Ridley Scott’s third film in the franchise he created is instantly one of the best. I understand that saying that might not sound impressive considering some… interesting other films (I’m look at you Resurrection and 3). However, I personally think Alien: Covenant could be considered as the second best film in the franchise, and yes I’m putting Aliens at 3rd place.
The Weyland-Utani Corporation has funded the first major colonisation effort and entrusted it to the crew of The Covenant. An incident occurs which causes the crew to be woken up from cryo-sleep nearly a decade early. They receive, what they think is, a distress signal from a nearby planet which seems like it would be perfect for a new human colony. They send a landing party down and within hours things begin going very, very wrong.
I really liked the way this story was told. Ridley Scott has described the original Alien as ‘The Texas Chainsaw Massacre in space’. James Cameron’s sequel Aliens took a more action focused approach and I feel like Covenant is the bridge between the two. On a narrative level this comparison also makes sense as we have military trained personnel going to a planet they believe to be safe, combining Alien and Aliens’ respestive motives.
There were sufficient twists and turns that kept me interested and asking the correct question, ‘what’s going to happen next?’
Cast and Performances
While it’s unlikely that we will ever get a performance or character akin to Sigourney Weaver’s iconic turn as Ellen Ripley, it’s nice to see they tried. Katherine Waterston as Daniels and Danny McBride as Tennessee are both a good combination of character and canvas. Enough to be individual personalities with just enough missing so we can project ourselves onto them. The rest of the crew of the Covenant, with one notable exception, are all archetypes and for the amount of screen time they have it’s not really an issue.
That notable exception is Michael Fassbender as Walter (the android on board the Covenant) and reprising his role as the android David from Prometheus. It’s not surprising when Fassbender puts in another solid performance but there’s something that fascinates me about humanoid performances; think Alicia Vikander in Ex Machina. Fassbender tows the line between obedient servant and Machiavellian intensity with the delicacy a dual performance of this kind deserves. He’s by far the best thing in the film.
Following on from Prometheus it’s not a shock that this film looks fantastic. Ridley Scott has always strived for visual pleasure (see the 5 different versions of Blade Runner) and it’s everywhere both practical and special. Davids ‘home’ and lab are beautiful and harrowing in equal measure, imagine if Ed Gein was a brilliant interior designer. The new alien, Neomorph, is an interesting take on the classic monster and makes sense in the films narrative to look different enough from the Xenomorph. The titular Alien does, of course, come into play later in the film to please the fans.
The look of the ships is everything you’d expect from an Alien film. Everything that isn’t man made has a weird psycho-sexual feeling to it that is in keeping with H.R Gigers original designs. The brilliant sound design and score are borderline interchangeable and in a film like this that’s exactly what is required.
As I said earlier, I think I prefer Alien: Covenant to Aliens. Now I completely understand why you might disagree but there’s something about high concept Sci-Fi that gets to me every single time. This is not a perfect film by any means and it pales in comparison to it’s big brother Alien but it’s suspenseful, cool, scary and I enjoyed every minute. In terms of the summer movie season we have a clear winner so far for me.