Written By: Nick Poulimenakos
1979’s Alien is a cinematic masterpiece. It’s 1986 sequel Aliens is one of the greatest action films ever produced. Alien 3 is probably one of the worst sci-fi films ever made and Alien: Resurrection is a film that should have never been made. So, what do you do when the sequel train stops working? Produce prequels of course! Ridley Scott, the man behind the entire franchise, decided to tell the story of the origins of the famed Xenomorph. 2012 saw the release of Prometheus which, contrary to popular belief, is a solid film but it isn’t really a prequel film. Which leads us to Alien: Covenant, a sequel to Prometheus and a prequel to Alien. The film is a “back to the basics” style film as it leads to the 1979 film and for the most part, shows that Ridley Scott is right at home with franchise he started.
Alien: Covenant is set 10 years after the doomed Prometheus expedition. A colony ship, Covenant, is tasked with travelling to a dark world initially thought to be an undiscovered paradise where they meet David, the android survivor of the Prometheus mission. The crew soon discovers however that this world is dangerous and horrific when a hostile alien life-form appears and forces the crew members into a nasty and fatal fight for survival.
Michael Fassbender is phenomenal. Anyone who knows me knows that Fassbender is one of my favourite actors but bias aside, he is truly stunning in his dual role as synthetic androids, Walter and David. He once again steals the show, putting on a rather convincing American accent for Walter, and for becoming one of the franchise’s greatest villains with David. You truly feel spoiled when he appears on screen because his performance is that enticing. There are so many scenes involving both characters (I’ll get to one down below) where you wonder how the filmmakers pulled it off with one actor but Fassbender and Ridley Scott never fail to do wonders.
The rest of the cast is a big improvement when compared to Prometheus. As always with the Alien franchise, our female protagonist, this time played by Kathrine Waterston is great. Her character, Daniels, is resilient, quick-witted and immensely brave and brought real emotion to her performance. Danny McBride is arguably the biggest surprise of the film. He can no longer be associated with being just “the funny guy.” He got a real chance to act in this film and he was exceptional. His surprising dramatic turn worked well when paired with Waterston’s character. Billy Crudup rounds out the main cast and was solid in his turn as the ship’s captain. His character is a man of faith who struggles with the discoveries on this trip and Crudup sells this really well. His character is an idiot though. You’ll know why when you watch the film.
It is clear that, right from the start, Ridley Scott is attempting to go back to what succeeded in the past and this isn’t a bad thing. Alien: Covenant is a pretty terrifying film. While it is still a sci-fi film, Covenant sprinkles in some remarkably scary moments as it explores the evolution of the Xneomorph. Much like with Star Wars: The Force Awakens, this film reuses tropes found in the first Alien film. Once again, this isn’t a bad thing. It may still be a retread, but Ridley Scott takes what made Alien successful and the things that made Prometheus an enjoyable film and mashes them together to create a film that will remind fans why they fell in love with the classic franchise in the first place.
Going back to the horror, the film is bloody. Very bloody. The film focuses on a select few cast members and fleshes them out but the rest of the crew of the ship are all disposable characters and Scott successfully uses this to show how jaw-dropping the attacks of the alien are. The traditional face-hugging sequence was particularly sadistic and gruesome and has the audience craving for more, despite the movie not always providing.
Which leads me to the negatives of the film. I’m very confused as to why this is such a prevalent issue among the current era of filmmaking but Alien: Covenant feels disjointed. At times during the film, the editing seemed off, jumping from one scene to a completely different one in an instance. There were also certain characters that I would have liked to see more of. The first is James Franco’s Captain Branson. Yes you read that right. James Franco is in this film but his appearance is a glorified cameo. He’s the husband of Waterston’s Daniels character and it would have been nice to see them interact more. The second character is Prometheus protagonist, Noomi Rapace. Her character plays an important role in the film but, once again, it’s a small one. Her interactions with David were some of the most compelling parts of Prometheus so, if there was anything I wanted to be brought over from that film, it would be them paired up on screen. The third act, which is home to the final action sequence is also a bit underwhelming. It was exciting but not to the extent that fans hoped for. It’s mostly imitative and underwhelming but it leads to one of the best parts in the film so, I guess it is redeemed.
Like every Ridley Scott film before it, Alien: Covenant is gorgeous. It is one of the most beautifully shot films of the year. Scott, and cinematographer Dariusz Wolski masterfully blend the practical films sets with otherworldly CGI, giving the film its dark and gothic tone and look. The eye-catching close-ups and the fast paced style used for the Xneomorph attacks allow for Covenant to be a wonderfully shot sci-fi horror flick.
Jed Kruzel, the composer for the film, strives to use his own melodies with Jerry Goldsmith’s classic Alien theme and it makes for a wonderful musical score. The music alone transports you right into the world of Alien (which frankly I don’t know if anyone would really want to be there but you get the point). Ridley Scott is definitely making more of these and if there is anyone I’d want to return to the sequel, it’s Jed Kruzel.
Okay, up above I wrote about how there was one scene where Michael Fassbender absolutely blew the entire audience away. Before I conclude this review I’m going to briefly talk about it. The scene in question has Fassbender’s David teaching Walter how to play the flute. It is a moment that is so captivating as you get to see Fassbender as the devil and as the tragic hero interact with each other. There is no better scene than this one and when you watch the film, you’ll see for yourselves.
Overall, Alien Covenant is an exciting new entry into the ongoing franchise. It is a fun ride that, despite its shortcomings, it a brutal, petrifying and shocking experience that suggest that Scott is just getting started in this prequel saga. There’s still several moments of vague discussion revolving around humanity’s creation and god complex’s but one thing is for sure. The Xneomoprh is here and Scott has proved that he’s ready to do some truly horrific things with the classic character.
Nick’s Score – 7.5/10
JJ’s Score – 7.5/10
Artur’s Score – 6.2/10
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Alien: Covenant fights its way into theatres on May 19 2017