Alien has always been one of those hallmark, eye-opening sci-fi movies, not just for its frights but also how it stretched the genre. It’s been decades since the first movie hit theaters and now we’ve had multiple installments. Of those movies, I would argue only three are good: Alien, Aliens, and Prometheus. All the others are either bad or just plain awful.
Alien: Covenant essentially improves on the flaws of Prometheus, uses a tried and true formula that works, and ratchets up the gross and violent scare factor, making it all-in-all a pretty solid film with a horrible Achilles heel; It depends too greatly on past plots and formulas, making it feel like a rehash of all the things we’ve seen in the past. They’re just done better this time.
Written by John Logan and Dante Harper, and directed by Ridley Scott, Alien: Covenant begins roughly twenty years after the events of Prometheus. Colonists head for a new planet to inhabit until they find a human signal on another planet that is closer. They inspect the new planet and consider colonizing it until they face off against a new horrific monster they were never expecting. They’ll soon fight to survive and escape the planet before it’s too late.
Being the original director, Ridley Scott understands the Alien franchise better than anyone. And he still finds ways to improve the first. Alien, arguably, was a simple horror and survival story with little else to think about. With Prometheus and now Alien: Covenant, Scott continues embedding some thought into the idea of creation, origin, existence, and life. Putting in these philosophical nuggets helps take the series to a new level rather than a simple fright-show.
But, make no mistake, Scott bumps the scares up to eleven in this movie. The intensity of some of the scenes, the gore, and the gruesome attacks bring the series back to its roots and then some. It doesn’t pull any punches and it almost delights in making the audience firmly grip the armrests. This is the horror film the Alien series deserves every single time.
The main characters are just empathetic enough to care about whether or not they die while the rest are easy xenomorph fodder. Daniels (Katherine Waterston), Oram (Billy Crudup), and Tennessee (Danny McBride) all bring their own charm to the story, but Daniels and Oram have the most compelling backstories. However, if there’s only one reason to watch this movie (other than, you know, the xenomorphs), Michael Fassbender’s Walter and David is it. Fassbender truly brings an amazing performance to both these characters and makes the movie that much more enjoyable to watch. All his scenes are fantastic.
However, while there’s plenty to love in Alien: Covenant, it rehashes an old plot like its beating a dead horse, doing exactly the opposite of what Alien did in the first place. Travelers from space visit a planet, find aliens they weren’t expecting, aliens infect travelers, and the travelers have to fight and survive against the alien onslaught. Some of the exact plot points, pacing, and timing, make it too predictable. In other words, don’t come into this expecting a wholly new plot idea because it’s just a regurgitated form of Alien. However, as a side note, the ending is one totally wonderful way to cap off the movie and something many might not see coming.
Despite some of the plot writing laziness, Alien: Covenant still provides a new installment with decent characters, compelling ideas to chew on, great horror thrills, and a fresh coat of paint thanks to CGI and good cinematography. Whether you loved or hated Prometheus or just want a solid Alien horror movie, this film provides and is a worthy prequel to the original movie.
Photos courtesy of: 20th Century Fox