MEET THE NEW XENOMORPH. SAME AS THE OLD XENOMORPH.
Review by Paul Preston
Alien: Covenant has so many science fiction 101 mistakes that it puts a damper on all the good things that come out of it. But there’s enough here I found interesting, coupled with a killer ending, to where I can more or less recommend it. So there you go, ringing endorsement.
The plot involves a spaceship, the Covenant, en route to a distant planet to terraform it and colonize it with humans. There are thousands of colonists on board as well as embryos and a crew. The crew awakens when a ship re-energizing session encounters a problem. Also on board is Walter (Michael Fassbender), an android in the vein of David, the synthetic human introduced in Prometheus (and also played by Fassbender). Walter sees to the ship’s successful functioning during the crew’s cryogenic sleep. While pulled from hypersleep by the re-energizing issue, the crew gets a distress signal (that appears to be human) from a nearby planet. I’d say they all agree to explore the source of this signal, but it’s more the stubborn command of the ship’s new captain, played by Billy Crudup.
This is both a sequel to 2012’s Prometheus and a prequel to 1979’s Alien, which proves complicated in a number of ways. For example, aren’t there a number of statues of the xenomorph aliens in Prometheus? Yet, in Covenant, we’re given a story of their inception that takes place after Prometheus – that’s a timeline screw-up. And in Alien and Prometheus, when the space exploration teams get an up-close look at a new terrain, they wear helmets. They don’t in Covenant, and I can tell you wearing a helmet would’ve saved everyone a lot of problems.
Even the idea to go to this new planet which could potentially house humanity is a dumb one, so says the second in command, played by Katherine Waterston. The ship’s original destination has been vetted and researched and all systems are go for it. Why, indeed, veer from the course? The answer, of course, is, “How else would they get attacked by aliens?”
Michael Fassbender continues to be the highlight of any film he’s in. His David and Walter are both unpredictable and manage to somehow be deeper than their human counterparts in the movie. Coming off of Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, Katherine Waterston is having a good year as a sci-fi/fantasy go-to actor.
The best part of the film is David and Walter and their creator, Peter Weyland, played by Guy Pearce. The whole film hinges on a hypnotic prologue where Weyland discusses with David their roles on Earth, Weyland’s as creator and David as creation. It’s a mannered and sterile scene, but there’s a lot going on underneath that will push to the surface as the film goes on.
The worst part of the film is that this entry in the Alien canon does nothing to further the mythology. After expanding the world of the aliens in Prometheus, there were any number of places the story could go, but this film mostly lives in “aliens killing humans” territory, a territory well-traveled. But I suppose if you’re gonna go down that path, you want to walk it with Ridley Scott, who brings his trademark high-end production value and penchant for generating palpable thrills. I was just hoping that coming off The Martian, his adherence to science fiction sensibility would be a little stricter. It’s a shame there are so many questionable decisions here made by both the characters and scriptwriters.
But stay with it, the finale is a fantastic gut-shot.
Directed by: Ridley Scott
Release Date: May 19, 2017
Run Time: 122 Minutes
Distributor: 20th Century Fox