One of my most anticipated films of the year, has finally arrived. I have waited a solid five years for this film, essentially ever since Prometheus (which I loved by the way and still do) ended, I was left curious with what Ridley Scott would do next with the franchise.
The film follows a group of scientists on a journey to find a new home for mankind and colonise a new planet. When they receive a signal from a near by planet, that shows even better signs of being inhabitalbal by humans they to visit it. Little do they know they are slowly descending into hell.
I’ll start off by saying I very much like how the film developed the story within the first act, it felt familiar to the orginal Alien yet at the same time the script kept it feeling fresh. The reason given for the Covenant crew landing on this new planet was a believable one, that helped the film avoid feeling like a complete retread of the first act from the original Alien. In my eyes, the script is mostly successful. As someone who loves Prometheus I was worried that a lot of what made Prometheus so thought provoking and intriguing to me would be lost. Don’t get me wrong there are certain aspects of Prometheus that are never explored again, such as the engineeers and why they created human life and why they wanted to then destroy their creation. Those of you hoping to receive answers for those questions will be a little disappointed. We do get a few answers to some questions we have been asking, but not as many as most people will want. So whilst some key aspects of Prometheus are maintained within this script, some of it, mainly the plot thread revolving around the journey to discover the Engineers home planet, and finding out what their motivations were is entirely absent.
Michael Fassbender is simply outstanding. This is one hundred percent his film and he owns every second of screen time he has with a commanding presence. This will likely go down as one of the best dual performances in Cinematic history. He plays both the new android Walter, a more stripped back android with more robotic like qualities and less emotion. As well as once again playing David, the android from Prometheus who carried far more human like traits such as emotion, pride and pity. I love the direction he took the character of David in this film. There’s something very haunting yet beautifully poetic about the road that character has now gone down, something that links into the films opening in some very interesting and thematic ways. Without spoiling things, Fassbender does share a scene opposite himself as the two characters, which results in one of the most mesmerising scenes I’ve witnessed all year.
Katherine Waterston portrays Daniels, one of the lead members of the Covenant crew. I was happy with her performance overall, it felt very understated in way which made her feel very real and believeable. Those of you worrying that she might end up being a rip off of Ripley, fear not as she shares little to no similarities with her whatsoever. Billy Crudup’s Christopher is one of the other crew memebers that stood out to me, arguably it’s his character that receives the most development among the crew. He’s a religious man, conflicted by situation he is thrusted into. I would’ve liked for them to explore his faith even more to a similar degree that faith was explored in Prometheus, but unfortunately exploring his faith doesn’t go far beyond a couple scenes. The last crew memeber I want to speak about in detail is Danny McBride’s Tennessee. McBride was great, and proved that despite his well known background as a comedic actor, he can very much disappear into a more dramatic and emotionally demanding role.
As for the rest of the crew, well here lies one of my key problems with the film. The character development with the rest of them is fairly weak, they felt utterly expendable to me and only served the purpose of being there to ultimately fall victim to the films creatures. I didn’t care for any of them outside of our three lead crew memebers. I found that to be rather disappointing because I remember connecting with the crew of Prometheus and actually caring about the fate of that crew as a whole. The film itself has quite a slow start that is building up as it’s setting things in motion. I wouldn’t have an issue with that if it felt fully warranted but unfortunately it doesn’t. With all the time spent in the first act developing things, the film still failed to adequately develop most of the crew, so to some degree the slow first act feels a little bit like wasted time.
Now I don’t need to inform you that Ridley Scott is a masterful filmmaker, he’s proven this many times. Say what you want about Prometheus, I don’t think anybody can deny that, the film is visually impeccable. Surprise! this film is no different. The set designs, creature effects and cinematography are all to the highest level. A level that is just expected when you see Scott’s name attached to a Science Fiction film.
What Scott delivers with this instalment is expertly directed horror, loaded with suspense and nightmarish imagery that will be burned into your memeory. This is one of the most intense experiences I’ve had in a cinema for a very long time. Ridley is a master when it comes to winding up the intensity extremely high, and then holding it at that level and sustaining it for long periods of time. Whether it be the disturbing body horror on display or a certain level of paranoia generated between the characters, he can keep your heart beating and your attention transfixed. I spent the entire second half of the film, literally on the edge of my seat.
I like the approach taken with the creatures in this film. There is a new monster named the Neomorph which without spoiling anything has now claimed not only, one of the most terrifying sequences of this film, but of the entire Alien franchise. We obviously witness the titular monster again but how the Xenomorph is handled in this film is actually quite different to how it has been in previous films, it’s much faster and even more aggressive. This film certainly pushes the limits of what I believe a 15 rating in the UK should be. Certain sequences contain a large amount of gore, which never felt excessive in anyway but did heighten the horror of those scenes.
Thematically I just want to say that like Prometheus, the film does toss up some interesting themes for the hardcore fan to indulge them self in. It gave me plenty to think about and theorise over. I am so glad I am going to watch the film again tonight (opening day) in IMAX to dig even deeper into the themes presented.
The musical score consists of new pieces of composed music, that were very successful at creating a sense of dread throughout. One nice touch fans will appreciate is the return of some of the music, from both the original Alien and Prometheus.
The only other thing I will say is during the third act there is a surprise, but personally I saw it coming straight away. Despite being confident with identifying the twist, I have to say the film still did a great job at generating a certain level of paranoia. Also how the films climax links into the opening, then setting up for the next instalment is rather exquisite.
Imagine Ridley Scott put some of the best aspects of Alien, Aliens & Prometheus in a blender & mixed it all together. The finished product is Alien: Covenant. An intense, harrowingly visceral and gory experience that I highly recommend you see.
(4 Stars out of 5)
Alien: Covenant; Starring Michael Fassbender, Katherine Waterston, Billy Crudup, Danny McBride and Demián Bichi.
Directed by Ridley Scott. Now showing in UK Cinemas. Opens in US Cinemas May 19th.