Alien: Covenant is the newest addition to the Alien franchise, and the third to be directed by Ridley Scott. Scott previously directed the original film in the franchise, 1979’s Alien, as well as its prequel Prometheus. Alien: Covenant sits in a weird place of trying to operate as a direct sequel to Prometheus, with some of the main cast returning, but also an attempt by Scott to bring the franchise back to the more horror roots that the original Alien is famed for. Covenant is constantly trying to find this balance, and it doesn’t always succeed.
Covenant follows a colonisation mission made up of several couples in the crew, as well as an android. The principal members of the crew are Daniels played by Katherine Waterston, Oram The Captain played by Billy Crudup, and Tennessee played by Danny McBride. Pretty much none of the other human characters have any real discernible character, and if they do have names they’re quickly forgotten. They essentially exist purely as Xenomorph fodder. Even three mentioned don’t feel like great characters, in fact Waterston feels like a knock off version of the Ripley knock off from Prometheus.
The only characters that feel well developed are the two androids played by Michael Fassbender. David is the returning character from Prometheus, and it’s really once he arrives into the story that Covenant moves away from the horror elements and more towards a Prometheus sequel. His interactions with the new synthetic, Walter, are easily the highlights of the film. Fassbender is giving two great performances, probably the only great performances in the film, and is driving a lot of the philosophical thought behind the film. This really picks up Prometheus‘ themes of creation of life, and was really fascinating.
The horror elements of the film work excellently, they’re extremely effective. The first scene of the Neomorph being born is gruesome and truly horrifying. Similarly, elements of the third act are so tense and brutal, but just not enough. In dealing with the Xenomorphs Scott tries to make Covenant into an action driven film akin to Aliens. And these moments just feel so out of place in what has come before in the film. The final sequence is essentially a rip off of the finale to Aliens, but less cool or interesting.
Of course Ridley Scott manages to make this the most visually impressive Alien film to date. The effects, particularly on the Xenomorphs and Neomorphs, are incredible. These creatures have never looked slicker, or more beautiful before. The world that Scott created is so vibrant and gorgeous.
Alien: Covenant is such a mishmash of many of the films that precede it in the Alien franchise, and there are too many points where it doesn’t quite come together. Some pretty bland characters don’t help the film, but when it works, it’s very good. Covenant is so beautiful to look at, and Fassbender is fantastic in his dual roles.