Director: Ridley Scott
Starring: Michael Fassbender, Katherine Waterston, Billy Crudup, Danny McBride, Demián Bichir, Carmen Ejogo, Jussie Smollett, Amy Seimetz
In 2012 director Ridley Scott brought his Alien franchise back to life with Prometheus which posed as a prequel to his 1979 classic. Alien: Covenant is considered the eighth in this series if you include the two Alien vs Predator mashup movies that came in between. Scott is back to direct and has stated there are plans for more in his attempt to bridge the gap between these prequels and the original. Covenant picks up ten years after Prometheus left off. It’s 2104 and a new space vessel named Covenant is headed toward the planet Origae-6. On board are a team of astronauts and embryos hoping to colonize on the new planet. While in hyper sleep, a robot named Walter, runs the ship keeping it on target. Michael Fassbender returns to the franchise as Walter after playing the robot David in Prometheus. He awakens the crew, but a freak cabin fires takes the life of the ship’s captain. If you look closely enough at the body and at cabin photos, you can make out that James Franco plays the captain. First mate Christopher Oram (Crudup) takes over as acting captain despite the opposition he gets from Franco’s widow, Daniels (Waterston), who’s also on board.
One of the pilots (McBride) on Covenant starts to pick up a rogue transmission interfering with their communications. They trace the visual and voice on the other end to a nearby planet which wasn’t on their radar. Oram wants to veer off course and delay their mission to check it out despite Daniels’ warning. Naturally, he wins out and a small expedition crew safely lands on the mysterious planet. At first sight it seems like a mountainous land full of vegetation and water. The crew stumbles upon the ruins of a space vessel containing Elizabeth Shaw’s belongings from the Prometheus ship as well as David (again played by Fassbender) who has been living on this planet for the past ten years. The fright factor escalates quickly at the sight of tiny eggs emitting a tiny microorganism once touched. Two members of the expedition team become hosts to the alien species when these little spores float into their ear canals. I’m sure you can imagine what lies ahead for the Covenant crew as now there are two robots (David and Walter) and a swarm of our favorite “facehuggers” who make their way toward the ship.
I had good intentions of going back and watching Prometheus to reacquaint myself with the timeline of events, but I never found time. I wish I had and do suggest this to others to acclimate yourself with the David character, the Prometheus ending, and to compare how director Ridley Scott shaped both films. Prometheus divided fans and critics alike as it wasn’t quite the direct prequel and tone audiences wanted from a new Alien film. Depending on how you felt about that movie may determine how you respond to Covenant. I remember being fully on board after seeing Prometheus. I didn’t come out of Covenant with the same enthusiasm. I left the theater in a quandary as there are many aspects where Ridley Scott really shines with what he’s trying to accomplish. In the same token I was scratching my head more than once.
Scott returns to the brutal horror he brought with that first film. Covenant is at its best when he keeps it simple in these scenes and makes it the gruesome horror show of what it would be like if aliens infested your body and came popping out of you. That’s right! The chest bursting scene is back again. Scott does not hold back in any of these moments, and there are plenty of them. You know it’s not going to end well when you see the tiny spores floating into the bodies of the two crew members. The little aliens rapidly grew into the slimy creatures we have come to shiver at time and time again. It’s a blood bath every time they’re involved. I appreciate this return to form for Scott for going back to what audiences loved about Alien.
Throughout this he, along with writers John Logan and Dante Harper, explore new territory with the creation and existence of the alien species as well as the possibility of androids outsmarting humans. It’s here where his ambitions get a bit muddled and confusing. Part of me questions if I want to know this backstory as I feel like there’s something scary about the unknown. The idea that something else may exist beyond Earth and beyond our comprehension brings a frightening aura to the air. I waffle around the idea that Scott could damper this by trying to explain the theories and existence of the aliens in his universe. This exploration leads to some of the films more bizarre moments outside of the usual chest bursting scenes. These typically involve Walter and David coming face to face as one android “brother” to another. It’s Fassbender versus Fassbender in these scenes. He does a great job of differentiating the two and tricking the audience as to which one is in charge of any given situation. Scott lets the audience in on their discovery together which leads to David teaching Walter how to play the recorder and even embracing each other in a tender way. It feels like a total break in the action, which will please those with a queasy stomach or those looking for more humanity in the story. That may not be the right word for two android characters, but you get the point. For me, the shift in tone was a little too drastic.
This really is the Michael Fassbender show as he is front and center throughout the movie. There are familiar faces along the way making up Covenant’s crew including: Billy Crudup, Demián Bichir, Carmen Ejogo, Jussie Smollett, and Danny McBride in a non-comedic role. Katherine Waterson reteams with Fassbender after starring in Steve Jobs together. She is tasked with taking on the Ellen Ripley type of role of Daniels. She goes head to head with those aliens in pure Sigourney Weaver fashion. However, the rest of the cast are standard victims as there isn’t strong character development or creativity written for a majority of them.
Alien: Covenant is crafted like the middle part of a franchise. You definitely need to have some Prometheus knowledge going in, and there’s an incomplete sense that looms when the movie ends. It ends on a cliffhanger knowing full well that Scott has more in store before we connect to Alien. Scott loses even more points with me on this film as the ending he chooses is completely predictable and you can see it coming a mile away. I went into Covenant as a Prometheus fan hoping to leave with that same excitement level. I walked out torn, but not losing hope. I feel like this will play better with multiple viewings and could feel smoother in a full Alien marathon. Frankly, it will no doubt be better than Alien vs. Predator: Requiem.
Is It Worth Your Trip to the Movies? Ridley Scott had me frightened, but it lost me too many other times, especially at the predictable ending.
RATING: 2.5 out of 5 TICKET STUBS