Alien: Covenant (2017)

Review #1,449

Director:  Ridley Scott
Cast:  Michael Fassbender, Katherine Waterston, Billy Crudup, Danny McBride, Demian Bichir
Plot:  The crew of a colony ship, bound for a remote planet, discover an uncharted paradise with a threat beyond their imagination, and must attempt a harrowing escape.

Genre:  Horror / Sci-Fi / Thriller
Awards:  -
Runtime:  122min
Rating:  M18 for sci-fi violence, bloody images, language and some sexuality/nudity.
Distributor:  20th Century Fox

“Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair.”

One thing’s for sure, Alien: Covenant is certainly more R-rated than Prometheus (2012), a film which originally was meant to start a franchise that would run parallel to the ‘Alien' series in a kind of prequel-sequel-prequel-sequel thing.  But now that Neil Blomkamp's purported ‘Alien 5’ is more or less dead in the eyes of Fox, Ridley Scott’s latest would try to connect one step closer to the events of his landmark sci-fi horror, Alien (1979). 

In this context, Covenant does well to offer another follow-up chapter to Prometheus, but with a slightly different agenda—this is really a film about Michael Fassbender's android character—and without too much excess baggage of self-indulgent philosophy and ideas on creation, though one could appreciate the grand world-building Scott and team have accomplished in both films. 

Which is why these two films when seen together ‘feel as if' they are greater than the sum of its parts, but as individual films, there are flaws, predictabilities and contrivances in the screenwriting that leave a lot to be desired. 

As hinted, Covenant ups the violence and gore—I'm sure much to the delight of genre fans—and readily features premature hybrids of the xenomorph in its continuous evolution.  Perhaps too eagerly as these creatures seem to be more interested in their close-ups than to induce raw fear. 

Emerging star Katherine Waterston (Inherent Vice, 2014; Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, 2016) and Billy Crudup lead the crew of the Covenant colonist ship in search of a habitable world for the future of humankind.  They stumble on a planet after picking up a rogue transmission.  And you know what ensues...

Covenant is such a hybrid animal that even its use of music—the haunting cues of Jerry Goldsmith’s score for the 1979 film, and Marc Streitenfeld’s main theme for Prometheus—is in fusion with Jed Kurzel’s original work.  The film’s standout sequence comes early in the creature's first back-bursting appearance, in my opinion, the only time Covenant oozes enough tension to hold a candle to the first two ‘Alien' films. 

The rest of the film pales in comparison and doesn’t have that prolonged sustenance of suspense to thrill, which is a pity because the gore and creature violence are gleefully good.  Scott’s visuals, of course, have lost none of its grandeur and dark beauty.  You can always count on him to impress and frustrate at the same time, which is why I await Scott’s follow-up to Covenant with equal anticipation and trepidation. 

Verdict:  Scott's follow-up to 'Prometheus' is a full-scale R-rated blockbuster that will thrill mainstream adult audiences, maybe even fans, but it doesn't hold a candle to the sheer filmmaking prowess of the first two 'Alien' films.


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