Review Alien: Covenant film review by Chris
Written By Chris on 2017-05-08 21:15:38
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Alien: Covenant is an intriguing evolution of the Alien mythology. On May 4th, 2017 I was invited by 20th Century Fox to attend the world premiere of Ridley Scott’s Alien: Covenant in London, England. The following is my personal review which does contain spoilers. If you have yet to see Covenant for yourself, I urge you to wait until then to read onward.
Having tracked news on this film since 2012 and having become obsessed with its production and every shred of material associated with it, my expectations for Ridley’s highly anticipated Prometheus sequel were rather high. From casting, to the film’s score, to the portrayal of the film’s new Aliens and the profound philosophical concepts introduced in Prometheus, I went into Covenant with hopes of being impressed, inspired and immersed in an expansive Alien universe. I left the cinema feeling satisfied, but at the same time yearning for more.
The first thing I noticed when the opening credits began to roll was an incredibly Alien score composed by Jed Kurzel. As opposed to Prometheus, this score produced an incredible amount of nostalgia – It did a perfect job of setting the tone and atmosphere of what was about to transpire. There was no mistaking it – I was watching an Alien movie. I had zero complaints regarding Kurzel’s work on Alien: Covenant, it was a magnificent score and one that I could listen to for hours on end.
Another aspect of Covenant I was more impressed with than with Prometheus was the film’s characters. Each of them seemed to have more personality and emotion flowing through them. There were a number of moments throughout the film where I felt for the crew of the Covenant, while in Prometheus, many of the crew who met their demise on LV-223, I felt very little for.
The film starts off with the unfortunate death of James Franco’s captain Branson – husband to Katherine Waterston’s Daniels. His cryo-stasis pod malfunctions and Branson is trapped inside the capsule while its interior bursts into flames – cooking him alive. The manner in which this scene played out mirrored the Holloway death scene in Prometheus and Daniels’ reaction to her husband burning alive was very reminiscent of Shaw’s reaction. I felt like the similarities of that scene helped to explain the transformation Daniels was about to go through – like Shaw – becoming hardened by the experience.
As the film progresses, the personalities of the ship’s crew become more and more clear – Billy Crudup’s Christopher Oram adopts the role of captain after Branson’s untimely death but it’s clear he is not prepared to handle that level of responsibility. Throughout the film, Oram attempted to make the best decisions, but with each new factor being presented to him, he kept losing a grip on his surroundings.
Danny McBride’s performance as Tennessee was an enjoyable and relatable one. Despite early criticism of his comedic background, Danny knocked this role out of the park. Offering a few quips throughout the film, his demeanor was more so that of a serious, protective parent. Throughout the film, Tennessee is constantly calculating risks in order to save the crew stranded on the surface of the Engineer homeworld. When his wife Faris (Amy Seimetz) encounters an Alien pathogen-infected crew member, her reactions become frantic and you could feel a strong connection with McBride’s character as he tries to manage the situation from afar – feeling helpless and genuinely concerned for his wife’s wellbeing.
Katherine Waterston did a fantastic job playing Daniels. Her initially calm, reduced attitude following Branson’s death elicited immediate sympathy for her character. But, as the film progressed and situations arose which threatened not only her own survival, but the survival of her fellow crewmates, she wasted no time conjuring up inner strength. Daniels acted as the audience’s connection, I felt – seemingly being the only one with much common sense and a rational thought process for combating the Alien onslaught.
Michael Fassbender, as expected, stole the show with his portrayal of both the latest iteration of Weyland-Yutani’s android Walter, as well as the aging Weyland synthetic-turned mad Alien scientist David. Fassbender did a remarkable job transitioning between the characteristics of character, there was never a moment where I felt they were one in the same.
Like in Prometheus, David was by far the most intriguing character and rightfully so – considering the entire film and its eventual sequel, Alien: Awakening seems to revolve primarily around David and his pursuit of transcendence and domination over all living things.
The overall plot for Alien: Covenant was much easier to follow than that of Prometheus. However, the film was nowhere near on the same scale and scope of concept as Prometheus. As someone who enjoyed Prometheus for its profound and seemingly limitless concepts, I found Covenant to be rather narrow in view. The focus was very clearly on David and his personal vendetta, with very little to no expansion of the Engineer mythology, their city prior to David’s arrival and their own agenda and the explanation behind the prevented assault of Earth 2,010 years prior. I was disappointed with the lack of explanation concerning the Engineer home world and the questions posed regarding their society in Prometheus. The prologue sequence involving David and Shaw very clearly explained that David had learned of the Engineer’s ways but nowhere in Covenant does David explain and elaborate on those “ways”. The mystery surrounding the Engineer culture, their relationship with the Black Goo and their agenda to destroy mankind were not addressed, or explained.
However, if you were not that fascinated with the Engineer side of the story, then you may find Covenant more enjoyable – as the film clearly harkens back to the concepts and themes present in Alien (1979) and Aliens (1986).
The beast is NOT so cooked.
Contrary to Ridley Scott’s initial remarks about the story focusing on the expansion of the Alien universe and its other indigenous species other than the Xenomorph, Alien: Covenant is very Alien focused.
For those who were hoping for a grotesque, horrifying and adrenaline pumping Alien experience – you will be very pleased with Covenant. There is very little letting up throughout the entire film with regards to Alien mayhem.
Similar to Prometheus, Alien: Covenant is a beautiful film to watch. The practical sets and environments were breathtaking and aw-inspiring. Like Scott and the cast reiterated countless times during Covenant’s production, the overall aesthetic of the Covenant and its technology was more so a blend of Prometheus’ pristineness and the aged look Scott’s original Alien. Though, it still blows the technology found on the Nostromo out of the water.
Oddly enough, I actually preferred the Neomorphs to the Xenomorphs in Alien: Covenant. Their development, presentation and interactions were way more fascinating and way more realistic than that of the Xenomorphs.
Although they grew rapidly, throughout the film you could actually see them growing. Their white skin color made them seem creepier as well, along with their Deacon-like jaw structure. Although smaller and weaker than the Xenomorphs, the Neomorphs possessed another unexpected and unique trait – calm interaction.
At one point in the film, David approaches a fully grown Neomorph. As David approaches the Neomorph it does not attack, but seems intrigued and comfortable with David’s presence. Oram arrives shortly after and threatens to kill the Neomorph – aiming his rifle at its heart (or where we are meant to assume where its heart is). David reacts by telling Oram to stand down and not to shoot, but despite David’s wishes, Oram shoots the Neomorph while it was distracted by David and manages to kill it. This sparked an unexpected and profound reaction from David – a very emotional one. This is the first and only moment we see David break his composure. His reaction is very much that of a parent who has just witnessed his child killed before him. He utters the words “It trusted me!” – insinuating David had developed great affection and devotion to his creations and longed for a bond like that of father and son – perhaps fueled by his feeling of inadequacy as a son to Weyland.
My favorite scene from Alien: Covenant was easily the shower scene teased in the first trailer because it was the only scene to have featured the Xenomorph in an ominous, dark and traditional manner. However, despite my favorite scene being one that involved the Xenormoph, the Xenomorph portrayal for most of the film is also one of my biggest gripe about the film.
To start things off, the Xenomorphs grew incredibly fast. Within hours, or less, the Chestburster was able to grow to adult size. Compared to the time in every subsequent Alien film in the franchise, this was by far the quickest growth time we have ever witnessed. Dare I say it’s on par with the growth rates of Alien vs. Predator… The reason for its rapid growth was not explained and considering this is meant to be an early version of Kane’s son featured in 1979’s Alien, you would assume the growth rate to be at least the same, if not slower.
The other issue I have to take with the Xenormoph portrayal is the fact that many times we saw them in light, not shrouded in darkness. With the advent of CGI I understand the reality of being able to show the Alien more easily, but for me, part of what made the original Alien so terrifying was the manner in which it lurked in the shadows. You never knew where it was until it was too late. With Covenant, everyone saw the Xenormoph coming (except the shower scene) and never once, besides the shower scene did it hide or stalk its prey in a stealthy manner. Like the Neomorphs, the Xenomorph seems rather spastic in this film.
The Chestburster was probably the biggest and most confusing curve ball of the entire film. Instead of the snake-like, infantile Xenomorph offspring seen born from every Human host in every Alien film before it, the Chestburster born of Oram was born complete with a full elongated cranium, arms, legs, second jaw and tail. It literally looked like a miniature adult Xenomorph. There were no aesthetic cues to insinuate this was an infant by any means besides its miniature size.
The concept of cocooning, shedding those cocoons and developing a hardened exoskeleton were completely thrown out the window and within minutes this Chestburster, or what should be called “Minimorph”, developed into an overly organic looking, adult Xenomorph. I would have loved to see a similar scene where one of the surviving crew discovered a shed cocoon and were then introduced to the adult Xenomorph, similar to the original Alien. I’m not sure why they chose to introduce the Chestburster this way and I see them having a hard time explaining how we go from Minimorph to iconic Chestburster before we really come in the back door of Alien.
By far the best part of the Xenomorph life cycle in Alien: Covenant was the Facehuggers! They were ruthless, aggressive and the most iconic-looking of the three stage life cycle. The eggs which housed them too, looked incredible. Everything from how the Facehugger’s moved to how they attacked their unsuspecting hosts – they were phenomenally crafted and portrayed in every instance.
Although everything in Alien: Covenant seemed easy enough to follow, I did find the pacing at certain parts to be a little rushed - specifically David’s explanation of the events which led him to Paradise and why he bombed the city, the Xenomorph scenes and the interactions between David and the Covenant crew. There were a few moments between David and Walter which were fleshed out properly, but besides them, the surviving crew didn’t really interact with David much.
The film felt like it went by quickly to me. I would have much preferred an additional 20+ minutes to properly introduce the Xenomorph and I would have liked the Covenant crew to have questioned David more, asking about Shaw, their journey and the ancient beings which once inhabited the planet.
Dr. Elizabeth Shaw’s Fate
Of course, a big question everyone had since day one of Covenant’s production was what became of Dr. Shaw (Noomi Rapace)? Sadly, like many of us speculated, Shaw is deceased by the time the Covenant crew arrive. David’s attitude towards Shaw and her fate was a puzzling one – he seemed to have adoration for her, but as we later discover, he had not buried her in his garden, or kept good care of her remains – but instead had used her for his own twisted experimentations. Her body lay lifeless and mutilated in his workshop. This solidified David as a truly evil and twisted character.
Although Shaw’s fate was somewhat of a predictable one, I was hoping for a more profound send off. Like many of our fans here, I was hoping to see Shaw fused with bio-mechanical Engineer technology – a crucial component in the creation of the perfect organism, or something else entirely, which was just as horrifying and grotesque. But sadly, her story ended as quickly as it began – despite her compassion towards David, she was not granted a pass during their time on Paradise.
In conclusion, Alien: Covenant serves as an intriguing evolution of the Alien mythology, by expanding our understanding of the Xenomorph and its origin, but could have expanded upon the concepts surrounding Mankind’s origins as well and the Engineer race introduced by Prometheus. The film lends many nods to its predecessor and is clearly on track to back into the 1979 original Alien but, like Prometheus, it leaves us with a host of new questions to ponder and theorize over. As this series continues I look forward to discovering the answers to who created us, what happens to us when we die, why the Engineers hated Humanity and other profound concepts and questions. The beast has been explained, David’s agenda has been explained and we are left with the knowledge that David now pilots a massive Colonization vessel, housing 2,000 colonists and a couple Facehuggers. The future of this series remains looking bright and I can’t wait to see what Ridley has planned for Alien: Awakening. Big things have small beginnings.
I would also like to send out a big thank you to 20th Century Fox for inviting me to the world premiere of Alien: Covenant! It was a phenomenal experience and one, I will not forget.