Xenomorphs, synthetics and bloodshed. Oh my! That is right. You guessed it. The Alien franchise is back in your multiplexes this weekend with a new entry entitled, Alien: Covenant. Question now is will the director, Ridley Scott, bring back the glory days of Alien (1979) and Aliens (1986) or continue down the spiral of franchise half-lives as has been the case ever since those films debuted? More on that later.
Alien: Covenant opens with a flashback to David’s (Michael Fassbender) early days with Peter Weyland (Guy Pearce). This takes place prior to the events of Prometheus (2012) which ended with David only being a head in a bag that Shaw carried with her fleeing to find the Creators/Engineers home world. To demand answers. Like, Why?
Next we are introduced to the colony ship Covenant and its crew. The only one awake is the synthetic Walter. Once a freak stellar event damages the ship, the rest of crew are awakened out of hypersleep. However, in an unconscious nod to Pitch Black (2000) the captain does not survive the event. The rest of the cast/crew are as follows:
Katherine Waterston – Daniels, Billy Crudup – Oram, Danny McBride – Tennessee, Demián Bichi – Lope, Carmen Ejogo – Karine, Jussie Smollett – Ricks, Callie Hernandez – Upworth, Amy Seimetz – Faris, Nathaniel Dean – Hallett, Alexander England – Ankor, Benjamin Rigby – Ledward, Uli Latukefu – Cole, Tess Haubrich – Rosenthal, Lorelei King – “Mother” (voice)
After the stellar event, the crew is forced to make repairs to the ship. While doing so, they pick up an unusual transmission that provides them the coordinates of another world that is much more viable for humans than even the world they were on the way to colonize. Coincidence or Fate?
After making the decision, over the objections of the former Captain’s widow Daniels, to check out this new world, acting Captain Oram leads the crew right to a meetup with very bad things. You likely guessed that already.
Now you all know the drill, darlings. This is an Alien film, so the mortality rate is as high as expected. There is running, screaming, blood, and scares aplenty for any horror flick. This is handled in very professional, if rather standard, manner by the filmmakers. It is not a very imaginative improvement on the past, unfortunately. More like another cycle of the same old tune. Yet there is a small slice of humor thanks the Tennessee’s “sugar dick” rejoinders. We are also back in the welcoming arms of “Mother” as the on-board ship computer which was an awesome choice by Ridely, I expect.
The most interesting part of the film is the Fassbender on Fassbender action. His dual role of David and Walter is creepy good fun to watch. The interaction is very well done. These two come into conflict, naturally, and it is a sight to see. Oddly, all the promotional material leads you to believe this is Ripley 2.0 with Waterson in the lead. Really, this is a film about David. He is the center.
So, the main problem of the film is really lack of depth and imagination with the crew characters. The acting seems quite good, but the writing of Dan O’Bannon and Ronald Shusset left much to be desired. At one point there is a tussle and not one, but two, characters slip and fall on blood in the same sequence. I kid you not. These are hardy space colonists we are talking about. Right?
Another issue, that is sadly inevitable, is the comparison between Daniels and Ripley. They are a bit alike and even resemble each other a bit which seems an odd choice – a non-brunette seems the obvious way to go here, folks. Problem is, there is no way to out-do Ripley. So as good as Waterson is, the performance is a bit doomed.
The film is one that an Alien fan will get some enjoyment from, but not great satisfaction. If you are not an Alien fan then you might want to pass this one by. At the end of the film, we are left with a great sense of foreboding. The final xenomorph battle is behind us, for now. But you will see that there is much, much to be feared about the future.