Horrifying, intriguing, and a confident step forward.
Imagine – you’re alone in space, ominously floating through the darkness. All that surrounds you is silence. You land on a mysterious planet to respond to a choppy distress signal. When you get there, you discover that everyone……..
This is the tried-and-true first act in Alien: Covenant, a great upgrade from 2012’s Prometheus.
To be fair, I enjoyed Prometheus. It was unlike any of the other Alien films. It took the story in a brave, new direction that kind of paid off. Some of the more grandiose moments felt a bit overdone and unearned, but as a whole, I liked Prometheus.
Covenant takes place 10 years after the events of Prometheus: Elizabeth Shaw and David are the only survivors of the expedition, and they are somewhere in space. Meanwhile, a colonization ship, Covenant, is carrying 2,000 passengers on a mission to settle a distant planet.
They receive a faint transmission floating through space, and decide to follow it instead. The planet they land on happens to hold more secrets and dangers than they could have imagined.
From the very start, the tone is full of dread. Being an Alien film, we can safely assume that 80% of these crew members are heading for their doom. Yet, despite that dread, the theme of exploration and discovery intrigues the audience, as we implore the characters to explore until they meet their demise.
Where Prometheus sometimes had trouble justifying its characters’ actions (having Idris Elba and Charlize Theron inexplicably sleep together just to get them away from their station? Seriously?), this film stews and justifies what they do. That doesn’t mean that most of the crew members aren’t archetypal and forgettable. Daniels, the strong female leader of the crew, is a fine character, but nothing more. The real scene-stealer is Michael Fassbender’s David, just like in Prometheus.
Where this film truly succeeds is in balancing pure sci-fi horror with some more sensible Alien lore. Where Prometheus took itself too seriously, Covenant makes up for it.
We get to see some good-ol’ spine-splitting gore, which brings the film back to its disturbing roots.
The pacing is terrific as well, ensuing that we feel the same sense of doom the characters do as their fates close in on them.
The heady themes in the film are also much more sensible and enjoyable – David’s monologues about creation hit home, and the result is a much more well-rounded story
The thin writing for the supporting cast prevents the film from being great.
For all of its horror tropes, existential explorations, etc., the film still doesn’t boast a convincing and compelling crew. Of course, most of them are used as meat in the film, but still – giving us some sense relationships would make their deaths all the more compelling. The first Alien gave us a crew with distinct personalities and motivations, and Covenant doesn’t come close in that regard.
That being said, Scott masterfully masks the film’s shortcomings with terrific production value and genuinely terrifying moments.
We are given a juicy history lesson on the Xenomorphs, guaranteed to please even the casual Alien fan.
Ridley’s panache is in full swing in the film, giving it a nice blend of epic moments and enveloping pacing.
You will be given a healthy dose of enjoyable sci-fi horror!