MPAA Rating: R/ Genre: Sci-Fi Horror/ Stars: Michael Fassbender, Michael Fassbender (trust me that’s not a typo), Katherine Waterston, Billy Crudup, Danny McBride, Demian Bichir, Carmen Ejogo, Amy Seimetz, Jussie Smollett, Callie Hernandez, Nathaniel Dean, Benjamin Rigby, James Franco, Noomi Rapace, Guy Pearce/ Runtime: 122 minutes
I gotta tell you movie goers for the better part of an hour while watching this film it really looked like Alien: Covenant was going to be the startling return to form for the franchise that everyone had hoped it could be. This is because while Promewhattheheckus had struggled a little bit to balance its philosophical pursuits with its blockbuster merit badge requirements, Sir Ridley Scott really does goes back to the basics with this film as by putting the former film in its own corner he manages to elegantly establish this new film’s footing as well as its chilling tone and aesthetic…… Unfortunately however the film sadly can’t maintain this forward momentum, and while to be fair there is enough in the film to call it a success (rightfully so), and there are indeed some truly terrifying and bloody moments that rank right up there with this franchise’s pinnacle moments from the very first 2 films back in 79 and 86, there are also some highly abundant flaws that leave you walking out of the theater knowing full good and well that Alien: Covenant could have and should have been so much better.
The plot is as follows: Unfortunately the titular Covenant is not an ark that melts the faces off of Nazis who stare into it. Instead it is actually a colony ship that is bound for a remote planet on the distant side of the galaxy, and which is attended to, while the crew are in hibernation, by the HAL 9000 (oops! sorry…wrong movie) ehhh Walter (Michael Fassbender), an android that’s an update of the, in-movie universe’, infamous Prometheus expedition’s android David. It isn’t long though before an accident part way through the trip doesn’t just cause the crew to wake up, but for some of them to perish in their sleeping pods as well. So with seven years of their journey still to go, and the members of the Covenant, obviously, apprehensive about returning to their chambers, they’re unexpectedly provided an apparent lifeline when they manage to intercept a rescue beacon from ET ehhh an obscure planet that’s just a few weeks away and is also inhabitable. So upon arrival some of the crew head down to see if it’s actually suitable for them to colonize only to quickly and horrifyingly instead discover that this planet doesn’t possess any living creatures at all except for the franchise’s legendary monster as well as David who has somehow survived on the planet for around a decade and who is harboring more nefarious intentions than they could ever imagine (duh-duh-duhhhhh!!)
Now to his credit Sir Ridley Scott does creepily set up the above scenario and does seem to take a quite perverse joy in setting up the seemingly random circumstances that ultimately leads to Daniels (Katherine Waterston), Christopher (Billy Crudup), Karine (Carmen Ejogo), Faris (Amy Seimetz), and several other members of the Covenant setting foot on the planet. Yet while it’s all understated, you can practically feel Scott gently etching up the tension in the expert fashion that he does best. Plus, at the same time, he’s also able to do great work in not only depicting a brutal, fiery death sequence which occurs as a result of the disaster that jolts the crew awake, but also manages to expertly tease out the conflicts and relationships that will be exploited to the hilt once the ghastly titular creature starts to wreak it’s always enjoyable havoc. That and Scott does a wonderful job involving the first sequence of them doing just that; a sequence I might add that shows the alien bugger gaining access to absolutely clueless in every way members of the Covenant as just specks of seemingly dust in the wind that climb through their orifices and pores, only to then quickly mature, manifest and then escape through completely dismembering their host is as gory, enthralling, and nightmarish a sequence as you’re likely to see in a film this year. Indeed Scott goes absolutely all out in his efforts to make sure you see the blood and the gore, and in the process manages to throws enough of it at the screen that it will leave you wincing and recoiling in terror whenever the Aliens are again nearby. Plus not to mention that all of this is handled with such aplomb, as well as leaves the situation for our merry band so dire, that you find yourself genuinely hooked as well as nervous about where the film could head next….
With that being said then, it’s just an absolute shame then that the film really doesn’t do what the first one did so brilliantly and take complete and total advantage of this terror and run with it for the rest of the film. Instead, this film decides to deviate into a more relaxed state and leans heavier on the sci-fi rather than the horror with a particular focus on the evolution of the Xenomorph although to be fair this is something that the film admittedly does do in a slightly enlightening and cogent fashion. It is also worth mentioning that this deceleration coincides with the reemergence of David. Indeed while there are still some moments in the film that will genuinely take you aback, including a face-hugger sequence that is particularly enjoyable in a vindictive and sadistic kinda way, the film’s later in the running time set-pieces don’t really satisfyingly build to anything, and sadly aren’t as smooth and/or polished as you might expect (or hope for) with the sad but true reason for this being that Ridley Scott’s direction and cinematography by Dariusz Wolski (and yes that is his real name….believe me I checked) aren’t always conducive to these scenes. Yet while Ridley Scott does do a masterful job of controlling the rhythm, tempo, and haunting mood of the film he manages to hit quite the snag consisting of the fact that when there’s a whole lot of movement going on you honestly can’t really feel the full thrust and impact of the violence that Ridley’s trying to convey. Not to mention, but there are moments in this film where it’s just hard plain and simple to see exactly what the heck is going in the dank and barely lit surroundings. Perhaps the worst ding though against this film is that this is a film that really suffers horribly from that seemingly spreading film disease known as best-bits-in-the-trailer disorder. Indeed, while you may find yourself holding out hope that the movie can remedy this with its final action set piece it saddens me to tell you that even that lacks any imagination and/or creativity, and is also quite honestly sadly underwhelming and cliché. That being said though the film’s conclusion is slightly salvaged by its final moments which, despite leaving me with one huge question, are quite dark and sinister and really do pack a punch.
Now despite the flaws I listed above this film is cast fairly well, despite feeling like the cast is a little too bloated, due to not enough of the characters shown to us are shown for very long for us to actually care about them when they actually do start to get slaughtered. However we still do manage to see Katherine Waterston put in a performance that honestly is fairly enjoyable as well as more emotive, compelling, and dynamic than Noomi Rapace’s was in Promewhattheheckus, and Danny McBride manage to put in a surprisingly dramatic and consistently enjoyable turn, but as you’d expect it’s Michael Fassbender who once again steals the show in his now-dual roles of Walter and David to the point that the interactions between the two androids, whose disparate personalities are pitch-perfectly portrayed by Mr. Fassbender, are genuinely and gloriously bizarre, both in a good and bad way. This is because, without going into too much detail, his performances manage to sway from amusing to Liberace theatrical to just frankly ludicrous, and yet Fassbender manages to still nail both of these characters to a t right down to their little quirks and habits.
All in all at the end of the day, and despite all of its imperfections, Alien: Covenant is still 2/3rd of a lively and captivating ride that’s gruesome, chilling and traumatic enough to please Alien fans. Of course this is also a fact that becomes all the more disappointing when the film rapidly begins to stagnate. That being said though I do feel that there’s still enough in this film to suggest that Sir Ridley Scott could still hit the highs of the franchise’s past with his two-planned sequels though. This is because with the ending to this film he has now provided the foundations for an arena that one of the most horrifying monsters in the history of cinema could do some truly terrifying things in all while bringing it full circle to the landmark and iconic film that started it all….On a scale of 1-5 I give Alien: Covenant a 3.5 out of 5.
Note from the Writer/Editor: Below is the Red-Band Teaser Trailer for Alien: Covenant. I felt that this was the least spoiler-heavy trailer that was released to audiences. Nevertheless, due to being the red-band trailer, viewer discretion is HIGHLY Advised. Thank you guys for all the love and support and I’ll see you…..at the movies! Ag