Alien Covenant is a pleasant surprise. I wasn’t a huge fan of Prometheus, especially when compared to the original Alien and the incredible Aliens. Now, Director Ridley Scott has crafted a film much more in line with the originals, blending the horror of Alien with the action of Aliens. And whilst Covenant is by no means better than those iconic films, it certainly raises some interesting themes, as well as containing some outstanding special effects and performances.
Taking place 10 years after Prometheus, the film follows a crew aboard the ship named Covenant, a vessel carrying members of a large scale colonisation mission. After being woken up from cryosleep early after a horrific solar flare hits the ship, the crew receive a transmission from a seemingly habitable planet that they have somehow missed in their research. With an investigation underway, against the opinion of the protagonist Daniels, (Katherine Waterston) the team soon find themselves entrapped in a situation of pure terror, having to survive against deadly creatures that threatens the entire crew.
Much like the film’s predecessor, Alien Covenant is a visual delight, immersing audiences into the seemingly beautiful world that the crew investigate. The luscious environments are captured fantastically through the amazing cinematography, whether it be planetary or in space. Despite the fact that the spaceships and technology presented in the film are fictionalised, there is a sense of tangibility and realism to them that engages us in Covenant’s world building. The entire aesthetic of the film is stunning, and the same can be said for the makeup and special effects department for the characters and the aliens. The gore is awesome, and is truly disturbing, exactly what it should be from a classic sci-fi horror franchise. Thanks to the dedication from the filmmaking crew, the horror is not just through cheap jump scares, but through true pain and tension, a major positive that truly impacted me.
Furthermore, the performances across the board are excellent, with Michael Fassbender easily being the standout of the film. Playing multiple roles, he delivers a sense of creepiness and ambiguity that allows us to parallel the character’s sense of curiosity and concern. Danny McBride was a concern of mine going into the film as I had only seen him in comedic roles, yet he delivers an extremely competent performance, successfully delivering his character’s emotions. Katherine Waterston is also a welcome addition to the franchise, and despite the fact that she isn’t at the standard of the incredible Ripley, her character and performance are interesting, gaining our sympathy.
Covenant also continues the trend that Prometheus started in the raising of intriguing questions about humanity. Prometheus was about the danger of our desire to discover. Covenant evolves that mystery in that it concerns the issue of human’s creationism, and how advancements may lead to our downfall. In contrast to the straight up hybrid of horror and action of the originals, the introduction of complex theological subjects into the franchise has been undoubtedly been divisive, yet for me it layers the franchise and elevates its engagement with audiences.
However, the film is by no means perfect. Dumb characters unfortunately seem to be an indicative trope of the genre. Throughout the film, there are a couple of moments that I rolled my eyes at, as no one would act this way in the current situation. I understand that the plot needs to be progressed and that the threat needs to heighten, yet the film continues the problems that Prometheus had in that sense. Also, there are some supposed ‘twists’ that I could see coming from a mile away, one in particular. The problem is that the film seems so proud of itself when the twist is revealed, yet that is half an hour after I figured out exactly what was going to happen. That being said, the first act is full of intriguing mystery that I wasn’t confident on where the plot was going. It’s just the third act that lets the overall film down, lacking the tension that the first two acts had.
So overall, Alien Covenant is an improvement on Prometheus. The characters were better developed, the scares were more impactful and the overall story was far more intriguing. However, Covenant suffers from a weak third act, as well as some questionable decisions made by the characters that hinder our empathy with them. I would still recommend this instalment though, as with two more hotly anticipated sequels on the way, we are truly back into the Alien mythology.
I give Alien Covenant 7.5 out of 10