Being a big fan of Alien I have been really looking forward to Alien Covenant which I saw on opening night. Here are my initial thoughts. I avoid major spoilers but as always be warned for general plot information.
Just for the record Alien Covenant is a sequel to 2012’s Prometheus and a prequel to 1979’s Alien. And apparently we can look forward to at least one or two more entries taking us up to Alien.
The movie opens with a close-up of an eye which immediately put me in mind of a similar shot at the start of Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner. Indeed later on in this movie the android David says a line that reminded me of a line spoken by Roy Batty in Blade Runner. Certainly these Alien prequels deal with much the same themes as Blade Runner did in relation to android intelligence and searching for one’s creator.
(And just in case you didn’t know, there’s a long awaited Blade Runner sequel out later this year…)
Anyway the close-up of the eye is from what turns out to be an intriguing little prelude with the android David (Michael Fassbender) from Prometheus in a white room responding to question from his human creator Charles Weyland (Guy Pearce). Both actors have returned from Prometheus and it strongly implies that David has only just recently been born/activated by his ‘father’ Charles Weyland.
Then the movie proper starts. And we get a lovely moment with the letters of ALIEN COVENANT gradually forming, accompanied by some of Jerry Goldsmith’s music from the original. It’s a lovely call back that put me in the mood. So who cares that it’s taken 38 years for another Ridley Scott Alien movie…
After the title we discover that it’s 2104, ten years on from the events of Prometheus. The colony ship Covenant is on its way to start life on a new world. On board are 2000 colonists and 15 crew members, all in hyper-sleep. Only android Walter is awake, again played by Michael Fassbender. We get a little glimpse of some of Walter’s chores before Something Goes Wrong. Walter orders the crew awoken to deal with the emergency.
While fixing the ship one crew member detects a signal apparently of human origin on a world where no human should be. The crew change course to investigate what is potentially a better location for their colony. A landing party is sent down including the acting captain Oram played by Billy Crudup and Daniels played by Katherine Waterston.
As you would expecting the landing party find they have bitten off more than they can chew when some of their number get infected by… something. This leads to a very tense sequence as they race back to the landing craft and it’s medical facilities.
And Things Go Very Wrong.
Without going into too much more detail we are soon reintroduced to android David, the last survivor of the Prometheus. He takes an immediate interest in the Covenant crew, and in particular his “brother” Walter.
Overall I found the movie suitably thrilling. It’s a big improvement over Prometheus. Prometheus itself I consider a fine movie and I knew there weren’t going to be any Aliens in it. However I was disappointed that it never became the tense space thriller that I thought it was going to be. So the action and suspense of Alien Covenant are very welcome.
It’s not perfect. I have no issues with the early part of the movie featuring the space sequences and up to the landing on the planet and the first crew infections. However to be honest the middle part of the movie did drag a little for me. I think it might have benefited from a little more of a base-under-siege dynamic. Still there are enough creepy goings on with the creatures and questions over David’s honesty to keep the viewer engaged.
(And without going into details there is a revelation in this part of the movie that turns what we thought we knew about the origin of the Aliens upside down…)
Then the movie picks up again as the survivors of the landing party (few as they are) escape from the planet and return to the colony ship in orbit. And you can be sure that something has got onto the ship with them. If anything I’d have liked a few more close calls with the creature on the ship as that sequence worked quite well. It’s during these scenes that Daniels finds her inner Ripley and the audience find themselves on familiar ground, realising they’re watching another Alien movie directed by Ridley Scott.
My only other real criticism is that with something like 15 human crew members it’s hard to get to know any of them in the way we did with the Nostromo crew in the original. The ones that are most memorable are probably Katherine Waterston as Daniels, Danny McBride as Tennessee and Billy Crudup as Oram. And of course Michael Fassbender in two distinct performances as David and Walter.
The movie is gorgeous to look at. One sequence that stood out for me was the Covenant landing craft flying over the planet’s landscape looking for a place to set down. The final action sequence in a cargo bay on the Covenant was also extremely well done.
Plus as mentioned earlier I really appreciated the use of the Jerry Goldsmith Alien theme to tie the movie to its predecessor/successor. I hope they do the same as appropriate in the next movie.
And there surely will be another movie. The ending of this one (which directly links back to the Weyland-David prelude at the start) doesn’t so much leave it open for another but pretty much promises one.
Well, I await it with much anticipation.