Movie 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. The creature’s unexplained origin is after all partly what had made Alien terrifying in the first place. Others however 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. The film draws from the best of both worlds, serving up the original’s blood fest 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.

We go back to a time before the expedition of Prometheus when 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 and chooses to follow a signal transmission to a seemingly habitable planet.

Alien: Covenant
Exacting vengeance on Prometheus haters.

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

Most end up as part of the body count as the violent onslaught unfolds at full speed. Low stakes fail to measure up to the carefully crafted suspense in the 1979 original, where 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 may be 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.

38 thoughts on “Movie 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. 😊

      Like

  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

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