Alien Covenant Review – Excellent gore but also too familiar

Covenant

Alien Covenant Review

Prometheus wasn’t as good as it could have been. Despite some reviewers saying they really enjoyed it (in the run up to Alien: Covenant) it cannot abscond its flaws. Prometheus had a fantastic Sci-Fi premise – life was injected into worlds by a species called The Engineers. Sadly the diabolically stupid characters dragged the movie down. To put it bluntly, there was nothing to like about them for the audience to be engrossed. Except perhaps the character development of Vickers (played by Charlize Theron) near the end. But as her character died (sorry for the spoiler) that leaves just the survival of Dr. Elizabeth Shaw (Noomi Rapace) and synth David (Michael Fassbender). In the movie’s cliffhanger ending they stowed away onboard a ship of The Engineers. I was going to see Prometheus 2 to resolve that cliffhanger. Yet Ridley Scott decided to film Alien: Covenant. Ultimately, this movie feels too much like a reboot of the original 1979 Alien.

Covenant

A quick overview of the story

Alien: Covenant follows the crew of the colony ship Covenant headed to Origae-6. After a neutrino burst hits the ship en route and kills the captain the crew is jilted. During repairs a transmission of human origin is found from an impossible source and first mate Oram (Billy Crudup) decides the Covenant will investigate. He along with a party that includes the captains widow Daniels (Katherine Waterston) and synth Walther head down to the planet’s surface. After investigating the crashed remains of the ship belonging to The Engineers two crewmembers quickly turn ill. Within moments they suffer the old chest-burst ache that so plagues the Alien universe. Their landing ship is destroyed, but the survivors are saved by David. He alone managed to survive the trip. David is the same model as Walther, but is programmed to fulfill the mission set by Peter Weyland before the Prometheus mission began.

David and Walther

Quickly it is revealed that David is playing a double game. He does nothing to help the survivors when the aliens return and even leads Oram into a hatchery of face huggers. Meanwhile the ships synth Walther is the only one who suspects something is wrong with David. Eventually Daniels discovers that Shaw was killed by David in one of his projects to further improve the abilities of the alien race. In a flashback we also discover how David destroyed the entire Engineer civilization by releasing the black toxin from Prometheus when the ship returns. A fight ensues between David and Walther as the remaining crew contact the Covenant for help. David gives Walther a chance to choose between his crew or helping David with his mission.

The story’s ending is quite bitter, more so than for a normal Alien movie – including Alien 3. Eventually the ground-party makes it back to the Covenant, but one more Alien has managed to stowaway inside a wounded crewmember. Of the four remaining crewmembers + the synth two are quickly killed when they are having sex in shower room. Eventually Daniels and Tennessee manage to kill the alien by having it pierced by a truck and sucked into outer space. Nonetheless, the awful feeling viewers have of Walter is confirmed when Daniels and Tennessee go back into stasis. In one final conversation Daniels deduces she is talking to David and not Walther. Her final screams are silenced when the stasis goes into effect. David then enters the stasis bay with all the colony pods and starts his experiments with two alien embryo’s he saved.

Conclusion

Alien Covenant is a weird movie, it tries to work on several levels as well as improve on its predecessor – Prometheus. It succeeds partly, it just cannot escape it original pedigree – Alien. Covenant deals with a number of subplots, including allusions about the nature of evil and Satan. In fact, discussions between David and Walther as well as David and Oram make for interesting vignettes. Yet, Alien: Covenant is a horror slasher and the audience is mostly focused on the survival of the stranded crew members. That means any kind of deeper meaning is quickly lost.

As such this is not Prometheus 2.0 – and that maybe its biggest failing. The audience of today knows the original movies from TV and DVD, but Prometheus may have been their only cinematic experience. Despite the flaws of that movie there was a story to tell for a sequel. The continuation of David’s storyline may have only partly satisfied fans. The death of Dr. Elizabeth Shaw (cameo by Noomi Rapace) felt like a door closing forever. Because of that, this movie felt like Alien 2.0 instead of the promised sequel to Prometheus. As Alien 2.0 the movie is nearly perfect – yes the characters are stupid but that is part of the genre.

A few days ago news was posted that Ridley Scott intends to start filming a direct another iteration of the franchise. The working title is Alien: Awakening and filming is set to begin in 14 months. I am eager for more, but please give us a less gloomy movie for once.

 

 

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