Contains Minor Spoilers
Ridley Scott’s follow-up to 2012’s Prometheus and a further continuation of the popular Alien franchise, Alien: Covenant follows the crew of a colonisation ship who receive a beacon that leads them to a potentially habitable planet, far closer than the one they were originally heading for. However whilst on the planet, crew members start falling ill, they find themselves under attack by alien creatures and, with the help of a very familiar face, they must survive and find a way to contact their fellow crewmates and escape the planet.
As can be expected from a sci-fi survival story, the majority of the central crew are pretty throwaway, pure cannon fodder for the Xenomorphs, but unfortunately even the most important crew members are wholly unremarkable and have next to no defining characteristics at all. Whilst initially appearing as a potentially interesting character, given her tomboy hairstyle and all, Katherine Waterston’s character Daniels is too easily forgotten about; her characterization is quickly abandoned so that the film can go off in other directions and ultimately, her character is bland and with no discernible character traits, despite an early scene setting her up to be the voice of reason, which all proves to be worthless in the long run.
In addition, Billy Crudup, even with his recognisable Dr. Manhattan voice, is uninteresting and the only other character who is even slightly remarkable is ship pilot Tennessee. So named because he . . . wears a hat.
But then there’s Michael Fassbender who, as in Prometheus, plays the dual roles of Walter and David excellently (treating us to some divine “Fassbender on Fassbender” action) and is undoubtedly the film’s saving grace, the star of the show. It may be a little hard to put into words just how he nails the roles but he gets the android mannerisms down to a tee and overall, he completely dominates the film, stealing all the best scenes and giving the film a definite reason to be watched. Plus, he gets to don a badass cloak & hood combo, complete with long hair that makes him look suspiciously like Iggy Pop. Oh, and he gets some more Lawrence of Arabia quoting in there.
Covenant‘s story is simple, certainly not as convoluted as the plot of Prometheus, but in its simplicity lies the danger: it all inevitably ends up as the Alien story that we’ve all seen before (especially noticeable since Alien wannabe Life was released earlier this year!) The film offers us no real surprises as it’s your basic “crew find themselves on planet, aliens are born, gore is unleashed, thing must be stopped” and it is all fairly pointless, pretty much existing as something of an Alien reboot with the style and tone of Prometheus added for good measure. The film also can’t resist referencing its original source material, given the opening title style, the onscreen rundown of the vessel’s crew/mission and the final “signing off” narration, so in this respect, the film treads all too familiar ground and adds nothing new or revolutionary.
And I’m sorry to say that I saw the final revelation coming many minutes before it was revealed. Although the scene plays out with remarkable style and panache, I have to mark it down for predictability.
But even with the film’s character and story problems, Covenant is very well designed and so much of it is visually impressive; the locations are often awe-inspiring and the spaceships and technology look very impressive (though the filmmakers apparently nicked the “solar sails” idea from Deep Space Nine!) The only thing that I wasn’t keen on was the design of the Xenomorphs; the flesh coloured aliens were decidedly unappealing and the later chestbursting scene, though it began well enough, ended up looking ridiculous and wrong. But on that note, it was good to see plenty of gore and carnage in the film.
The film’s score is not really worth mentioning but thankfully, it does reintroduce that wonderful theme from Prometheus during one of the film’s more moving scenes and also in a later scene, played beautifully on a recorder. I only really noticed the beauty of the Prometheus theme on my third rewatch and I’m so glad that it was brought back in Covenant.
Oh, and the film does the important job of warning about the intense dangers of shower sex. “Surviving a horror film” rule number one, people! It’s the sex/death factor!
And did they ever figure out how that wheat got on the planet? I mean, they brought a wheat expert didn’t they?
“I know wheat.” Of course you do. Silliest line in the movie, right there.