I know that a lot of people weren’t into Prometheus upon release, and it seems more people have turned away from it since then. I thought it was only okay initially, but I’ve really come around on it. Add to that my love of the original Alien and the fact that my last ever college course was “The Films Of Ridley Scott”, I’ve been genuinely excited about seeing him return to his franchise to complete the circle.
Originally titled Alien: Paradise Lost, the new Alien: Covenant is a direct sequel to 2012’s Prometheus, and Scott’s third outing with the franchise since his sophomore masterpiece in 1979. The basic premise of the film follows a colonization ship traveling to a newly discovered planet in order to restart and repopulate. Along the way, they discover a distress signal nearby and choose to investigate the source. Due to the type of film this is, things expectedly go awry.
IF THAT’S ALL YOU NEED TO KNOW, SKIP DOWN TO THE NEXT BOLD SECTION BECAUSE THE MIDDLE WILL BE PLOT DETAILS.
The actual first scene is between Weyland (Guy Pearce) and David (Michael Fassbender), a flashback that takes place before even Prometheus. They ponder the idea of creation, legacy, and what meeting your creator really means. These sorts of esoteric talks in the previous film turned some people off, but they really work for me and bring up some interesting ideas.
Jump to the present and the colony ship. The entire crew is in hypersleep except for an android named Walter (also Michael Fassbender). Walter runs the ship along with the computer, but he has to wake up the core crew members when the ship is damaged by a neutrino burst. Due to malfunctions, a few colonists are lost, along with the ship’s captain. Next in line is Oram (Billy Crudup), who begins the organization of repairing the ship.
This when they discover the signal that Oram wants to investigate. Second-in-command and widow of the former captain, Daniels (Katherine Waterston), disagrees with the new captain, believing that they should focus on their original goal.
That plan doesn’t exactly work out.
An excursion team goes down to the planet where the signal is coming from, having a difficult trip down due to storms. While exploring, two crew members are infected with spores and begin to fall ill incredibly quickly. Two new aliens burst forth from them, smaller, smoother, and white. They begin to wreak havoc on the crew until a mysterious figure leads the crew away. It is revealed to be David.
David explains how he and Shaw (Noomi Rapace) escaped the planet from the previous film and how they arrived at their current situation while the crew members ask their ship for an evac. Unfortunately, one of the new aliens follows them inside the temple and goes back on the hunt.
Right about now is when we learn the truth about David. Not only did he actually kill Shaw while trying to breed the perfect killing machine, he killed all natural life on this planet by releasing the alien virus, and he plans on killing the rest of these humans. He leads Oram into a secret room with a suspicious egg, and you know what happens from there.
Walter discovers his plot and tries to save his comrades. As they escape, he fights with David, revealing that newer androids have the ability to heal cosmetic damages like cuts. Tennessee (Danny McBride), their hotshot pilot, arrives and begins taking them away, but first they have to deal with the xenomorph that climbed on board the ship.
The crew makes it back onto the Covenant, but a special guest makes it back with them. In the end, Daniels and Tennessee are the only two left alive to face the Xenomorph, with Walter helping them from the control panel. They are able to lure the alien into a trap that it almost escapes until they throw construction equipment at it, launching it into the depths of space.
Tennessee and Daniels begin going back into hypersleep to finish the voyage. As she gets into her pod, she asks Walter about the log cabin she told him about wanting to build. When he hesitates, she realizes he is actually David and begins to panic before he forces her into sleep. He places some facehugger embryos next to the human embryos, and we cut to black.
WOAH THAT TOOK A LITTLE LONGER THAN I PLANNED, BUT A LOT HAPPENED.
Alien: Covenant doesn’t come too close to the original, which I will repeatedly say is a perfect film.
Hey readers? Alien is a perfect film.
Covenant definitely improves upon Prometheus while also managing to make that earlier film better. With the new context, some of the narrative decisions make a lot more sense, and I can appreciate that direction now that I have a wider angle to see it all from.
That said, Covenant is still clearly flawed. While the move to horror is much appreciated, some of the beats feel like jumpscares put in place because they’re supposed to be there, and they don’t always escalate appropriately. Ridley Scott is great with tension, but he doesn’t fare as well with punctuating it.
The script also lets the film down a bit. There are some silly character decisions at times as well, but I can forgive it due to the fear and stress of this terrible situation they are put in. However, many characters seem to exist only to die, and those that we spend more time with are fairly underdeveloped. Most (if not all?) are in relationships with each other, and their character doesn’t go much further than that detail. Also, I couldn’t even keep track of who was a part of which couple for a solid chunk of the film, though it didn’t deter from my personal and subjective enjoyment of the film, because I had a lot of fun with it.
While most of the cast doesn’t get as much to do as they should (especially Waterston), Danny McBride really exceeded my expectations with his role here. He doesn’t entirely depart from his standard fare, but it’s stretched enough away for me to want to see him spread his work out a little bit and try something new.
It should be obvious by now, but Michael Fassbender is the clear and objective highlight of the film. Arguably, he’s the two best things about the film. David and Walter are distinct and entirely separate characters, and all of their scenes together are so fascinating to watch unfold. We as a film-going people do not deserve the beauty and talent of Michael Fassbender.
He is better than all of us, and he is better than we will ever be.
Praise be unto Michael Fassbender.
Alien: Covenant: 6/10