Ridley Scott returns to the Alien franchise he created once more with Alien Covenant. After the mixed reception to the previous film is the series, Prometheus, does he have anything new to add to the previous seven Alien movies , (which, we recently rated worst to best)?
10 years after the exploration vessel Prometheus was lost with all hands, as far as anyone knows, the crew of the colony ship Covenant happen upon a mysterious signal in deep space, where no one should be. A signal that seems to show a human and originating from what appears to be a golden world, ripe for colonisation.
As the crew investigate the planet to determine its suitability for their cargo of colonists in deep sleep, they find far more questions than answers as well as a very familiar-looking alien life-form.
We don’t belong here
With at least three and perhaps as many as six more Alien movies to come from Ridley Scott before he links the story with the original Alien, the biggest question posed by Alien: Covenant has got to be why is this what Scott has decided to spend his time on? Yes, both Prometheus & Alien Covenant look gorgeous, Scott and his team really should work with Apple, Nasa or Space X, but the story they’re telling doesn’t end up being all that enthralling.
Without going into spoilers the wrinkles that he’s adding to the Alien mythos only tie their genesis into humanity, removing much of mystery posed by that derelict spaceship and its massive space jockey back in 1979. We also learn next to nothing about the alien engineers and their mysterious black goo.
We do find out what happened to Noomi Rapace’s Elizabeth Shaw and the severed head of her android David (Michael Fassbender), but it’s not all that compelling. An introductory scene set before the events of the previous film between Guy Pearce’s Peter Weyland and David, fresh off the assembly line, sows some seeds of what’s to come but don’t really answer why David does what he does.
Caution: High tension
Scott still is a master of tension, one of the best elements of Prometheus. The audience knows only too well what the colonists are going to find on the enigmatic planet, but Scott manages to prevent proceedings from getting predictable adding new and horrific enhancements to the Alien’s life cycle that will leave audiences squirming in their seats.
As an Alien film, I’d place Alien Covenant somewhere above Prometheus and maybe tied with Alien3 in my list of the worst, to best Alien films
As a standalone sci-fi colonisation film however, Alien Covenant might have fared somewhat better. As mentioned above it all looks gorgeous and Scott’s assembled a crew of talented actors and given them meaty, well-rounded roles. You’ll get to know the crew of the Covenant quickly and effectively, even if you won’t remember them all by name. Mercifully he’s also avoided making them look like idiots the way that the crew of the Prometheus ended up.
Danny McBride is a standout, working surprisingly well in a serious role as a cowboy hat wearing pilot, worried about his wife and Katherine Waterston’s Daniels fills Ripley’s space Reeboks well as the ship’s de facto second in command, and the main driver for most of the action in the film.
Billy Crudup also delivers a solid performance as Captain Oram, thrust unexpectedly into the role of Captain and riven with doubt. Although the constant reminders that he is a man of faith, often at odds with the rest of his crew, is a little heavy-handed at times.
As for James Franco, this is one of his best performances in a long time.
When it comes to Michael Fassbender, without spoiling anything, let’s just say that he builds upon his creepy, mannered yet enchanting performance from the previous film as the Covenant’s android Walter, and is given plenty of room to show off his skills.
Crewing the Covenant exclusively by couples adds a nice dimension to the franchise, heightens the stakes and makes perfect sense. If you were going to travel across the star to set up a new life on the new world wouldn’t you want to bring your loved ones along? It makes every casualty all the more heartbreaking, and there are a lot of casualties.
For Malaysian Alien fans worrying about how the R-rated thriller fares with the censors, very few cuts seemed obvious in my viewing of the film. Most of the blood, gore and salty language appeared intact, although one scene based in a shower did seem a little disjointed. The editing was masterfully done, and you probably wouldn’t notice if you didn’t know what to look for. The scene just seems a lot tamer to those around it and features a lot of cuts between relatively short shots.
With Neil Blomkamp’s proposed sequel to James Cameron’s Aliens apparently dead for now and another 2 movies to go before the Prometheus, timeline wraps back around the questions remains why is this a story that needs to be told? Prometheus will be remembered for its crew’s dumb decision-making o but Covenant most likely for its well-handled tension, moments of body horror and some admittedly pretty great action scenes and plot twists, but it’s not enough to raise the film anywhere near the original Alien or its bombastic sequel Aliens.
Scott’s fantastic eye might be better served telling other tales of the future, completely divorced from the Alien franchise like his excellent work on The Martian.
A solid enough sci-fi thriller, with some gory jump scares, but is that all you want from an Alien film?
Starring: Michael Fassbender, Katherine Waterston, Billy Crudup, Danny McBride, Demián Bichir, Carmen Ejogo, Jussie Smollett
Directed by: Ridley Scott