Review: Alien: Covenant

Alien: Covenant
8 10

**Mild Spoilers below**

It’s been five years since we’ve last revisited the ALIEN franchise with Ridley Scott’s ambiguous origin tale in PROMETHEUS, a film that ended up being a more divisive look at the series than simply a well-made monster movie. Many were disappointed that there wasn’t more (or any, technically speaking) of the famed xenomorph creatures in the film, replaced instead with a peek at another race of strange beings, The Engineers, and their mysterious “black goo” that makes monsters of everything it touches. Now, comes ALIEN: COVENANT, a follow-up to PROMETHEUS and second part of a prequel of films leading to the original ALIEN, which ditches the ambiguity of the title, letting us know that this is, in fact, a return to the acid-blood extraterrestrials that have terrified us (mostly) since the original. The question hinging on everyone’s minds now is whether or not this truly is a return to that type of film or a retread of PROMETHEUS. Unfortunately, the answer to that question isn’t an easy one.

We pick up ten years after PROMETHEUS, aboard a colony spaceship, The Covenant (the first of many Biblical references in the film), which is on a mission to settle on a preordained habitable planet (with all 2,000 passengers being couples). However, they are derailed from their course after receiving a mysterious transmission that leads to what appears to be another habitable planet. Figuring they may as well check it out as it’s a much closer destination, they send out a crew to investigate and that’s where trouble brews in paradise, setting up a chain of events that rapidly accelerates into tragedy, horror and a chance encounter that ultimately answers many of the burning questions left over from PROMETHEUS and the ALIEN franchise as a whole.

Now, whether those answers satisfy is up to you and I think there will be much debate and discussion afterwards, which leaves ALIEN: COVENANT in the same divisive category as PROMETHEUS. For me, I loved PROMETHEUS, but with some genuine gripes, notably the moronic actions of the “scientists” and the lack of explanation in many areas. The ideas presented, however, are what intrigued me and thankfully they are explored even more in ALIEN: COVENANT, but in a much more straightforward manner. This leads to some rather horrific revelations that give us a picture into what’s transpired since we last saw the android David (played by Michael Fassbender) and Dr. Elizabeth Shaw (Noomi Rapace), who set out to find the Engineers after the events of PROMETHEUS to ask them why they sought to destroy humanity.

When we are confronted with the end result of David and Shaw’s journey we find that David has been very busy at his final destination, the home world of The Engineers. David, as it turns out, has continued to develop, grow and become more than he was designed for (or has he?), which leads to a picture of madness and horror that’s more unexpected than anything. David has become something else entirely and when he runs into the explorers from The Covenant it becomes a nightmarish journey that escalates quickly.

COVENANT moves at a brisk pace and there’s hardly a dull moment (although a few overstay their welcome), but plenty of odd ones that lend more to the character of David than anything else. Strange and more than a little freaky, Fassbender quickly becomes the whole show here, oozing with the same spooky charm that he exhibited in PROMETHEUS, but elevated to new levels since the gap. David, in all his mysterious ways, becomes more terrifying than the xenomorphs themselves. I wish I could elaborate on that, but the biggest problem with even discussing ALIEN: COVENANT is that it’s near impossible to get into any real discourse about it without diving deep into heavy spoilers. I think that’s a great thing, actually, as whether you love or hate the events that transpire here, you’ll find that there’s much to chew on afterwards as they reverberate throughout the franchise mythos.

Now, many of you are concerned with how much, how many, and how scary the xenomorphs are in COVENANT, having been absent from the big screen since that horrid AVP: REQUIEM sequel. We are most certainly reunited with the famed drooling, black-domed creature and not just in the form we’re used to, but a few others that I found to be just as frightening. It’s an evolutionary presentation and one that I felt paid off quite nicely, although I think many will debate whether or not it was enough. Still, it’s great to see those freaky bastards back in all their original glory. As for the gore factor; this is undoubtedly an R-rated flick and there are more than a few bloody scenes that will make you grit your teeth, wince and potentially smile with glee depending on your level of desensitization. Its not game-changing gore, but it’s at least prominent.

The cast is solid, but they all suffer at being outshined by Fassbender’s dual portrayal of David, as well as Walter, the Covenant’s android that’s been “improved” upon since David was created. Speaking with a kind of Southern drawl, Walter bonds with Katherine Waterston’s Daniels, a tough-yet-vulnerable crewmember who exhibits more than a few traits of Sigourney Weaver’s Ripley, but is still hindered by a lack of fully formed development. That goes for most of the cast, who carry a lot of the film on their personas than anything else, as we don’t quite get into their heads or lives enough to get too close. Walter, on the other hand, presents an interesting duality to David and their scenes together are magnificently strange, not only because they’re both Fassbender, but because of their competing nature. It’s simply fascinating and odd to watch.

As for Ridley Scott, I think he’s taken the criticism of PROMETHEUS and tried to deliver a film that pleases on both fronts and it has varying degrees of success and failure. His style and aesthetic are a given at this point; he’s a refined filmmaker and one of the best in the business. That hasn’t changed. However, the story is often imbalanced with the focus shifting in the middle of the film, almost jarringly so, which is a bit of a bittersweet shift as it takes us down a road we definitely want to explore. Another issue is that some of the promotional stuff that’s come out ahead of the film, which detailed both the crew of The Covenant as well as a bit on David and Shaw’s journey to the Engineer’s planet, is excised in the finished film. Not everyone going to see the film has caught those bits and I felt they would’ve added that extra bit of insight to the overall flow.

So, is ALIEN: COVENANT a great ALIEN film or redemption for those who hated PROMETHEUS? That’s a tough call and one that I think will ultimately fall to the audience, as it’s every bit a film that begs to be discussed in great detail as the ideas presented and history-changing nature of it are a fascinating look into the ALIEN franchise as a whole. As a standalone watch, it’s an intense and fun ride, but as a piece of the overall series it’s very much a piece of a puzzle. I’m sure some people will walk away disappointed, while others will be excited and buzzing about where this series goes next, given the events that transpire and where that leaves it. Love it or hate it, I think it’s a film that will be discussed at length and many folks will head straight home and pop in PROMETHEUS to connect the dots. For me, I love the doors it opens, the questions it answers, the villain it creates and the direction it’s headed, even if it misses some beats along the way.

Source: Joblo.com



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