Directed by: Ridley Scott
Cast: Michael Fassbender, Katherine Waterston, Billy Crudup, Danny McBride
We were promised a terrifying Alien film. We were promised the most graphic and grotesque Alien film. We were promised an Alien film that would aid in piecing Alien and Prometheus together with a bit more clarity. Were the promises honest? Was Alien: Covenant the shocker the marketing masterminds assured us it would be, or was it all simple hyperbole?
We got honest promises folks, the hyperbole was not a factor in the latest installment of the Alien franchise.
That’s not to say the film was flawless. There are a few sequences in the film that feel just a tad murky, and there are a few mysteries left to contemplate. The mysteries felt predesigned. The murkier sequences, not so much.
Getting into the plot isn’t going to be all too easy without pumping out some huge spoilers. So, for the sake of a genuine surprise, I’ll work to navigate around spoilers as best as possible.
The Covenant is a ship setting course for a habitable planet. The idea is to drop a few thousand breathers on a new planet and begin colonization. But a mysterious signal is intercepted long before the Covenant is slated to arrive on this new planet, and the Covenant is able to trace its location and make it there years before the intended destination. So, the call is made and the crew make the drop to seek out the signal and find out whether or not this particular planet is ideal for colonization.
Here’s where things get shaky for me, as I really, really don’t intend to spoil the film just yet. I’ll be happy to discuss details in a few weeks, but fans deserve to take this one in without knowing every plot twist in advance.
Obviously, things go awry on this planet. Atmospherically speaking, yes, it could indeed be a perfect planet to start anew. However, there’s a very explainable reason for the signal, and while you can likely guess what that reason is if you’ve been following the franchise, I won’t (I know, this is getting old) spell it out for you. You know there are aliens of all different sorts on the planet, and that is, ultimately what matters.
Visually speaking, the movie is every bit as amazing as Prometheus and the first two Alien films. The cast is terrific, with Danny McBride being the greatest surprise; guess what, he’s every bit as awesome in a serious and emotional role as he is in comedic works. McBride is a stud, that’s all there is to it. Katherine Waterston, who is essentially the equivalent of Ripley, or Shaw, is great and she’s got strong onscreen presence, however, her character doesn’t really receive the screen time she deserves until we’re well into the final act. It would have been nice to see her extended a little bit more focus. On the flipside of that coin, there are fewer expendable characters in this film than there were in Prometheus. There were a sizable handful of characters in Prometheus that leave no impression in life, or in death. That’s not the case here, as just about every key crew member gets equivalent screen time, which allows the viewer to invest in a larger body of personalities.
The ending, unfortunately, is rather predictable. The film’s introduction, in a way, actually spoils the picture’s grand twist. That, in my mind was strange. Ridley Scott is a sharp filmmaker, to know that he okayed a crucial introductory sequence that all but spells out the twist two hours before we get to it seems a bit bewildering. In fact, it seems completely out of character for Scott. And, as the terror barrels forward, and we do finally get to that twist, we feel extremely confident that we know what the big surprise is, and, if you’re a viewer who keeps the entirety of the film in mind while watching and dissecting, you’ll nail that surprise, 100-percent.
So, there are some disappointments in the film. But the new aliens we’re introduced to are menacing in a serious way, so there’s a constant pulse of tension that courses through the movie. The gore is also a blast. From the back-burster that the trailers spoil, to the face-hugger attack that the trailers spoil to the severed jaws, erupting body parts and general expulsion of graphic nastiness that the trailers do not (thank the heavens) spoil, we get more than enough. Every picture in the Alien franchise has a few extremely gory moments, but Alien: Covenant is absolutely packed full of them. Some may feel it’s a bit excessive, some may find it rewarding. I personally liked the gruesome nature of the flick, but at the same time I wouldn’t have been bothered if the graphic shots had been trimmed down.
Alien fans are going to enjoy this movie, for the most part. Like Prometheus, it feels a little overambitious at times, but, like Prometheus, it has a huge heart, compelling characters and well-timed beats that Scott enjoys hitting on the head. It’s a picture that consistently entertains, and that’s what film is all about. There’s certainly more to come from Ridley Scott and the Alien universe, and we’ve now got a little bit better idea of where the next adventure may lead us.