Director: Ridley Scott
Run Time: 122 minutes
Cast: Michael Fassbender, Katherine Waterston, Billy Crudup, Danny McBride, et al…
Plot (taken from IMDb): The crew of a colony ship, bound for a remote planet, discover an uncharted paradise with a threat beyond their imagination, and must attempt a harrowing escape.
Following the events of Prometheus, Alien: Covenant throws us into the story of how and why the Xenomorphs were created. While I don’t think we needed to learn where the Xenomorphs came from, I’m glad we got to find out. Despite stuttering in its own pretensions from time to time, Alien: Covenant is a visually fantastic film that excels in body horror and gore that you can enjoy if you haven’t seen Prometheus.
The film gets off to a slow start, giving us some kind of back story to the android David (Michael Fassbender) and his creation. We learn that he is unsure about creation and fascinated by it, this certainly comes up again later. Fast forward some time and we are on the Covenant – a huge spaceship carrying over two-thousand colonists and crew members to a distant, Earth-like planet. Everyone is in deep hibernation when a rogue electric pulse of some kind hits the ship, damaging its integrity and killing many passengers on board. Here we meet the film’s core cast and learn of their mission.
Each crew member is part of a couple on board the Covenant, which raises the stakes even higher when it all goes wrong. Instantly Daniels (Katherine Waterston) is left alone following the grisly death of her husband. It turns out that her husband also happened to be the ship’s captain, leaving it in the hands of Oram (Billy Crudup), a man of faith who has the tendency to rub people up the wrong way. Working alongside these two are several others, but it is Walter (Michael Fassbender) and pilot Tennessee (Danny McBride) who receive the most screen time and character development. Things start to go awry when a message is picked up from a planet that seems perfectly inhabitable, much closer to the Covenant than their intended destination.
Daniels makes it clear to Oram that they should go back into hibernation and carry out their original mission, “it’s too good to be true”, she cries to the new captain, who is too eager to impress his crew and put his own stamp on the mission to listen. A daring hop onto the planet later, and all seems fine… right up until a couple of the crew members poke little plants on the floor that send some kind of space dust up into their bodies. You know something’s going to go wrong, but nothing can prepare you for what happens next. It’s horrible. I’m known to pass out at the sight of blood, and I certainly felt uneasy with all the insane levels of gore in the film. Alien: Covenant is viciously gruesome – especially the Neomorph, which moves around at breakneck pace, literally ripping through bodies on its way. Fans of body horror and gore will have a great time with many of Alien: Covenant’s scenes.
After our initial meeting with the Neomorph, things slow down again and we meet up with David, who is more animated than his American cousin, Walter. He has moved beyond the confines of his android design, and is obsessively compelled to create and learn of creation. Fassbender’s two androids were expertly performed and outside of Waterston’s Daniels (who performed very well thanks to carrying her emotions well), proved the best in the film. Each cast member performed well, and I think Danny McBride deserves credit. For an actor known for his comedy turns, it was nice to see him hold his own in a serious film.
There are times when you will be beaten over the head with the shadows of Prometheus that loom over the film, but Covenant’s tale is laid bare and rather simple to follow. Despite having never seen Prometheus, I left the cinema understanding exactly what happened across Covenant’s two-hour run time. Scott stuffed a lot into those two hours, but (aside from the opening), the film moves along at a brisk pace backed up by a plot full of intrigue and action. Unfortunately, the film was easy to follow because the script was full of exposition and tacked on philosophy. Scott forced his thoughts down our throats, but it’s easy to let him get away with it because Alien: Covenant is tremendously entertaining when it wants to be.
While much of what we see has been done (better) in the original Alien, Covenant wears its horror with a gruesome grin that I’ve not seen before in a Scott production. After several misses in the last few years, Alien: Covenant feels like a much-needed hit for Ridley Scott. While I would have appreciated less pretension and a smarter script, Alien: Covenant is a great science-fiction horror that has fun with its terribly grotesque violence. I would’ve liked less of an overbearing use of CGI, mind.
Alien: Covenant is a grand sci-fi horror full of intense violence with a penchant for the pretentious.