A solid movie you will enjoy if you’re a fan of the Alien franchise or typical sci fi horror plots.
Director: Ridley Scott
Cast: Michael Fassbender, Katherine Waterson, Noomi Rapace, Billy Crudup, Danny McBride, James Franco
Rated R for sci-fi violence, bloody images, language and some sexuality/nudity
Run time: 2hr. 1 min.
Trailer: Click Here!
Alien: Covenant, directed by Ridley Scott and starring Michael Fassbender and Katherine Waterston is just like it’s predecessor, Prometheus, in that it will go down as a controversial movie for fans. Some seem to have really enjoyed this movie as a “return to form” in the series and some not so much. Covenant acts as both the sequel to Prometheus and also the prequel to 1979’s Alien. (there is also talk of a third movie in the works). This movie is essentially the story of how the aliens, also called xenomorph’s, came into being. This is the main point of contention with some fans. At the center is the colony ship “Covenant” which runs into trouble (of course) along the way to their destination and are lured to a different planet where things really start to hit the fan.
It’s extremely risky doing an origin story with such a beloved and popular franchise. Even more so with Aliens, because the xenomorph’s specific origin source has always been largely a mystery until now. You almost have a “no win” scenario as fans have had decades to create their own ideas and theories. It’s almost impossible not to judge such a movie by these preconceived expectations, and in that regard Covenant gets an unfair handicap. If you can go in with minimal expectations, the movie is a very fun, horror movie. Is it a groundbreaking movie that enriches the lore as a whole? No, not really; but as someone who grew up watching the series, I thought it was a solid addition to the franchise.
As to be expected with Ridley Scott as director, the cinematography is incredible. It’s one of the best things about the movie. Shot after shot is filmed at the perfect angle and just looks incredible. There’s one scene that stands out in particular for me of a spaceship entering a planet’s atmosphere: cutting through the clouds, flying through a mountain range…it’s gorgeous. One thing the movie does extremely well is mix these beautiful landscapes and sci-fi set pieces with grizzly death and darkness of a classic space horror. These elements are perfectly woven together which creates a sense of realism to the story.
The cast is almost entirely forgettable. You can tell from the very beginning they are there for one purpose only: to be brutally terrorized and massacred. The problem is that you don’t really care that they die; there’s no investment in the characters at all. Since this is a colony mission, everyone has a partner which helps to foster more of a sense of loss but it’s not quite enough. A couple promotional prologue clips were released on YouTube that serve to help flesh out the characters. It’s a shame that these scenes weren’t actually in the movie as they would have helped to add weight to the situation the characters find themselves in.
There were really only 3 standouts: “Daniels,” played by Katherine Waterston, “Tennessee,” played by Danny Mcbride, and the synthetics “David” and “Walter,” both played by Michael Fassbender.
The best of the three is easily Fassbender, playing both android personalities flawlessly. They are by far the most interesting element of the entire movie (besides the aliens, of course). It’s also a testament to how advanced CGI has become, as whenever Fassbender was standing beside himself as the two characters, it was 100% believable. Waterston’s “Daniels” fills in the slot of the strong female lead that Sigourney Weaver started in the original movies, and while she doesn’t quite measure up, she does a respectable job. Danny Mcbride did a surprisingly fantastic job as the ship’s pilot; proving he can handle more serious roles as an actor. He was the only supporting character that was remotely interesting.
Covenant has different tones during the movie. It starts as a continuation of Prometheus, but then it shifts from sequel to prequel mode and becomes very similar in nature to the original horror film. As I said the movie doesn’t really take any risks; it just recycles ideas from the previous films…which it does very well at least. I personally enjoyed it as that is all I was expecting, however if you were looking for something different you may be disappointed.
It’s also worth noting that the story takes a turn near the end that you will see coming from a mile away. It is literally so obvious that it’s frustrating that not one of the main cast picks up on it.
7 alien back-bursts out of 10.
The bottom line is Alien: Covenant sticks to the horror movie stereotypes of it’s genre and hits much of the same beats as its predecessors. Whether that works for you or not will depend entirely on what your expectations are going in. Is this the best movie in the Alien series? Not even close. But it is a solid and fun addition that will entertain and leave you with several questions that will hopefully be answered in the next movie.
SPOILERS SECTION BELOW!!
Go watch the movie then come back.
One James Franco Cameo, Well Done.
I want to know how much James Franco was paid for his 60 seconds of acting for this movie. Seriously. After watching “The Last Supper” prologue on YouTube I was interested to see how Franco would do in an Alien movie, especially as the critical role of captain. I knew he would die a horrible death, but I figured he’d last at least a little longer. In the clip he even mentioned not feeling well…an attempt at misdirecting viewers into suspecting he might have had a run-in with a face hugger and we’d get to see an alien pop out of his chest at some point.
Instead, barely two mins into the film we see his life support pod burst into flames from the inside, roasting Franco to a crisp. He appears later in the film as Daniels looks back at an old video recording of him. His death was a great way to explain why the crew would make the decision to investigate the mystery planet: the captain’s successor was an imbecile. Franco isn’t the highest paid actor to be sure, but it is curious why they would waste such a small role on one of the most well known actors in the movie?
Grade A Science Fiction Gore
Like any good horror movie, there is a substantial amount of gruesome gore in this movie. However, the gore in Covenant is executed intelligently. While people died horrible deaths from unrealistic causes (like aliens bursting out of their bodies), most of the gore is crafted and carried out in a way that it stays within the realm of believable medicine and science, giving the illusion of realism.
Fassbender’s Walter and David: They don’t make them like they used to.
While there were some weird moments, enough can’t be said about Fassbender’s performance. I don’t think I’ve seen an actor play multiple characters in the same movie outside of the comedy genre and he nails it. The way both characters talk, move, and act are flawless. You will believe that they are androids.
I did think it was extremely awkward that David went on a kissing spree in the third act of the movie, first with Walter and again during his fight with Daniels. Maybe that was the point, but it just took me out of the movie. Maybe if this was David’s first human contact, but he spent all of Prometheus with human beings.
I also think there should have been more details explained about Elizabeth Shaw’s fate from Prometheus. Clearly David killed her in his experimentation perfecting the xenomorphs, but why did she play such an important role? And for that matter, why is Daniels so important to his experiments: he told her he was going to do the same thing to her. Maybe these questions will be answered in the next installment.
The Xenomorph Birds and the Bees
This is the part of the movie that has drawn the most controversy. We learn in Covenant that the origin of the Alien species as we know it is due to genetic experimentation by the insane synthetic David. On it’s surface, it is a somewhat boring explanation to a species that’s been held in such mystery and fascination for decades. The xenomorph’s lose some of their intrigue, and it focus shifts more to an android who struggles with existential questions. Xenomorphs have always been depicted as a force of nature that can’t be contained, not obedient children to their “puppet master” creator. The best way to course correct in the next movie would be to have the aliens rise up against their creator and take back control of their own evolution.
Plot Twist: The Character’s Are Dumber Than You Thought
How is it possible that Daniels and Tennessee can’t see that David is pretending to be Walter?! It couldn’t be more obvious. There’s a comment Walter makes about the newer line of androids being able to self heal and that David being an older model, cannot. At the end of the movie we see Daniels stapling the gash in Walter’s face. That should have been it, right there.
But to be fair, the crew of the Covenant are not very smart in general. While it’s true that the characters of most horror movies make dumb decisions; these characters make such terrible decisions that it’s beyond ridiculous.
-Strange transmission coming from unknown planet? We should risk the lives of 2000 colonists and investigate.
-Dark creepy place with aliens outside? I should go off on my own and let my guard down so I can clean up.
-Creepy android gets upset when you kill an alien? I should follow him to a chamber filled with some type of pods and stick my face over top of it as it opens up.