Prometheus was one of the more divisive blockbusters of recent years. Some praised it as a masterpiece while others labeled it as a missed opportunity. Personally, I walked out of the theater with a resounding “meh…” The film was by no means bad. As a matter of fact, it had some interesting ideas, stunning visuals, and unbelievable atmosphere. What it lacked were any concrete answers or the thrills that made this series so beloved to begin with. For a prequel to Alien, it could have been a lot more.
The good news is that Alien: Covenant rectifies many of the problems Prometheus had. Director Ridley Scott returns to the franchise’s roots, once again injecting an element of horror into the equation. Like its 1979 predecessor, Alien: Covenant is essentially a haunted house movie in space with plenty of screams to go around. While not anything revolutionary, this is a suspenseful thriller that works on a psychological level and on a gut-busting gore level. It also answers a few questions that bridge the gap between the prequels and the original classics.
Like its 1979 predecessor, Alien: Covenant is essentially a haunted house movie in space with plenty of screams to go around.
Set in the year 2104, the film centers on the crew of the Covenant, a colony ship transporting colonists and embryos to another world. A malfunction results in the death of the captain, played by James Franco in his briefest role since The Night Before. He leaves behind his wife Daniels, played by Katherine Waterston from Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, ironically another prequel. As the crew tries to figure out their next move, they receive a radio transmission from a close planet. They decide to investigate and naturally all hell breaks loose.
The aliens here are much more threatening than the ones in Prometheus, but it’s the human characters that have really been improved upon. In the previous film, the only memorable players were Noomi Rapace’s Elizabeth Shaw and Michael Fassbender’s David. This time around, however, there are several engaging characters we want to see survive. Waterston is a compelling heroine who more than earns comparison to Sigourney Weaver. We also get strong supporting work from Billy Crudup, Demián Bichir, and Jussie Smollett. Even Danny McBride, who might seem miscast at first, fits in well with the Alien universe and turns in a surprisingly effective performance.
Speaking of Fassbender, he reprises his role as the android David, who becomes more and more like HAL 9000 with every passing day. He additionally plays an identical android named Walter whose loyalty lies with the Covenant crew. Seeing an actor give a dual performance is nothing new, but the interactions between David and Walter are astonishingly seamless. Maybe this is because of the effects, maybe it’s because of Fassbender’s capability as a performer, or maybe it’s a little bit of both. In any case, their scenes together are nothing short of phenomenal, even if there’s some uncomfortable sexual tension.
Building off Prometheus, Alien: Covenant encompasses numerous rich themes regarding humanity, artificial intelligence, and creation. It’s even quite biblical at times, calling everything from Noah’s Ark to the Garden of Eden to mind. This is truly a thinking man’s sci-fi movie, but that doesn’t mean it skimps on the action. Scott works in a few breathtaking set pieces that range from claustrophobic to heart-racing. This has got to be the most complete Alien picture since James Cameron got behind the camera over thirty years ago. While it’s hard to say where the story will go from here, it appears this franchise has officially been resurrected.