All scare, no jump.
Alien Covenant is the long-awaited sequel to 2012’s Prometheus. Staring Katherine Waterson as Daniels, Danny McBride as Tennessee and Michael Fassbender as both Androids Walter and David. Taking place 10 years after the events of the previous film it begins with the colony ship Covenant on its way to a remote planet suitable for colonization.
Home to a dozen crew members and thousands of colonists, the journey is halted due to a freak accident and the crew is woken up to repair the ship. During the repair a signal is discovered from a nearby planet and the decision is made to investigate. The hierarchy of the crew is quickly established as Daniels hesitance to redirect is simply noted, being she is only second in command.
From there the film quickly enters familiar territory. Characters make poor decisions and while the first 40 minutes are certainly the most intense they also the most frustrating. For every bad film in the Alien franchise the first two (Alien and Aliens) are highly regarded for how they dance around familiar genre tropes. Covenant features characters that could easily be in a teen slasher film. Decisions to split up or to go investigate a disturbance demean the film. This is more apparent during the middle of the film when the overall tone slows and context is given as to what is really going on.
This act of the film is the most refreshing showing influences from Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein yet is still bogged down with poor character decisions. Fassbender’s dual roles as David and Walter shine in their interaction. Themes of creation and individuality from Prometheus are brought back to be further explored and David’s views are both incredibly interesting and terrifying. The final act, while featuring the return of the Xenomorph, feels tacked on and a bit on the side of fan service. The new Neomorph is better established and the film would have benefited on primarily focusing on the new Alien instead of the padding of the old.
This is my biggest issue with the film. It feels like it could have been a better Alien movie without the heavy-handed subject matter and it also feels like it could have been a better Prometheus sequel without the limits of what is expected from an Alien film. It becomes apparent that the reception of Prometheus changed the direction of Covenant. Blending two different movies into one.
Visually Alien Covenant is stunning. From the designs of the ship to the framing of new Neomorph and the returning Xenomorph. I was initially hesitant on the idea of seeing the classic Xenomorph in full CGI but the scenes are minimal and treated mainly as a moment rather than a payoff. The Neomorph’s pale skin and lack of facial details are a complete opposite to the Xeno’s but are equally as terrifying.
Alien Covenant is a good film. The best Alien film in 30 years in fact. It’s intense, obscure and has one to many cliché’s but it works. For as predictable as the film can be I was never bored and the quick pacing definitely helped the typical horror moments. With the unofficial announcement of a sequel being filmed within the next year it will be interesting to see where the franchise goes from here. My hope is not as predictable as Covenant was.