Film review: Alien:Covenant
Written by Andrew Busch
Last March in an interview with The Sydney Morning Herald, director Ridley Scott revealed that his newest film Alien: Covenant would transport the series back to its horror roots. While this seemed like a promising statement for fans of the original Alien, Scott also claimed in the same interview that he would not stop making Alien films anytime soon. He explained that there were six more possible sequels to Covenant in the works. Between these rocky press statements and the multiple changes made to the movie’s title, it was uncertain if Alien: Covenant would be the movie that devoted fans and sci-fi fanatics were hoping for.
To be completely honest, I was nervous about this film as I sat down in the theatre. The original Alien is one of my favorite movies of all time so naturally I was worried that I would be witnessing the newly revamped series crash and burn just like it did in the 90s after the gutter-sludge that was Alien 3. But after experiencing the film for myself I fully believe that Ridley Scott has delivered a film that sets the beloved series back on solid ground after the shaky Prometheus.
From the initial scenes, something that really surprised me about Covenant was its dialogue. It’s actually quite good and sometimes even poetic. You wouldn’t really expect a movie about giant man-eating aliens to be anything deeper than a complete gore fest. But, at certain moments the movie becomes existential as the characters attempt to understand the creation of humankind or to parse out the meaning of existence.
In fact, the theological and ontological conversations that occur between characters add some depth to the plot in a way that surpassed my expectations. However, I wouldn’t go into this film expecting an in-depth exploration of these existential themes. They are more-so a nice backdrop to the face-paced action that eventually takes the center stage.
Covenant also features some solid performances from its cast. Katherine Waterson and Michael Fassbender are able to carry the plot with grace even when the dialogue or action falters. Following in the footsteps of Sigourney Weaver, Waterson continues to uphold the tradition of strong lead characters from the series by displaying sheer willpower and tenacity in the face of terror. Fassbender also delivers his best work in the series as he takes on another role as a calculating robot with more complexity than just a desire to follow orders.
Aside from the two starring roles, the sheer size of the cast causes other characters to quickly fade to the background or even blend together. In fact, the only secondary character that is really worth remembering was Tennessee played by the boisterous Danny McBride. I fully understand exploring every character would be improbable, but the emphasis placed on each role really ruins some of the surprise as members of the crew start dropping left and right.
Finally, Covenant returns Alien to the genre of sci-fi horror that has been desperately missing from the series since the first movie. The introduction of a few new creepy-crawlies as well as some utterly grotesque moments create a genuine sense of terror.
Even though I wouldn’t go so far as to say this is a scary movie, Covenant masters suspense and provides some horrific visuals that will leave you a bit uneasy. In fact, the film creates room for innovation within its original formula for terror which effectively references classic elements from the series without overdoing the nostalgia.
Yet, Covenant is far from a spotless redemption for the series. Within its beautiful shimmers of glory there are some missteps. Without spoiling anything crucial I will say that some cheesy moments find their way into the plot. There is also a major twist that is as easy to predict as when you will have to breathe next. Lastly, the good old Xenomorph is pretty late to the party. It takes almost three-fourths of the film before he shows up and he doesn’t even bring any party favors.
Despite its fair share of problems, I never felt that any of the film’s issues were big enough to negatively affected my experience. Alien: Covenant is a marvelous sci-fi film that captivates you with its beautiful aesthetic and simultaneously puts you on edge with a healthy dose of horror sprinkled throughout. The dialogue, the lead characters, and the grotesque action were more than enough to keep me both engaged as well as satisfied throughout. As a result, I highly recommend this movie for both devoted fans as well as moviegoers that have yet to experience the series. And with a success like this it will definitely be quite some time before it’s game over for Alien.
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