As a sequel to PROMETHEUS (2012), ALIEN: COVENANT (2017) works rather well. But as part of the ALIEN universe, not so much.
ALIEN: COVENANT takes place ten years after the events of PROMETHEUS. In an opening that is all too reminiscent of the recent— and inferior— science fiction movie PASSENGERS (2016), the spaceship Covenant is on its way to colonize a new planet, filled to the brim with sleeping human beings and embryos traveling to their new home. But catastrophe strikes, the ship is damaged, and the crew awakes to save the day.
But the captain is killed, leaving the second in command Oram (Billy Crudup) to secure the ship and have it ready to continue the voyage. But before he can do so, the crew receives a garbled message which they recognize as human, and when they trace the source to a habitable planet that is much closer than their original destination, they decide to investigate.
Of course, awaiting them there are both mystery and danger, courtesy of the events of the previous film in the series, PROMETHEUS. Director Ridley Scott, the director of the original ALIEN (1979) has planned a prequel trilogy to his original science fiction shocker. ALIEN: COVENANT is the second film in this trilogy, and so we are crawling closer to the events of ALIEN, and the Alien creatures themselves are evolving towards those familiar monsters we know so well.
I enjoyed ALIEN: COVENANT well enough, mostly because it was a well-paced thriller that kept me interested throughout, at least until the end, as at that point it had become rather predictable. But I liked it better than PROMETHEUS, which attempted to be high brow science fiction but didn’t quite achieve its goal. I liked the ideas which PROMETHEUS put forth, but not the way they were executed.
ALIEN: COVENANT is a far less ambitious movie than PROMETHEUS, but it works because it doesn’t try to be something it’s not. It seems satisfied to be a straightforward science fiction thriller.
Still, director Ridley Scott and his team of writers, John Logan and Dante Harper, continue to flirt with the deeper theme of the origins of life. As android David (Michael Fassbender) says to his human creator at the beginning of the movie, “If you created me, who created you?” That’s the million dollar question being put forth in both PROMETHEUS and ALIEN: COVENANT. It’s a thought-provoking question, but a part of me has to laugh when I think that somewhere down the line the vicious alien creatures from these movies is going to be somehow tied into the origins of humanity.
This is Harper’s first screenplay, but John Logan has a list of very impressive writing credits, having worked on the screenplays to such films as GLADIATOR (2000), STAR TREK: NEMESIS (2002), and SKYFALL (2012).
But again, ALIEN: COVENANT works best as a thriller, and director Ridley Scott does a nice job at the helm and creates some decent suspenseful scenes. The sequence where two crew members first become infected, and then are raced back to the ship for medical attention where it proves far too late to save them is one of the more riveting sequences in the film. And what would an ALIEN movie be without an alien bursting from someone’s chest? Yup, there’s one of those scenes here as well.
Michael Fassbender plays the dual lead role of “brother” androids, David, who we met in PROMETHEUS and as we find out in this movie was the only survivor, and Walter, a member of the crew of the Covenant. Fassbender is very good, as always.
Billy Crudup plays the ineffective Oram, a man forced into the captain’s seat obviously before he was ready. Katherine Waterston plays the Sigourney Weaver-type role, Daniels, the woman who pretty much becomes the leader of the group. Danny McBride plays Tennessee, and I guess the ALIEN films like southern geographical character names, since Tom Skerritt’s character’s name in ALIEN was Dallas. Here we have Tennessee.
None of the other characters are really developed all that well, and no one else in the cast really stood out. They were all pretty much cardboard characters.
But I didn’t mind that all that much here, since I enjoyed the mystery and the thrills. The alien scenes here are quite good, although they pale in comparison to the original and its sequel, ALIENS (1986). I was intrigued for a while, as I was happy to go along for the ride with these folks as they searched for answers about the planet they had landed on and were hoping to call home. Likewise, I enjoyed the alien scenes.
But about two-thirds of the way in things began to grow predictable and I pretty much knew exactly where this film was going. I hoped that I would be wrong, and that I would be surprised instead, but that wasn’t the case. In terms of plot, especially if you’ve seen other ALIEN movies, you can figure out the ending long before it occurs.
Even so, ALIEN: COVENANT was an enjoyable thrill ride for me, and in spite of not absolutely loving this one, I am definitely looking forward to the next installment of this reborn ALIEN franchise.