2012’s ‘Prometheus’ ushered in a new era of the ‘Alien’ franchise, as the “prequel” saw original director Ridley Scott return to helm the project. Fans weren’t quite sure what to make of the film, as the clarity on it being a true prequel to ‘Alien’ was a bit cloudy. The ending of that film certainly confirmed that it was, as we saw the birth of a new xenomorph. The sequel to ‘Prometheus’ went through many changes, as it was slated to be titled ‘Paradise’ only to finally be officially titled ‘Alien: Covenant’, officially integrating it onto the ‘Alien’ filmography.
Before getting into this review, I want to take a minute to say that I was a giant fan of the first few ‘Alien’ films and ‘Prometheus’. I know a large portion of moviegoers disliked ‘Prometheus’, but I thought it was quite masterful, especially watching the director’s cut of the film. I appreciated the overall theme of the search for humanity’s origins and the integration of religious themes embedded into the film. ‘Alien: Covenant’ has been on my most anticipated films list since it was announced. With all of the buildup out of the way, let’s get into ‘Alien: Covenant’.
Set 10 years after the events of ‘Prometheus’, ‘Alien: Covenant’ follows the story of the Covenant crew on their search for a hospitable planet for colonization. During their space flight, the ship encounters a massive solar flare that kills members of the crew and colonists that are in cryo-sleep, including the ship’s captain, played by James Franco. Second in command , Oram (Billy Crudup) becomes the new captain and the crew receives a distorted transmission that sounds human-like. Covenant pilot, Tennessee (Danny McBride) deciphers the message as it is a woman singing John Denver’s “Take Me Home, Country Roads”. The location of the transmission is found on a planet not too far from the Covenant’s location, and the crew vote on investigating, as their original target is still very far.
As the ship lands on the new planet, the crew hits the ground and begins exploring. Members of the crew inhale a substance that causes them to die horrifically, eventually spawning new versions of xenomorphs. The newborn creature kills a few people before they are saved by a shrouded figure, revealed to be the android David from ‘Prometheus’. David takes them to the Engineer city that he has been living in for the past 10 years. The crew also have their own android, Walter, whom is a copy of David with updated software and parameters.
David goes on to tell them how Elizabeth Shaw perished upon landing on the planet and tries to gain the trust of the crew. David has been experimenting on the xenomorph genealogy, and ultimately tries to kill everyone. If you remember ‘Prometheus’, David has a god complex. The xenomorph enters the Engineer city and begins killing more crew members, as David’s plan is discovered by Daniels (Katherine Waterston). Upon arriving to the planet originally, David had released the Engineer-created pathogen into the atmosphere above toe city, killing the planet’s inhabitants. Dr. Shaw is revealed to also have been killed by David, as he experimented on her.
I’m going to save the ending and not reveal what happens, but will instead give my likes and dislikes on the film.
As I was a fan of ‘Prometheus’, I also loved this movie. It perfectly blurred the line between being a sequel to that film and a true ‘Alien’ film, moreso that ‘Prometheus’ did. The callbacks to ‘Prometheus’ were everywhere. We got to see the Engineers on their homeworld, the Prometheus ship, the pathogen containers and canisters, and even heard the musical theme from the movie. We also got to see a true xenomorph, though slightly different, and got to see the classic eggs, face hugger, and the evil android situation.
The tone of the movie was consistent throughout, keeping the audience on edge while exploring this new world, while maintaining the foreboding feeling of impending horror. The xenomorph kills and mutilations are gory and terrifying, feeling reminiscent of the original films. I loved learning about what David had been up to all this time and understanding his character more. We got to see a flashback scene of he and a young Weyland (Guy Pearce) that further connects the film to ‘Prometheus’ and helps the audience to understand his motivations. David, knowing he’s a creation of Weyland, strives to be something more. We see his experimentations and manipulations in ‘Prometheus’ and it continues here, as his goal is to be God. One final note: I’m so happy with Danny McBride’s performance as Tennessee. If you’ve seen his previous work, he’s primarily a funny-man in his TV and film roles. I’ve been on record as saying that I believe that there’s another side to him that we haven’t seen yet and that certainly shines through here. He’s not very comical in this film at all and we get to see him as more of a dramatic actor and I believe he did a wonderful job.
One of the issues I had was the lack of character development. I didn’t feel very connected to most of these character aside from Tennessee, David, Walter and Daniels (to a lesser extent). All of the promotional material touted Daniels as the next Ripley and while her role grew larger by the end of the film, she wasn’t the major heroine that I expected.
As ‘Prometheus’ ended and Shaw and David were traveling to the Engineer home world, I was very much looking forward to seeing it and their society. I wanted to know why they seeded Earth and decided to destroy humanity with the pathogen they created. Unfortunately, David has already killed all of the Engineers and we aren’t given any of these answers. I think the amalgamation of the ‘Alien’ movies and the ‘Prometheus’ sequel had something to do with this, as it tried to incorporate elements from both franchises but fell just short of being perfect.
My positives outweigh my negatives and I really did enjoy this film very much. This is a movie, like ‘Prometheus’, that will take repeated viewings for me to really delve into the small details and easter eggs that pop up throughout the movie. It’s primed for a sequel, as Ridley Scott has announced plans for a new trilogy, and I’m very much looking forward to seeing where humanity travels throughout the cosmos and the horrors they will assuredly face.
My rating: 8/10