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Saturday, May 20, 2017

Sean Kelly

Review: Alien: Covenant

The following review contains SPOILERS

A crew of colonists come across a planet holding a dark secret in Alien: Covenant. The colony ship Covenant is on its way to the remote planet of Origae-6, with two thousand colonists on board, monitored by synthetic crew member Walter (Michael Fassbender). When a neutrino burst hits the ship, Walter is forced to awaken the crew, including pilot Tennessee (Danny McBride), terraforming expert Daniels Branson (Katherine Waterston), and first mate Christopher Oram (Billy Crudup), the latter of whom finds himself in charge after the captain dies in a tragic accident. As the crew of the Covenant are making repairs, they intercept a signal coming from a nearby planet, which seems to be a better fit for colonization. Despite Daniels' objections, Oram decides the check out the planet, where they find Prometheus lone survivor David (Fassbender), who has been quite busy in the decade since the doomed mission.

The Alien film series has gone in many different directions over the course of its four decade lifespan. After the four initial films starring Sigourney Weaver, the series spun off into the two Alien vs Predator films, which received mixed results at best. Then in 2012, Ridley Scott returned to the series that he created to direct Prometheus. The film was conceived as a prequel of sorts to Alien, but instead of focusing on the Xenomorph creatures, Prometheus expanded the mythology to focus on the alien beings known as "Engineers," one of which was glimpsed in the original Alien as the mummified "Space Jockey." Prometheus ended up either confusing or annoying audiences, who were expecting a proper Alien prequel, which has resulted in Ridley Scott to abandon his Engineer-focused sequel ideas and make the prequel that everyone apparently wanted in the first place.

I should start off by saying that I am not one of the people who didn't like Prometheus. In fact, I quite like the places that it went with this series and I was sort of looking forward to a film that went deeper into their origins. Instead, we get Engineer genocide, as we are treated to a flashback scene as Michael Fassbender's android character of David kills off the entire race, using their own bio-weapon. It is subsequently revealed that David spent the last decade experimenting with this oil-like substance, resulting in the creation of the gray Neomorphs and finally the Xenomorphs that we are all familiar with.

The retconning of everything introduced in Prometheus, including the unceremonious off-screen death of Noomi Rapace's Elizabeth Shaw, is somewhat annoying for someone that liked the previous film's sci-fi interpretation of the creation story. While Michael Fassbender still gives a standout performance in what now is a duo role, David has devolved from a morally ambiguous android to a full-on villain with a God complex. It is also quite easy to notice the "Cain and Abel" connection in the interactions between David and his Southern-accented "brother" Walter.

While Ridley Scott decided to go all in with making Alien: Covenant a full-on prequel, it isn't really until the final act when the Xenomorphs become a central part of the story. Instead, most of the film features the smaller Neomorphs, who tend to emerge from their victims in quite graphic ways. In fact, Ridley Scott probably has a much greater emphasis on blood and gore in Alien: Covenant than anything that was seen in the original Alien back in 1979.

I haven't really talked too much about the cast of the film, most of whom are only present to become victims. Katherine Waterston steps into the obligatory Ripley surrogate role, with her character of Daniels often being at odds with the faith-based decisions of Billy Crudup's acting captain Oren, whose ultimate fate has been sadly spoiled in practically every trailer for the film. The rest of the cast includes Danny McBride, Demián Bichir, Carmen Ejogo, Callie Hernandez, and Amy Seimetz. There is even a brief cameo by James Franco as doomed captain (and Daniels' husband) Branson, who actually received more screen time in the prologue released online a couple months ago. Alien: Covenant also sees Guy Pearce return as Peter Wayland, minus the old age make-up, in a flashback scene that opens the film.

The ultimate conclusion I have about Alien: Covenant is that your response to the film will be based on how much you liked Prometheus. If you wanted more of the mythology built in the previous film, you will be greatly disappointed. If you wanted monsters bursting out of chests and killing people in bloody ways? Well, here you go.

7 / 10 stars
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Sean Kelly

About Sean Kelly -

Sean Patrick Kelly is a self-described über-geek, who has been an avid film lover for all his life. He graduated from York University in 2010 with an honours B.A. in Cinema and Media Studies and he likes to believe he knows what he’s talking about when he writes about film (despite occasionally going on pointless rants).