Alien: Covenant Review

If you’re heading into Covenant expecting a stripped back, return to roots Alien experience, you’re in for a disappointment. It is, however, a massive improvement on director Ridley Scott’s previous entry in the franchise, Prometheus – even though it still finds itself hanging onto that film’s coattails.

That decision alone is a head scratcher. It’s not as though Prometheus was a resounding success – quite the opposite, in fact. An overly complicated mess, it’s been firmly relegated to the Alien bargain bin in the years since its release, and deservedly so. And yet there it has not remained, unfortunately. Because just as things are heating up nicely, the ideas, tone and themes of Prometheus rear their heads again. It’s the bad ex that Scott can’t seem to steer clear of. Mercifully, this is largely contained to the midsection. It’s a slog, but what it’s bookended by is just the medicine that the film needs, tying more closely to the series’ traditions of creeping tension and all out bloodshed.

Katherine Waterston as Daniels.

We make our way back to Alien’s dark future aboard colony ship Covenant, as it hurtles through space, carrying its crew, hundreds of colonists, and Walter (Michael Fassbender), a synthetic AI, towards their new home of Origae-6. Damage to the ship awakens the crew early from cryosleep, and into the path of an unknown, seemingly habitable planet far closer to them than their planned destination. A planet they should naturally stay well away from, and one which of course they do not. It’s a simple, quietly confident set up, turning the screw slowly as the crew’s inevitable demise draws nearer. The only thing missing is more time spent on getting to know said crew.

Fassbender is uncannily un-human as Walter (later pulling double duty, reprising his role from Prometheus as David), Danny McBride brings the heart and humour as the ship’s pilot Tennessee, Billy Crudup plays first mate Christopher Oram, and Katherine Waterston fills the Ripley role efficiently as all round badass Daniels. Beyond this, however, there are another eight or so members of the team that amount to little more than fodder. Considering that a Prologue fleshing out the characters was released online in the build up to the film, it seems odd that this (or something similar) wasn’t included in the final cut.  It doesn’t take away from the fun too much once they all start getting wiped out, yet a touch more detail would certainly have lent to making you care a bit more about them being offed.

Hello Xenomorph, my old friend.

Those doing the offing here are the planet’s inhabitants, the aliens of the film’s title. Not only do we get a return of the classic Xenomorph (yay!), but also newcomers in the devilishly skittish little Neomorphs, all of which rain destruction down around them. Oh yes, it’s gory. Very, very gory. Amongst all of the horror, we get some of the most beautiful imagery the series has ever provided. Amazing locations, impressive sets, and fantastic visual effects provide the background to Aliens-esque gung-ho action early on. And whilst the snooze button is hit for a large chunk in the middle of the film, when it does finally rouse from its slumber for the final act, it’s for some original Alien-style claustrophobic corridor stalking Xenomorph goodness.

I just can’t help but wish that there was more of this, and less of the convoluted hangover from Prometheus.

Rating (out of 5):

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20 Comments Add yours

  1. Gavin says:

    Nice stuff. Echoes my thoughts on Covenant but strangely opposite for Prometheus. Crew could have been given more time/development to add to the situation, and it is a welcome return to Alien mythology after the human exploration of Prometheus.
    I didn’t enjoy the ending, the rather too short alien spaceship battle, especially when they resorted to the time old tradition of the airlock exit!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Luke Kent says:

      I seem to be finding more and more people that quite liked Prometheus – for me it was just too muddled, a touch pretentious, but Covenant was closer to what I like in an Alien movie – airlock exit and all (I wonder how many more times they’ll resort to that old chestnut!).

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Gavin says:

        It’s probably the lack of the actual alien that marks it down a bit too, but I was just as intrigued with their genesis (and that black goo).
        Strange that i thought it was the other way round and Covenant was the more messy! Weird!
        As for the airlock, if you’re going to create the ultimate badass creature, you’re going to struggle to kill that bastard. But airlock every time is a bit weak 😀
        Interesting to see where Ridley’s gonna go from here, if his story gives Covenant a bit more structure, a bit more definition it might change my mind on it. Then again….

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Luke Kent says:

        I’m intrigued by where the arc is going, with Fassbender’s David being more central (even with the Xenomorph being back in the fold) we still feel quite far off meeting up with Alien – so I’m expecting we’ll still get lots of more “thinky” exploration – hopefully with some more answers to all the mysteries!

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Dan Bullock says:

    See, I’m still confused by the Prometheus hate, you mention huge, impressive imagery and that film also offered it in abundance. And mystery, but without all the Alien. I often wonder if that’s why people were disappointed because it was more of a thinker, than a fighter.

    Yes, it has flaws but this one – although I did enjoy seeing the Alien progression – really does just merge itself together out of lots of things we’ve seen before, let alone an edge of Fassbender fan-fic, that flute scene was made great by the Fass but it’s very much on the edge of parody as well.

    I did like this one, as I said, but I honestly think it’s much safer ground than the previous.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Luke Kent says:

      Great comment! Prometheus for me was just a bit too muddled for my liking, though certainly not lacking in ambition. Some interesting ideas, but undercut by some baffling character points. Covenant I felt struck the balance between traditional Alien, and the more thought provoking aspirations of Prometheus. I also found Fassbender’s character(s) much more interesting this time around, though I completely agree about that Flute scene!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I’m not well-versed in the Alien movies, although I’ve seen the original and I’ve seen Prometheus which I think was enough for this new entry. I was entertained throughout (it slowed in the middle however) but I couldn’t move past the fact that this crew made stupid decision after stupid decision. I miss Ripley!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Dan Bullock says:

      I wonder about this ‘stupid’ decision comment on a lot of horror-type films these days, is it just because we’ve seen it so much over the years? Or because they’re not trying to be original enough?

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I think it could be a mix of both! Then again, if a character gets jumped by an alien during a group investigation, it’s going to surprise me a lot more than when 1 in the group does a ‘brb guys, need to take a leak’.

        Liked by 2 people

      2. Luke Kent says:

        Haha, that dude totally deserved to get it! And the guy that stuck his face in an unidentied plant just minutes later. That a group of scientists would hop onto a planet they know zero about without even wearing suits is bonkers, but again, it seems rare nowadays for characters in horror films to not make the odd…questionable decision.

        Like

  4. Dan Bullock says:

    A group attack would have been much better, come to think of it can you imagine if they’d all been walking up there and suddenly one is down, thru the woods, that would have been a sudden twist!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Luke Kent says:

      Apologies for the delayed reply! This sounds great, far less predictable than characters wandering off for cigarettes, or poking their faces in plants – just a bit more unexpected all round!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Dan Bullock says:

        I’m available for suggestions, should Ridley be reading this. 😉

        Liked by 1 person

  5. Mr. Perfect says:

    The Covenant of the Reptilians and the Robots. Of Science and Religion….The most interesting part of the movie was the Alien standing up straight and communicating with David. I wonder if they discussed his plan that was revealed at the end of the film.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Luke Kent says:

      Great comment! I found that scene very intriguing, it suggested there being more to the Alien than meets the eye, and certainly more intelligence than there seemed to be going on with the Xenomorph at the end of the film – definitely something I’d be interested in seeing explored further.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Mr. Perfect says:

        Is the killer black goo symbolic of carbon….and if it is, are they trying to tell us to embrace climate change to limit carbon. Carbon Taxing and sh**?

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Luke Kent says:

        I like this take a lot! Folks (including myself) have had their grumbles over the direction that Scott is taking the series, but you certainly can’t knock his ambition when it comes to the more “thinky” aspects of Covenant/Prometheus. Not all of it makes complete sense, but it certainly provides plenty to mull over and interpret….I’m looking forward to seeing where it heads next!

        Like

  6. alexraphael says:

    Flawed but enjoyable. Agreed with pretty much all your review and the commenters too.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Luke Kent says:

      It’s a bit convoluted, but I really enjoyed the more classic Alien elements!

      Liked by 1 person

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