20TH CENTURY FOX (2017)
Director: Ridley Scott
Starring: Michael Fassbender, Katherine Waterston, Billy Crudup, Danny McBride, Carmen Ejogo, Jussie Smollett, Demián Bichir
What do you do after Prometheus?
Make a better movie for a start. Though what Ridley Scott has made is a mix of classic Alien tropes and blended them with Prometheus style dialogue and dare I say, pretentiousness? With Alien: Covenant we get back bursters, chest bursters, face huggers, Xenomorphs, Neomorphs and some familiar claustrophobic settings. We also get stilted dialogue surrounding poetry, flutes and “the Entry of the Gods into Valhalla” (which is a fine piece of music). It should blend into a slick mix of old and new? Almost.
Set 10 years after the events of Prometheus, we follow the team of USCSS Covenant floating through deep space headed for Origae-6 – a paradise planet for the 2000+ colonists and crew on board to call home. Trouble is, a catastrophe causes mass damage to the ship and fatalities for the crew before they reach their destination. Couple that with the sounds of John Denver being broadcast through wild Space in the form of a rogue transmission and the new captain Oram (Crudup) decides to deviate off route to a new lush planet and find the source, much to the chagrin of officer Daniels (Waterston). You can probably imagine this doesn’t end well.
The imagery and cinematography is fantastic throughout. The Earth-like planet (with no sounds…) looks otherworldly and atmospheric without really offering a lot and the necropolis looks menacing and provides a really great looking setting with a devious backstory. The use of silence has always been a key to the Alien franchise, and Covenant carries on the tradition with the sound of terrifying silence filling the air as the game of cat and mouse begins. Visually, it looks beautiful.
Something that isn’t beautiful is the Neomorph, an ugly looking beast that will hunt you and eat your face, there’s something uneasily scary about these guys. They hunt like raptors and stay behind to eat their victims. Their introduction scene in the long fields is brilliantly relentless. When our favourite alien, the Xenomorph turned up, I can’t pretend I didn’t fist pump.
The acting throughout is at a high level, Waterston is great as the Ripley-lite, alien hunting badass and Danny McBride is fun as Tennessee, plus he’s wearing a cowboy hat in space – rock on. Michael Fassbender provides the premier level, however, with his portrayals of android’s Walter and David (a survivor of the doomed Prometheus mission). His almost seductive David keeps the crew (and us) on edge as his nefarious schemes unravel and boy can he play the flute.
Alien films have always been high on tense, high octane action and Covenant also provides this, though it does take some time to get to it (the best part of an hour) but when it comes it ferocious. From the moment the incredible back burster scene is unleashed, to the attack in the field right up to the final battle the action does not let up. The editing allows us to see what is happening, thankfully, and Scott doesn’t hold back on the violence and gore.
On the other hand, the movie is bogged down in overly heavy dialogue, especially between the androids and in the movies first act. There’s lots of exposition talk, lots of technical terms (not a new feature to the saga, I should add) and Biblical-level narratives surrounding creation, not forgetting the discussions surrounding literature. Not that any of that is necessarily bad, it just seem to bog the movie down and destabilise the pacing. Fassbender is also dealt the savageness of having to utter the lines “I’ll do the fingering” as he slides a flute into Walter’s mouth.
There’s the usual head-in-hands moments as people are invited to stare into evil looking alien eggs – despite being told about hybrid experiments – slipping at vital moments, firing shotguns in flammable areas and wandering off through unchartered territory on your own. The final battle is very reminiscent of what’s come before and the twist can be seen from a fair distance, however it is satisfying enough for me and will lead nicely into the next movie in this prequel saga.
Alien: Covenant had a fairly lean foundation from Prometheus, and in reality it shuns a lot of what is set up or slams the door shut on the story strands presented, but it does succeed in shifting the story closer to the original Alien movie, in terms of action and tone. There’s flaws aplenty, but also a good action movie and still better than Alien: Resurrection.
June 29th 2017