Movie review: Alien: Covenant

Alien: Covenant

Ridley Scott (2017)

A lot of people criticized Prometheus for its lacks of ties with the original Alien movie. Ridley Scott returns once again to direct the sequel and continue the story. Some hoped he would finally “fix the errors” of the previous film, and make a truly worthy prequel to Alien. They would end up greatly disappointed with Covenant. That isn’t the case for me.

Some years after the events of Prometheus, colony ship Covenant is travelling through space. Following a tragic accident, the crew picks up a rogue transmission emanating from a nearby planet, that seems to be better suited for their colonization mission. They choose to divert from their original destination, to investigate the planet and find the source of the transmission.

The Bad: A few under-developed secondary characters, some story elements are only hinted at, and I have the feeling the movie should have been longer, I certainly wanted more

The Good: Once again a truly gorgeous looking film, the horror elements are disgustingly beautiful, or beautifully disgusting (or both!), the atmosphere is perfectly set to make you feel uneasy from start to finish, and last but not least, a double dose of Michael Fassbender!

My opinion: I think this movie is a great companion to Prometheus.

Alien: Covenant shares a lot of themes with Prometheus, but focuses more on creation.

The filmmakers are smart, they know they have a diamond in the presence of Michael Fassbender, so what do they do? Cast him in two major roles so we can see way more of him. The Walter/David duality works so well, and allows many of the best scenes in the movie, like in the garden overlooking the necropolis, Walter confronting David who tells him he wasn’t meant to serve, and obviously the “flute” scene, not only technically very impressive but giving us so much insight on David’s character, and on the movie itself.

It is clear that Covenant is not about Aliens really, it’s about David. It probably was a disappointment in the beginning, but after seeing both movies several times, I’m now completely fascinated by it. His (justified?) resentment of humans, his god complex and obsession with the perfect creation, the subtle mix of charm, awkwardness and menace about him. All of this and more make him a compelling evil antagonist.

The human characters don’t benefit from the same attention, but what we’re given is enough to fear for them in the absolute nightmare they have to go through. They are too hopeful and naive (which make sense, they’re colonists), and like in Prometheus are facing horrors they never could have imagined.

The pacing of the film is interesting, from a relatively slow start until the colonists land on the planet, horrible events happen fairly quickly from that point on. The tension is so high during those moments, when Karine and Ledward arrive at the lander, it feels like the movie grips you and doesn’t let you go. Until David’s appearance, then things seem to calm down, lulling us and the survivors into a false sense of security in that gorgeous Rome-inspired city full of cadavers. When David finally reveals himself, you know something isn’t right and things will get much worse.

In traditional Alien fashion, when the remaining crew are finally back on the Covenant and leaving the planet, trouble is not over and they have to get rid of one more monster (so they think).

And of course the amazing Walter/David twist that is actually not a twist. The movie gives you all need to think David is impersonating Walter, short of seeing him actually murdering Walter. It’s even more horrific to see Daniels realize it too late because you’ve been suspecting it.

I find myself loving this movie for many reasons (simple reasons like visuals, music, actors, story, themes, etc.), not really understanding why it seems to be so misunderstood, and maligned by some spewing silly arguments, like (for real):

  • “David’s hair is growing and he can blow even if he’s not breathing, that’s stupid for an android”: I will just say LOL
  • “the movie is hammering you with references”: the person saying that was unable to identify said references and say why they would be over/badly-utilized. It’s true the movie has many artistic references (as can be seen in this great video, it’s only one person’s opinion, not an official thing, but some of the Paradise Lost references are spot on) but in my opinion that makes it much better than a lot of tasteless modern science-fiction films

I guess what a lot of critics are really saying is: “it’s not like Alien or Aliens”. But why would you want to see another movie like those two? It would probably never be as good as they were, I prefer to have something different, with new ambitions and exploring other avenues.

In the end I’m not sure which film I prefer between Covenant and Prometheus, they touch on similar themes but are quite different movies. I guess I’m glad to have both, and also they make each other better.

I would love another sequel directed by Ridley Scott, just to see Michael Fassbender playing David again. I want to know what other mad experiments he wants to do, and maybe follow surviving Engineers as they discover his atrocities.

Sadly I doubt it will happen.

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