enjoy, Covenant‘s musical score features several cues from the original 1979 film. As an Alien fan, this just felt jarring hearing the same score used again.
Ewww!! What’s happening here?
The real big issue for me though is one of the films major plot points. Following on from David’s fascination with creation in Prometheus, he has been continuing with his experiments with the alien black goo whilst he was marooned for the last ten years.
It transpires that David is the creator of the alien creature!
This plot point really irks me. The reason this creature is loved by the fans so much is that it is so alien. No-one knows it’s history or how it came to be, that to me is what makes it so interesting.
Now director Ridley Scott has explained away one of his most famous creations and this remains as a thorn in my side. It just really bothers me and I have to mark the film down because of it.
Ridley says he has further prequel ideas including how to make the story lead up to the birth of the character Ripley but after seeing Alien: Covenant, I think he should move onto something else.
For newbies, Alien Covenant is a pretty good sci-fi film, add an extra star. True Alien fans may be left feeling rather disappointed though.