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Alien: Covenant (2017)


June 4, 2017 - 8:05pm | Ryan Tutolo

Your rating: None Average: 6.1 (10 votes)
Reviewer Rating: 
6
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Rating #: 
6/10
Director: 
Ridley Scott
Runtime: 
122 minutes
Cast: 
Michael Fassbender, Noomi Rapace, Katherine Waterston, Danny McBride, Demian Bichir, Jussie Smollett, Amy Seimetz, Carmen Ejogo, Callie Hernandez, Ben Rigby, James Franco


The Alien series has a long history of ups and downs in terms of movie quality and fan reception. Personally, I find something to like in each one (except maybe Alien: Resurrection...blegh) and Ridley Scott’s latest is no different. This movie is both a prequel to the original Alien (1979) and sequel to Prometheus (2012). (side note: at some point 20th Century Fox will retitle it to “Alien: Prometheus” I have no evidence for this, just speculation) This is also a tough movie to discuss without delving into spoilers, but I’ll be sure to warn you ahead of time.

Other than a short scene in the beginning showing David’s (Fassbender) “birth” we’re brought onto the colonization ship, the Covenant. The ship’s android Walter (also played by Fassbender but with an American accent) takes care of the crew and the human embryos on board. Of course the ship is hit by some space “stuff” and the crew is awakened for repairs and to deal with the deaths of some of the sleeping passengers. Specifically the death of the current captain and the shifting of duties provides much of the tension early on. A radio transmission involving John Denver from a nearby planet peaks their interest and they decide to check it out.

On the planet they find the crashed ship that David and Noomi Rapace hijacked at the end of Prometheus and as you might expect in a Alien movie, the shit hits the fan, there’s alien monsters and the crew has to deal with it while simultaneously trying to save their friends and prevent the colony ship from getting destroyed. Seems like a pretty good plot right? What could go wrong from a movie making standpoint? Well, plenty if I’m completely honest with you, but let's not jump to the shade throwing just yet; first let’s hit on all the good points.



The acting in the film is great, specifically Fassbender really stands out with his dual roles. When he interacts with himself it’s truly impressive. He’s definitely the biggest highlight of the movie and it leaves you begging for more from him. Probably the biggest surprise for me is that Danny Mcbride wasn’t terrible, he was the most charming and relatable character of the entire crew. I look forward to seeing him in more serious roles in the future. Katherine Waterson is given the toughest role as the new “Ripley” character, she has to convey plenty of grief, angst, and sorrow then change into a xenomorph slaughtering badass. She does an adequate job but her path in the journey isn’t as relatable as what Ripley had across the first Alien film or over the course of the first 3 Alien movies.

The world and settings that Ridley Scott has developed are well built and believable. This has been a staple for Scott and all throughout his career he has built some of the most memorable sci-fi settings and universes in cinema. The colony ship and lander feel like lived-in, functional pieces of equipment and the alien world feels like a dangerous mysterious place that by the end of the movie you wish the crew had more time to explore. That’s the best thing you can say about a movie when one part leaves you craving more of it. Though too much of something is sometimes a negative and there’s plenty of negatives in this movie.

The first negative that stood out to me was the overabundance of far reaching themes that Covenant tries to explore. A sampling of the themes this movie touches on include dwelling on the past vs looking to the future, faith vs. cold pragmatism, the creator-creation dynamic, love versus duty, and the costs and sacrifices of responsible leadership. Every one of these is touched upon, some more than others but because so many topics and characters were involved none were explored to their fullest and it honestly seems like a misses opportunity to say something very poignant about one or two of those (and there were more that I’m sure I missed).



I found the special effects hit or miss. Some of the close shots of the xenomorphs were absolutely beautiful and even looked practical. Others, like fast moving or wideshots looked too CGI. The chest burster later in the film looked like a joke as well. The Fassbender dual scene time was well done despite the necessity of special effects for having the same person playing opposite himself.

WARNING! SERIOUS SPOILERS IN THIS LAST TWO PARAGRAPHS!

The characters in this movie are stupid...really really stupid. Sure, there were dumb characters in Prometheus, you had the scientist that took off his space helmet just because there was breathable air, and the map guy that got lost, and the biologist that tried to pet the alien-cobra. Those jokers have nothing on the morons in this movie. An entire crew that doesn't even bother putting on space helmets on an alien world. What if there is some strange airborne virus that killed off the population of this planet? Spoiler...there is and now you’re all dead. The captain sees the new android making friends with a weird xenomorph that just bit the head off your crew member so he shoots the monster then follows the robot to a creepy-ass room full of alien experiments including a dead human and a cave full of eggs, it hatches and you put your unprotected face over it...duh. There are plenty more including splitting up an exploration team to leave two people alone (then they split up from each other at one point ultimately kicking off the downfall of the mission) and the pilot willing to sacrifice thousands of lives and the whole colony ship for his wife.

Finally there’s the creation of the traditional xenomorphs. Despite all the allusion to the xenos being an ancient species (either created by the Engineers or used by them). This has been shown in the original Alien with the chest exploded Engineer fossilized in the crashed spacecraft having been there for thousands(?) of years and in Prometheus with the mural/sculpture with what looks like a xeno head, and on the lesser end the Predator and Alien vs. Predator movies that suggest the Predators hunted the xenos for sport for eons. All that is thrown out the window because Covenant suggests that David created them through genetic engineering and experiments involving Noomi Rapace’s disemboweled corpse. Or it could be argued that he just figured out a way to make the creature he saw in the mural in the ship. Either way it complicates a topic that could have been much simpler.

Alien: Covenant is a lofty sci-fi film with grand aspirations that doesn’t meet the goals it set for itself. It has great performances, some weak characters and plot points, and fantastic world-building that Scott is known for. It’s a mixed bag with both good and bad aspects but if you’re a fan of the series you’ll find something to like.

Author Information

Ryan Tutolo's picture
Ryan Tutolo is a horror movie lover and host of the UHM Podcast. Follow him on Twitter and let him know why his reviews suck!

https://twitter.com/ryantutolo
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