Rated R (for sci-fi violence, language and nudity)
I’m beginning to think that all scientists in the Alien universe are dumb-asses. It’s the only theory that can explain the decisions that are made by the characters in Alien: Covenant. But of course, if they did act intelligently I guess we really wouldn’t have a movie to watch.
A follow-up to 2012’s Prometheus, Alien: Covenant starts off promisingly enough. The crew of the colony ship Covenant are forcefully woken up by an accident that takes the life of their captain. While awake, the crew intercept a mysterious signal coming from a nearby inhabitable planet. The Covenant goes to investigate the source of the signal, and carnage ensues… of course.
To be fair, Alien: Covenant fixes some of the issues that plagued Prometheus. Its set and costume design follows the original Alien aesthetic a lot more closely, which gives the movie a bit more personality than the generic sci-fi flavour that was Prometheus. And while the 2012 film had the tendency to wax philosophical leading to long and drawn out scenes, Covenant (despite a few moments where the protagonists ponder on the meaning of life) is not afraid to jump straight into the fray, gore and all. You could say that Covenant takes the psychological thriller aspects of the first Alien, mixes it up with the action beats of Aliens and tries to get the best of both worlds.
And I have to say it does work, mostly. The return of the dark claustrophobic spaces, the jump scares and the actual Alien itself all help Covenant course correct from the tangent Prometheus set the Alien franchise on. Also aiding in the cause is the return of Michael Fassbender doing double duty playing David, the android from Prometheus, and Walter, the new upgraded model that is part of the Covenant crew. Fassbender was one of the best (and creepiest) parts of Prometheus and it is only fitting that he serves as the thread between the two Alien prequels.
But regardless of all the steps in the right direction, they don’t hide the fact that the characters in this movie tend to be just plain dumb. From decisions like not wearing any sort of breathing apparatus when exploring an alien planet (air borne pathogens anyone?) and following mysterious hooded figures into dark, desolate buildings to not sticking sick and infected members of their group into strict quarantine, it’s hard to believe that the crew of the Covenant are actually scientists. It’s almost like for every brilliant idea they have, they have to follow it with a least two more bone-headed actions. It’s puzzling since a lot of these could have been easily fixed in the script. I’m not sure if this is a result of lazy film-making or because of a rush to meet production schedules.
If you overlook all the attempts the crew make at winning the Darwin Award, Alien: Covenant is a decent film. All the characters in the movie are simply red shirts, serving as alien fodder, and Fassbender does all of the heavy lifting. Even Katherine Waterston who plays Daniels, a sort of proto-Ripley, is over-shadowed by the intensity of Fassbender’s performance.
When you add in the beautiful scenery that abounds the alien planet (shot in that ever reliable go to, New Zealand), impressive sets created for the film and a pervasive score by Jed Kurzel, you have more than enough reason to watch the movie at the cinemas even if the script doesn’t knock it out of the park.
Covenant doesn’t fix everything wrong with Prometheus, but it does step in the right direction. It answers a lot of the unanswered questions left by Prometheus but with director Ridley Scott already talking about two more sequels, we may have to wait a while to find out everything that led to the start of the original Alien.
I give Alien: Covenant a 7 out of 10.