Published on May 15th, 2017 | by voxx0
Length: 123 minutes
Director: Ridley Scott
Cast: Michael Fassbender, Katherine Waterston, Danny McBride, Billy Crudup, Carmen Ejogo
Plot: 2104. The crew of the USCSS Covenant has stumbled upon an anonymous planet while on their way to a new home on Omigae-6 during their colonization mission. But an oncoming danger attacks the crew and they must escape with their lives.
Within the first few minutes of ‘Alien Covenant’s’ opening title in director Ridley Scott’s iconic form, there’s a sense of familiarity. Perhaps it’s to do with the title forming itself on the screen in front of us or the haunting background soundtrack originally composed by Jerry Goldsmith, re-done for this new installment by Jed Kurzel perhaps as an inspiration. But within an instant of the first few we are back on familiar ground. We also welcome back the iconic Xenomorph (looking as gloriously terrifying as ever). Sure, ‘Prometheus’ may have left you frustrated due to the lack of the curly-headed, sword-tailed villain from the original ‘Alien’, but this may perhaps leave you happier that he is back in glorious form and running havoc again. The new ideas are to come first before even the slightest showing of the titular villain; of course there are new characters to follow new stories, a new ship, and a new planet.
Set ten years after the ill-fated mission of the Prometheus, the USCSS Covenant is on a mission to colonize an Earth-like planet in a solar system thousands of light years from their home. The ship has a particularly similar shape too, and if you look closely you can see the design is much like that of the Nostromo, except perhaps thinner. On board the are 2000 willing colonists in hyper-sleep and 1400 human embryos tightly wrapped in compacted draws. This, thanks to Scott’s much improved directing style after ‘The Martian’, looks particularly stunning, using his technical devices such as the lighting effects and tightly cornered, slightly claustrophobic corridors, and of course the voicing of the iconic computer MOTHER. Scott uses these well to make this the closest to his original. This bodes well for some time, yet where the original is a sci-fi masterpiece, this is not. There are flaws.
Firstly, the crew of the Covenant are particularly nondescript. Fifteen of them, including Michael Fassbender’s soft-talking android Walter, (compared to ‘Alien’s’ eight members including Ripley’s cat) are all lead to this planet by a newly promoted captain (Crudup). They have been in hyper-sleep for many years, and have just received a rogue message from an anonymous planet during their colonization mission to Origae-6. Of course, each member is against this message; Katherine Waterston’s Daniels is particularly concerned about the lack of bird sounds from the planet’s surface. It’s not the presentation of the characters as such that is flawed; it’s their story. Most of them are married couples, and when the inevitable comes there’s not enough emotional heft to drive them. Promisingly, there are some hilarious moments – notably the crew banter “Sugar tits,” Danny McBride’s Tennessee mutters – but the rest of their narration is sadly flawed. Thankfully their stoic performances, particularly McBride, carry the film enough for it to pull through.
Secondly, the tone. The problem with Scott’s directing is that he either makes his films too light or too heavy, and here the emphasis is high on heavy. It’s a slow drive from the opening. The tension is there and from the very beginning we know what kind of film this is, so it’s inevitable that these characters will meet their demise at some point. Here, it’s obvious, unlike the original which had tension in the right places, making it hard to know which one would go first. Like the Xenomorph, this film is blind to it’s own flaws, as if Scott has a say on how and when each character goes. He’s not light on this material either. There’s a lot of gore – in fact a seemingly cringeworthy amount of it – and there is of course a more notable way of direction, which takes a turn into the more familiar territory too.
Both of these flaws are thankfully brushed over by the tension, which is clearly noticeable from the first planetary footsteps – the tension is on the constant rise from the moment we see these alien critters to the third act. Though fast in it’s execution, it is stunning and proudly gives a solid end to the sixth film in the franchise. ‘Alien Covenant’ isn’t the best ‘Alien’film in the franchise, but thanks to Scott’s stunning direction and the beautiful practical effects, Scott is back on firm ground.
VERDICT: Not the best but certainly not the worst. With its flawed narration and heavy-handed techniques it’s a vast improvement on his last sci-fi venture. Though it still sadly doesn’t top the 1979 original.
- By Corey Denford