Review: Alien – Covenant (2017)

Alien: Covenant (dir. Ridley Scott, 2017) – The crew of a colony ship decides to abandon route in favour of an uncharted planet, where they encounter a fatal parasitic threat.

Verdict

Alien: Covenant strikes a neat balance between Alien’s horror entertainment and Prometheus’ conceptual ambitions.

4/5

Review

Fifteen years after Alien: Resurrection ended the well-loved franchise, Ridley Scott took a bold chance. With Prometheus, he reinvented his familiar story with provocative revelations, complicating a slash-and-dice formula with layered, philosophical mythology.

This alienated some fans, who baulked at reduced body horror and potential answers to the unknown. Mysticism is after all, what had made Alien terrifying in the first place. Others find joy in dissecting theological implications, savouring consequent food for thought.

For a fan who stands in the middle, Alien: Covenant feels like a satisfying compromise. Harmony is attained between the best of both worlds, as the original’s blood fest is dished up with the prequel’s intellectual fodder on the side. An elegant opening plays to the latter, reiterating the complex dynamics between man and machine.

Alien: Covenant
Good ol’ symbolism.

Before the expedition of Prometheus, A young Weyland (Guy Pearce) is getting to know his synthetic creation David (Michael Fassbender). He claims fatherhood over David in name, but asserts ownership in his commands. Here, David realises his subjugated position despite his superiority. His words quietly reveal his desire to surpass his creator.

Ten years after the crash of Prometheus, we meet a new crew. Android Walter – a David 2.0 – chaperones colony ship Covenant en route Origae 6. Tragedy strikes, when a shockwave ends their stasis and kills their captain. Against the objections of Daniels (Katherine Waterston), new captain Oram (Billy Crudup) abandons their route, choosing to follow a signal transmission to a seemingly habitable planet.

Alien: Covenant
Exacting vengeance on Prometheus haters.

Needless to say, Oram is dead wrong – to the exultation of original Alien fans. Visceral gore takes centre stage when the crew ventures straight into uncharted territory – without spacesuits. Sadly, such illogical decisions are abundant and grate on nerves.

With most only present for the body count, the violent onslaught unfolds at full speed. Low stakes fail to measure up to the suspense in the 1979 original, when the late H. R. Giger had first birthed the iconic creature. The lifeform had been unnerving in its design alone, not to mention the novelty of practical effects.

Still, the carnage remains a thrill to watch, back to its horror roots with a spare-no-mercy policy. Credit goes to Daniels, who holds her own as an emotionally vulnerable yet resolute heroine, one worthy to root for.

Alien: Covenant
“Call me a Proto-Ripley, I dare you.”

At its best, the space slasher pauses for a return to the prequel’s big ideas. Walter meets David, revealing his inability to create – humanity’s limit on AI out of fear. Things come full circle as David becomes convinced of his initial notion. References to Ozymandias and Götterdämmerung unveil his persistence in playing God. In Fassbender’s scene-stealing dual role, the duo’s seeming bond spells cause for trouble and felt tension.

In this risky shift, we see how Alien: Covenant commendably never settles for the conventional. The result is no doubt divisive. Yet instead of turning out formulaic, the horror-driven Alien story is made all the more interesting by its fusion with the ideas spawned in Prometheus. And there are few things more we can ask of a sequel in any franchise.

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38 thoughts on “Review: Alien – Covenant (2017)

  1. Thanks for posting this. I have to say, I have heard mixed reviews, with one person calling it the Force Awakens of the Alien cinematic universe (I was not a fan of Force Awakens), in that it (apparently ignores the expanded universe). I will need to see it for myself as I know little about the expanded universe to judge it on its own merits. Prometheus was a good idea, but marketed poorly which meant I didn’t like it as much as I might have given I was expecting something else. Good post, either way.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. As with every popular franchise, there will be die-hard fans who are averse to the slightest diversion from the familiar. But I think Prometheus and Alien: Covenant bring something new to what is otherwise, a simple monster feature. I completely agree the fault lies with the misleading ads! Thankfully, this one doesn’t stray too far from the trailer’s promise. Thanks for reading, John! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I certainly agree with there being die-had fans though I disagree it is to do with being averse to new things. I imagine in some cases it probably is the case, but for me it is about their being an established story and then changing it. I cannot comment on Alien specifically, though I can comment on Star Wars as an example. It is my opinion that Star Wars was kept alive by the extended universe, comics, books, videogames etc. All of this establishes the meta plot surrounding the movies and all of it was official. Then it was taken from the canon and called “Legends” (which makes no sense as these “Legends ” happened concurrently with Disney canon). I was put off th force awakens for that reason, and my friend was put off Covenant for the same reason (He has read lots of Alien EU). I tend to get by, now, by viewing things as “Versions”, in the same way as marvel movies are versions of marvel comics – both of which can be enjoyed. Still, I am not keen when a movie franchise that has been kept alive by other media then disregards it. I feel it is a bit disrespectful. However, I ddon’t know th Alien EU and in any event, I can take the “Versions” viewpoint and enjoy each on their own merits

        Liked by 1 person

        1. I understand where you’re coming from, and agree that it’d be best to see them as different versions. 🙂 It’s hard to define canon these days, with franchises expanding through so many different mediums. There’re movies, TV, comics, games, and even fan fiction to keep track of. Filmmakers would have to be truly devoted fans, and they usually aren’t.

          Liked by 1 person

  2. Great review. I really enjoyed this as a monster movie firstly and an improvement on Prometheus in terms of plot logic. The cast were better in Prometheus as an ensemble but Fassbender really shone in Covenant. Plus, there was some beautifully done gruesome xenomorphic-monster gore.
    Overall, I think it got the franchise back on track; especially as David’s characteristics mean I want to see what happens next.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, Paul! 😊 You’re right on, Covenant really delivered on both ends. I do miss the Prometheus cast, and had wanted to see more of Noomi Rapace’s character. But Michael Fassbender is just such a wonderful, versatile actor – he’s perfectly capable of carrying the movie all by himself. Can’t wait for the next one!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. It’s actually getting negative views from people I know on Social Media but to me it ticked all the boxes for a sci-if-horror-Alien franchise film. My expectations were pretty low so perhaps that’s why I enjoyed it so much. Plus, I like John Logan’s writing, especially on TV show Penny Dreadful.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Much of the flak is undeserved. The movie’s flawed, but it certainly isn’t horrid. And yes, John Logan has done some excellent writing, especially in recent years. I don’t know many people who liked Penny Dreadful, and it’s so fantastic to see you mention it! 🙂

          Liked by 1 person

  3. Aww…you have already seen it 😮Slighly jealous here (kidding ofcourse 😂). Really, this movie is getting very mixed reviews. I actually loved Prometheus and thought it was a very unique and interesting film (but I am pretty much a fan of everything Alien). Glad to read that the film is enjoyable. I hope to see it somewhere in the coming weeks. I highly enjoyed your captions for this post! 😂 Great review, and it makes me want to see the film even more 😊😊

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hehe, Singapore has gotten an early release for some reason. It so rarely happens, but I’m not complaining! 😂 Some folks are way too harsh, so don’t let the bad reviews put you off. It is fantastic entertainment, especially for someone who loves both Alien and Prometheus. Can’t wait till you get to see it. Thanks much, Michel! I’m happy you enjoyed the post. 😊

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  4. The original Alien is my favourite horror film of all time and really enjoyed this one, bummed I can’t review it right now, though. Though I was missing some of the practical effects that made the original Xenomorph so scary for me, it’s definitely in the top ten of my films of the year. Great review, by the way.
    Milo.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Milo! 😊 I’ve been trying to find time to revisit the original Alien, which is one of my favourite horror films as well. I’ll be sure to read your review whenever you get the time to do it!

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Haven’t seen this yet, will on Saturday. Skipped the review, jumping right to the comments. Just wanted to say I have been obsessed with the Alien franchise since I was a kid. I have everything from T Shirts to a custom built computer keyboard: http://imgur.com/a/pw0bm

    I can’t help but be so hyped for this, I hope it doesn’t disappoint. I quite enjoyed Prometheus, and got into huge discussions with my father over its symbolism. I hope Covenant proves the same.

    I imagine your review is fantastic, so come Saturday night I will read it then we can discuss!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Too cool, you should take a picture of your collection sometime! 😀 I’ve got a feeling you’re going to enjoy this one. Ridley Scott may be nearing 80, but he’s still got it. Then again, don’t get your hopes too high. There will never be anything like the first film. 😉 I’m looking forward to hear your thoughts!

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Pretty much what I’m expecting from this one. Prometheus had some good ideas, but I honestly felt that it was a bit of a mess and it was always likely that they’d revisit the horror of Alien to try recapture that magic. Still, I’m keen to see it and likely will in a few weeks.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Prometheus would have worked better, if it wasn’t an Alien film. With such a huge fan base, everyone already has ideas on how an Alien film should be. Covenant takes a step in the right direction, holding back on big theories and returning to the original’s focus on horror. Hope you’ll like it! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      1. It would also have worked if the writing was better. I don’t doubt that many went into it expecting another Alien flick, but I don’t think that excuses all it’s flaws.

        Liked by 1 person

  7. Gahhh! Now I have to see it! As excited as I am, Ridley Scott has been a frustratingly hit-or-miss as of late. Every once in a while he hits a good stride like he did with The Martian, but he also gave us Exodus: Gods and Kings. And Prometheus didn’t hold up well on repeat viewings for me, so my feelings on another Alien movie have conflicted with my feelings towards a Prometheus follow-up. But your review certainly whet my appetite, and I’m interested to see how Ridley deepens the Alien mythos.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I think this was made with both Alien and Prometheus fans in mind. It isn’t quite The Martian. But it definitely is nowhere near as awful as Exodus. Can’t wait to see what you think. Thanks, Adrian! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  8. As you wrote, Prometheus took a lot of flack from fans wanting a more horror genre film. However, I felt Prometheus had a fair balance. We, the fans, needed answers to the 1979 classic. How did this all come to pass? Where did ‘they’ come from? Who were the large humanoids manning ‘the laser’ in the center of the navigation room? My dad and I always called it a laser, since we of course had no idea what it was until Prometheus.

    Personally, I enjoyed the mythology that accompanied Prometheus, as well as connecting the dots. We are treated to an answer right off the bat as to where we (humans) came from. This sets up the entire film in a miraculous way.

    I sat there thinking “All of these artifacts are 2000 years old? .. What happened 2000 years ago? Holy shit, Jesus was an Engineer! We killed their ambassador, only verifying their findings that humans are a primitive, violent species. Now they want to kill their failed experiment!” This was almost a feeling of epiphany for me. Scott built his entire plot like around the Engineer, and filling in the gaps leading to 1979’s Alien. Then… Covenant was released.

    He threw that entire plot line in the garbage. What he created was a simple sci fi horror, threw in 2 xenomorphs, an AI unit obsessed with creation playing God, then fade that shit to black. Scott became so fascinated with his “David” creation that the rest of the film lay flat. This was all too apparent when the do “David” models kissed. “You’re perfect, to me.”

    The Covenant characters made no reference to the fact that they had entered the homeworld of our creators. The story of what happened to them spanned a minute and a half. All in all, I feel A:C was thrown together over a weekend.

    I just thought I would share some comments in your post 🙂 – Prometheus had so much more substance, this was a B slasher flick.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I see where you’re coming from. I too had gripes with how they handled the Prometheus plotline, which I enjoyed as well. I believe this was in part due to the massive amount of complaints from Alien fans, who vocally hated the “retcon”. As we all know, studios tend to go for mass appeal. That might also explain why Noomi Rapace dropped out, and why there are two different pairs of credited screenwriters. If it was a response as such, Covenant did the best it can. The original Alien was after all, down to a slasher in space.

      As for the flute scene and kiss that the androids share, I find it very interesting and misunderstood. It showed off David’s narcissism, and reiterated his differences to the new model. Beyond that, I am actually writing more on this in an upcoming post! 🙂

      Thanks so much for leaving your thoughts, Mark. It’s always cool to chat with someone who genuinely loves and knows movies! 😊

      Liked by 1 person

  9. Great review! Well worth the watch. This balanced out what I had hoped for in Prometheus – we got the gore, but we also got some more depth. I had quite a bit of fun with this one, and I am glad to see you enjoyed it too!

    Liked by 1 person

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