‘Alien: Covenant’ Review: A Gory & Probing Sequel

    WARNING: This article contains major spoilers.

    At long last Alien: Covenant has arrived on silver screens around the world, yet another entry into the popular movie franchise.

    It’s been five years since the previous Alien film, which was the hotly debated Prometheus. I’m not going to lie, I enjoyed Prometheus, I really did. Yes, it wasn’t exactly a film that seemed to fit in the franchise, but I thought it opened up a number of interesting doors.

    Prometheus was very much a prequel (or even a prologue if you will), setting up future prequels in order to lead back to the original 1979 film Alien.

    And so now Alien: Covenant has come along to pick up where Prometheus left off. Well, not exactly the very moment Prometheus left off, but I’ll get to that in a minute.

    Alien: Covenant continues the origin story of the famous xenomorphs as well as asking more questions about post-humanity and creation.

    Before we get into specifics, however, let me give you a quick summary of the film.

    That Summary I Just Mentioned

    Okay so, in classic Alien fashion, we follow the crew of a starship heading for a distant planet. Much like the original 1979 film, the ship, the Covenant, never makes it to its destination. We also follow a female lead named Daniels (Katherine Waterson).

    Instead, the crew decides to investigate a different planet after picking up a rogue transmission. The crew of the Covenant lands on this new planet and pretty soon, they realize this near-perfect planet is far from it. Mere hours after setting foot on the planet, they’ve lost five crew members. They would have lost more if it weren’t for the sudden appearance of David (Michael Fassbender), the synthetic from the doomed Prometheus mission.

    David explains the situation to the surviving crewmembers, but his seemingly innocent charm catches them all off guard. They are soon dragged into further horror as David proves to be even worse than the monsters roaming the planet.

    Eventually, only three crewmembers have survived the ordeal, Daniels, Tennessee (Danny McBride), and the new and improved synthetic, Walter (also played by Michael Fassbender).

    But in an unsettling twist, as Daniels and Tennessee enter hypersleep, Daniels realizes that it is actually David and not Walter who survived.

    Boom! Summary done. Next.

    Oh The Terror

    First things first: One area Alien: Covenant improved in dramatically over Prometheus was the terror. Ridley Scott is a master at edge-of-your-seat tension and he proves it yet again.

    Not only is the film much more unsettling and suspense filled, it also ups the ante when it comes to the gore.

    Remember when you felt nauseous after seeing an alien burst from John Hurt’s chest? Well get ready for more and then some. You thought chest bursting was gross? Try a spine burster. Not gross enough, how about a mouth burster?

    Yes, I said mouth burster…

    Anyway, we get to see all the pieces in action. The facehugger gets some solid screen time. The classic xenomorph makes its appearance in the third act, but before that, Ridley Scott’s new nightmare, the neomorph, gets to shred through some cannon fodder.

    Safe to say that this film was much scarier than Prometheus and fitting for the Alien franchise.

    Oh, I almost forgot the other terrifying part of this film. A particular android and sole inhabitant of the planet the Covenant lands on. So perhaps the best part of Alien: Covenant

    Michael Fassbender & His Androids

    …is Michael Fassbender. He was undoubtedly the best part of Prometheus, and this time around we got a double dose.

    Fassbender reprises the role of the disturbed android, David, but also gives us the much more robot-like, Walter. There is a particular scene where David rather suggestively teaches Walter how to play the flute. While Fassbender dazzles in the scene, I’d be committing a filmmaking crime to not mention that Ridley Scott captures the majority of the scene beautifully in one shot.

    But back to Fassbender and his androids.

    It is revealed that David has been on this planet for a decade, which has given him plenty of time to perform numerous genetic experiments in an attempt to create perfection. He has become particularly unhinged and Fassbender portrays this marvelously.

    And while Walter is not necessarily as interesting from the beginning, as he is exposed to David and this environment, we see just how human he really is.

    Fassbender seems to switch effortlessly between his two characters, stealing the show in every scene he’s in. While technically the main character is Katherine Waterson’s Daniels, the case could definitely be made that David is actually the main character, as many of the film’s questions about humanity spawn from him and his counterpart Walter.

    Faith & Theme

    As I’ve touched on above, this film asks a number of questions regarding humanity and its future, faith, religion, and the creation of life.

    Originally regarded as merely a horror series, Alien: Covenant continues what Prometheus started in asking deep, probing, thematic and moral questions.

    There are obvious parallels to Satan throughout the film, as David once refers to his “work” as the result of “idle hands in the devil’s workshop”. This is interesting, because David clearly sees himself as a god and the devil. Satan was never able to create only manipulate was has already been created. But David can create. His god complex has consumed and twisted his thinking.

    As I mentioned above, David is at the centre of almost all of these questions. In the opening sequence of the film, his creator, Peter Weyland, reveals that together they will seek out humanity’s creators. David points out he has already met his creator and since Weyland will die and theoretically David could live forever, he implies he is already a superior being.

    Lastly, later on in the film, David is asked what he believes in. The question comes from the faith-driven captain of the Covenant named Oram (Billy Crudup). David simply replies: “Creation”, and then watches as an alien bursts from Oram’s chest, marveling at his “creation”.

    I personally love how Ridley Scott chose to relay so many of these questions through the perspective of an android. It gives us an interesting view of humanity and what drives many of us.

    A Return To Form?

    Alien: Covenant is not without flaws though. With David seemingly being the true main character, it leaves us with fairly underdeveloped characters in general.

    The film’s human leads, Daniels, Tennessee, and Oram all have important and defining traits, but none of them were as developed as Prometheus’ Elizabeth Shaw (Noomi Rapace).

    Now, I’m not saying each crewmember needs to be well defined. Because let’s be honest, most of them are gonna die anyway, so we only really need one or two developed characters to take us on the journey.

    Going off the “everyone’s gonna die” thing, the film does fall into a bit of predictability. But again, if you know the movie you’re going to see, you already know there won’t be many survivors.

    All in all, Alien: Covenant is much more of a return to the Alien franchise than it’s 2012 predecessor. Ridley Scott is at the top of his game when it comes to the direction of the film. The special effects are also spectacular. And I can’t help but mention how incredible Michael Fassbender is. Like seriously, if it were up to me, he’d be nominated for an Oscar this year.

    This is a film I would definitely recommend seeing on the big screen.

    FILM SCORE: 8 / 10

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    • Connor Campbell

      Screenwriter

      Connor Campbell is a writer/director, who lives in Calgary, Canada.

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