On May 4th, I attended the world premiere of Alien: Covenant. Tonight, I have published my official review of the film, covering everything from the film's score, its cast and characters, the overall plot, pacing, effects, creatures and endings. Though Covenant was not necessarily exactly what I had expected, it does serve as an intriguing evolution of the Alien mythology and a worthy addition to the Alien universe. Below are spoiler-free excerpts from my full review - which you can read here if you don't mind spoilers.
Having tracked news on this film since 2012 and having become obsessed with its production and every shred of material associated with it, my expectations for Ridley’s highly anticipated Prometheus sequel were rather high. From casting, to the film’s score, to the portrayal of the film’s new Aliens and the profound philosophical concepts introduced in Prometheus, I went into Covenant with hopes of being impressed, inspired and immersed in an expansive Alien universe. I left the cinema feeling satisfied, but at the same time yearning for more.
The first thing I noticed when the opening credits began to roll was an incredibly Alien score composed by Jed Kurzel. As opposed to Prometheus, this score produced an incredible amount of nostalgia – It did a perfect job of setting the tone and atmosphere of what was about to transpire. There was no mistaking it – I was watching an Alien movie. I had zero complaints regarding Kurzel’s work on Alien: Covenant, it was a magnificent score and one that I could listen to for hours on end.
Another aspect of Covenant I was more impressed with than with Prometheus was the film’s characters. Each of them seemed to have more personality and emotion flowing through them. There were a number of moments throughout the film where I felt for the crew of the Covenant, while in Prometheus, many of the crew who met their demise on LV-223, I felt very little for.
Danny McBride’s performance as Tennessee was an enjoyable and relatable one. Despite early criticism of his comedic background, Danny knocked this role out of the park. Offering a few quips throughout the film, his demeanor was more so that of a serious, protective parent. Throughout the film, Tennessee is constantly calculating risks in order to save the crew stranded on the surface of the Engineer homeworld. When his wife Faris (Amy Seimetz) encounters an Alien pathogen-infected crew member, her reactions become frantic and you could feel a strong connection with McBride’s character as he tries to manage the situation from afar – feeling helpless and genuinely concerned for his wife’s wellbeing.
Katherine Waterston did a fantastic job playing Daniels. As the film progressed and situations arose which threatened not only her own survival, but the survival of her fellow crewmates, she wasted no time conjuring up inner strength. Daniels acted as the audience’s connection, I felt – seemingly being the only one with much common sense and a rational thought process for combating the Alien onslaught.
Michael Fassbender, as expected, stole the show with his portrayal of both the latest iteration of Weyland-Yutani’s android Walter, as well as the aging Weyland synthetic-turned mad Alien scientist David. Fassbender did a remarkable job transitioning between the characteristics of character, there was never a moment where I felt they were one in the same.
Like in Prometheus, David was by far the most intriguing character and rightfully so – considering the entire film and its eventual sequel, Alien: Awakening seems to revolve primarily around David and his pursuit of transcendence and domination over all living things.
The overall plot for Alien: Covenant was much easier to follow than that of Prometheus. However, the film was nowhere near on the same scale and scope of concept as Prometheus. As someone who enjoyed Prometheus for its profound and seemingly limitless concepts, I found Covenant to be rather narrow in view. The focus was very clearly on David and his personal vendetta, with very little to no expansion of the Engineer mythology, their city prior to David’s arrival and their own agenda and the explanation behind the prevented assault of Earth 2,010 years prior. I was disappointed with the lack of explanation concerning the Engineer home world and the questions posed regarding their society in Prometheus. The prologue sequence involving David and Shaw very clearly explained that David had learned of the Engineer’s ways but nowhere in Covenant does David explain and elaborate on those “ways”. The mystery surrounding the Engineer culture, their relationship with the Black Goo and their agenda to destroy mankind were not addressed, or explained.
However, if you were not that fascinated with the Engineer side of the story, then you may find Covenant more enjoyable – as the film clearly harkens back to the concepts and themes present in Alien (1979) and Aliens (1986).
The beast is NOT so cooked.
Contrary to Ridley Scott’s initial remarks about the story focusing on the expansion of the Alien universe and its other indigenous species other than the Xenomorph, Alien: Covenant is very Alien focused.
For those who were hoping for a grotesque, horrifying and adrenaline pumping Alien experience – you will be very pleased with Covenant. There is very little letting up throughout the entire film with regards to Alien mayhem.
Similar to Prometheus, Alien: Covenant is a beautiful film to watch. The practical sets and environments were breathtaking and aw-inspiring. Like Scott and the cast reiterated countless times during Covenant’s production, the overall aesthetic of the Covenant and its technology was more so a blend of Prometheus’ pristineness and the aged look Scott’s original Alien. Though, it still blows the technology found on the Nostromo out of the water.
Oddly enough, I actually preferred the Neomorphs to the Xenomorphs in Alien: Covenant. Their development, presentation and interactions were way more fascinating and way more realistic than that of the Xenomorphs.
Although they grew rapidly, throughout the film you could actually see them growing. Their white skin color made them seem creepier as well, along with their Deacon-like jaw structure.
My favorite scene from Alien: Covenant was easily the shower scene teased in the first trailer because it was the only scene to have featured the Xenomorph in an ominous, dark and traditional manner. However, despite my favorite scene being one that involved the Xenormoph, the Xenomorph portrayal for most of the film is also one of my biggest gripe about the film.
To start things off, the Xenomorphs grew incredibly fast. Within hours, or less, the Chestburster was able to grow to adult size. Compared to the time in every subsequent Alien film in the franchise, this was by far the quickest growth time we have ever witnessed. Dare I say it’s on par with the growth rates of Alien vs. Predator… The reason for its rapid growth was not explained and considering this is meant to be an early version of Kane’s son featured in 1979’s Alien, you would assume the growth rate to be at least the same, if not slower.
The other issue I have to take with the Xenormoph portrayal is the fact that many times we saw them in light, not shrouded in darkness. With the advent of CGI I understand the reality of being able to show the Alien more easily, but for me, part of what made the original Alien so terrifying was the manner in which it lurked in the shadows. You never knew where it was until it was too late. With Covenant, everyone saw the Xenormoph coming (except the shower scene) and never once, besides the shower scene did it hide or stalk its prey in a stealthy manner. Like the Neomorphs, the Xenomorph seems rather spastic in this film.
The Chestburster was probably the biggest and most confusing curve ball of the entire film. I'll leave the rest of my thoughts on this aspect for the full, spoiler-filled review.
By far the best part of the Xenomorph life cycle in Alien: Covenant was the Facehuggers! They were ruthless, aggressive and the most iconic-looking of the three stage life cycle. The eggs which housed them too, looked incredible. Everything from how the Facehugger’s moved to how they attacked their unsuspecting hosts – they were phenomenally crafted and portrayed in every instance.
Although everything in Alien: Covenant seemed easy enough to follow, I did find the pacing at certain parts to be a little rushed - specifically David’s explanation of the events which led him to Paradise and why he bombed the city, the Xenomorph scenes and the interactions between David and the Covenant crew. There were a few moments between David and Walter which were fleshed out properly, but besides them, the surviving crew didn’t really interact with David much.
The film felt like it went by quickly to me. I would have much preferred an additional 20+ minutes to properly introduce the Xenomorph and I would have liked the Covenant crew to have questioned David more, asking about Shaw, their journey and the ancient beings which once inhabited the planet.
In conclusion, Alien: Covenant serves as an intriguing evolution of the Alien mythology, by expanding our understanding of the Xenomorph and its origin, but could have expanded upon the concepts surrounding Mankind’s origins as well and the Engineer race introduced by Prometheus. The film lends many nods to its predecessor and is clearly on track to back into the 1979 original Alien but, like Prometheus, it leaves us with a host of new questions to ponder and theorize over. As this series continues I look forward to discovering the answers to who created us, what happens to us when we die, why the Engineers hated Humanity and other profound concepts and questions. The beast has been explained, David’s agenda has been explained. The future of this series remains looking bright and I can’t wait to see what Ridley has planned for Alien: Awakening. Big things have small beginnings.
If you wish to read my full review, complete with spoilers and all, you can do so here! Please refrain from discussing spoilers in the comments section of this post, to avoid ruining any surprises for those who have yet to see the film.
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