"We don't leave Earth to be safe"
After an accident wakes the sleeping crew of the colony ship Covenant they discover a transmission that leads them to an uncharted planet. Looking for their new home on this paradise world they instead find dark secrets and a threat that could endanger them all.
Alien: Covenant marks the sixth film in the Alien franchise, a series that has produced varying degrees of greatness over its nearly 40-year life cycle. The original Alien from 1979 is a perfect film in my opinion, standing the test of time as not only the best in the series but also one of the greatest atmospheric horror films ever made. James Cameron’s Aliens pushes the series into new terrain with his signature style of action while Alien 3 and Resurrection are interesting mood and style pieces that I, for one, find incredibly enjoyable. It’s been five years now since Ridley Scott decided to take us back to the world of the Weyland Yutani Corporation with Prometheus, a film that is as about as divisive as they come with some audience members expecting a return to the atmospheric horror of Alien while others hoped for a more action based thrill ride. Regardless, it made an interesting addition to the Alien canon and left many unanswered questions that left moviegoers wondering what happens next?
This is where Alien: Covenant steps in. While it was marketed as more of an Alien film, there is no doubt that this is truly the sequel to Prometheus, picking up ten years after the doomed mission of the previous vessel. The film does well to bring the audience up to speed as to what’s happened since the Prometheus disappeared, allowing for a satisfying conclusion to that first tale while continuing to thread the needle for more thrills to come. With this, second film in his prequel trilogy, Scott attempts to bridge the gap between Prometheus and Alien and in the process he’s crafted a film that blurs the line between thrilling space horror and over the top, gory schlock.
What made the other films in the franchise so enjoyable was the fact that they all clearly knew what they were. The unsure tone and mixing of style is the main problem most people had with Prometheus and it’s one that's unfortunately stuck around for Covenant. The film works well to build tension, setting up a narrative that is driven by discover, mistakes and then horror but it inevitably falls into the tropes of b-movie action seeming to be more excited in showcasing it’s gory kills and bloody effects than to create genuine horror. That being said the gore factor is A+ as Scott and his team construct fun set pieces and creatures to torment the hapless crew of the doomed Covenant.
The crew itself are comprised of wonderful actors doing what they can to bring an emotional connection to the film and its narrative. It’s just a shame that for the most part the film is focusing more on its thrills and gore than establishing realism and depth within the characters that inhabit it. Michael Fassbender clearly loves acting in these films, delivering a powerful performance that allows him to really play with his co-stars and the audience’s expectations. Katherine Waterston does well with what she is given which unfortunately, for a film franchise that is built upon having strong women at its core, isn’t a whole lot while Billy Crudup personifies dickheadery to it’s utmost bringing his trademark style of smarmy arrogance to the table in an underwritten role he develops well.
The story and the characters are simply a loose veil to allow for fun set pieces, exciting thrills and a way to build upon the origins of the Engineers and the Xenomorphs. Fans of the series will enjoy the continuation of this world building as Scott expands his universe and develops the creatures and their origins in new and exciting ways. It’s just a shame the film as a whole is not as great as the sum of its parts.
With a messy tone and somewhat unfocused direction it never reaches the heights fans were hoping for and doesn’t quite return the franchise to the greatness it once reached. That being said the film is still a lot of fun. Genre fans will revel in it’s gore and thrills while Alien purist will find fun and intriguing answers to the many questions left after Prometheus that work to build the canon and leave the audience wanting more.
6 out of 10
Reviewed by Chris Swan.