The 6th instalment of the iconic Alien franchise has landed in cinemas, Alien: Covenant. Picking up following the developments from 2012’s Prometheus, is Covenant a throwback to the original horror, or a follow on from the lore heavy Prometheus.
Covenant, is the story of the Covenant, a vessel travelling to a far flung planet, its mission, to find an alternate planet for colonisation. Each ship is overlooked by an android assistant, while the human crew are in deep sleep. The android maintaining the Covenant is Walter (Fassbender), but due to an emergency, the crew are forced to wake up. Following the loss of a fellow crew member, and with the reluctance to get back inside the pods, our team decide to respond to a distress call, from another potential viable planet for life, which is far more closer to get to then the remaining 7 years left to reach their original destination.
Upon landing on the new planet, things inevitable unravel and the blood starts flowing! You don’t really need to watch Prometheus to enjoy Covenant; the movie does refer back to the prequel, and does a good job in doing enough explanation to not leave anyone who hasn’t watched Prometheus, totally out of the loop.
Director Ridley Scott has been accuse of losing his magic in recent times, but The Martian showed that he still has the ability to deliver great work. Covanent follows that up with another strong showing here. By far the best aspect of the movie is the performance of Fassbender, who performs a dual role here. As already mentioned, he plays Walter, on board the Covenant, and also David, the older version of himself that was abroad the previous Prometheus mission. There are several scenes which involve both characters on screen at the same time, and he pulls it off with great intensity. He also plays the role of a synthetic being well enough to not sound completely wooden, which is a trap many who play robots fall into.
The human crew on-board though, are a very mixed bag, and a majority of them come off as pretty unlikable. Katherine Waterston is Daniels AKA New Ripley, but she simply doesn’t have the presence to play a role such as this, she looks lost and confused for large parts of the movie, and being the supposed lead human, is overshadowed by Fassbender’s presence. The captain of the crew, Oram (Billy Crudup) is written to be somewhat antagonistic, and his traits are very dis-likeable, not even allowing his crew to mourn the loss of a colleague! It was strange to make him somewhat of a secondary antagonist, as the aliens are enough of a threat as it is. Everyone else of the team is largely bland or unremarkable, and make several stupid decisions throughout the film! The only real endearing figure is Tennessee (Danny McBride) as the pilot of the Covenant, surprising, as McBride isn’t usually known for these kind of roles!
It’s down on the planet where the film really shines though, the opening 3rd seems to drag on for a long time, before we get into the nitty gritty, the Aliens! One thing to understand, is as this is a prequel to the original, this is the story of how the fiends known as the Xenomorphs came into existence, so the threats don’t look like what you expect them too! The film does not hold back on the violence and blood! It’s not just the chest the aliens surprise us from, and some of the deaths our crew suffer are pretty graphic. It may be slightly over the top, but it also empathises how destructive these creatures are. One of the criticisms of Prometheus was that it was very dialogue heavy, and didn’t have enough Xenomorph action, fair enough; as they are the main reason we go to watch these movies! Having watched Prometheus may help you enjoy the film more, but not watching it won’t ruin the experience. The alien saga is explained with careful detail, and it does get us curious in seeing where the next movie goes with all the revelations unearthed here.
The film though does lack the feel of the originals, there isn’t that build up that tension, that feeling of being alone and trapped. The film is very linear in that regards. It is very obvious which character will bite the dust, and the twist reveal at the end is so, so predictable, that it disappointed me they actually went ahead at did it! Also, the trailer pretty much revealed all the set pieces, a damaging habit most trailers seem to fall into nowadays. . It’s a shame that the movie just isn’t as scary as it could have been, as it’s all so telegraphed in its story. Yes some of the scenes can be rather brutal, but is it scary? Not really.
Covenant is no way a bad movie, if you’re a fan of the Alien franchise, or Sci-Fi is generally, it’s an entertaining ride, which gives more plot into how the Xenomorphs came to be, and has the usual Alien tropes. On the other hand there’s isn’t anything new and original to shout about. The film does have some homage to the original movies, but it very much feels like a part of the new trilogy, and not the old.