REVIEW: Alien: Covenant (2017)

Teaser Poster – 20th Century Fox

The following is a review of Alien: Covenant – Directed by Ridley Scott. For more Alien reviews, check out this category.

With 2012’s Prometheus and now with 2017’s Alien: Covenant, Ridley Scott – the directorial ‘father’ of the Alien-franchise – has reclaimed ownership of the vastly popular horror-science fiction film series. Unfortunately, Prometheus wasn’t met with much praise from fans, and now – with Alien: Covenant – Ridley Scott is trying to appease the rapid fan-base while still dealing with the themes present in his first prequel. And it mostly works well… Mostly.

Alien: Covenant takes place ten years after the events of Prometheus, and the film follows the crew of the colony space ship the Covenant. The Covenant is on its way to Origae-6, where the crew are to awaken all passengers and start a colony. However, during a routine stop the Covenant is hit by a neutrino shockwave that kills multiple passengers including the Captain of the ship (played by James Franco).

While fixing the ship, the crew of the Covenant intercepts a transmission from a nearby planet. Even though the second-in-command – Daniels (played by Katherine Waterston) – objects to the idea, the new Captain – Oram (played by Billy Crudup) – decides to have a closer look at the planet, which seems perfectly habitable.

Once on the surface of the planet, members of an expedition team are infected by alien spores and soon pale aliens burst out of their bodies. As chaos ensues, the expedition team is saved by a hooded individual who knows everything about the state of the planet and the life on it.

With Prometheus, Ridley Scott tried to tell a fresh and uniquely different story in the Alien-franchise. Prometheus was something that we hadn’t seen before in the franchise. Sure, it borrowed elements from other films, but it walked a different path than the rest of the series.

However, Alien: Covenant strays slightly from that same prequel path — most likely due to the reception that Prometheus received. Still, though, Ridley Scott hasn’t completely abandoned the ideas and characters that he introduced us to in Prometheus, and thus Alien: Covenant ultimately ends up feeling like a compromise in its attempt at returning to the gory horror of previous films in the franchise.

Films in the series have had a tendency to tell the same story, and, sadly, Alien: Covenant also does ‘ape’ the well-known stories of the franchise to a frustrating degree — especially in the third act.

Just like Prometheus, Alien: Covenant includes several poor character decisions, and many of these new characters are completely forgettable as well. The film teases us with very interesting background information about Oram, but ultimately doesn’t elaborate on his background enough. Katherine Waterston’s character is filled with grief for most of the film, and, sadly, doesn’t live up to the central female character of Prometheus.

It’s normal to worry about seeing a comedy actor try to work in a much more serious environment, genre, and story. Danny McBride’s character is one of the essential crew characters, and he ended up being my favorite member of the crew. McBride does a great job of handling the themes present in the narrative.

And there is a lot of greatness mixed in with the narrative compromise in Alien: Covenant. Some of the extreme violence in this film should please audiences, and one of the most violent scenes in the film was terrifyingly intense.

I was also very impressed with the new alien creatures that I’ve hinted at earlier in the review. I ended up being more interested in the violence they caused, than the Xenomorph action in Alien: Covenant.

In fact, I think there is going to be some fan criticism over the way the classic Xenomorph is treated and presented. It, unfortunately, doesn’t always seem very practically designed, and the creature is outshone by other ‘villains’ like the aforementioned pale aliens.

But the very best thing about Alien: Covenant – and of this there can be no doubt – is the performance delivered by Michael Fassbender who, once again, outshines any and all previous androids in the franchise. It may actually be the best performance ever seen in the Alien-franchise.

Just like in Prometheus, Fassbender gets to work with an egocentric character that is fascinated with creation. The things Fassbender gets to do here may end up not working for the fans expecting ‘just another Alien movie,’ but it should please fans of Prometheus.

I am very interested in the way other fans of the franchise respond to Alien: Covenant. Mind you, it is a prequel film and thus it absolutely attempts to answer questions you may not like the answer to. On top of that, Alien: Covenant may actually raise more questions than it answers.

Even though Ridley Scott has tried to steer the franchise in a more audience-friendly direction, I think that this film may actually be as divisive as Prometheus was. Ultimately, huge fans of Prometheus may be upset that it isn’t as ambitious as Scott’s first Alien-prequel, while those that dislike Prometheus may be upset by the answers within the film and the strong ties to Prometheus.

Ultimately, I believe Alien: Covenant is, at the time of writing, the third best film in the franchise. It satisfied my need to see extreme alien violence, while still elaborating on the most fascinating antagonist that the franchise has ever seen.

7.5 out of 10

– Jeffrey Rex

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