In the five years since its successful, yet polarizing, release, Prometheus has become one of those movies that sparks endless internet debates. The central issue being that the movie raised more questions than answers. I never really understood those complaints. The movie wasn’t about discovering what Ridley Scott thinks the origin of humanity is, it was about a crew searching for answers and running into some horrific shit before they got them. As far as I was concerned, Prometheus is an entertaining, well-acted, adult sci-fi thriller that happens to serve as a prequel to the Alien series as well.
Eventually a sequel was announced and I was genuinely surprised that not only was Ridley Scott returning to direct, but with the title Alien: Paradise Lost as well. Eventually the title changed to Alien: Covenant, but the narrative is still quite connected to both Milton’s Paradise Lost and Dante’s Divine Comedy. That’s a pretty tall order for the sixth entry of a sci-fi horror series, and while it certainly bites off a bit more than it can chew, that doesn’t stop Alien: Covenant from being a hell of a fun time.
One of the qualities that elevates Alien from the other multi entry horror franchises is the fact that they take their time fleshing out characters. Alien: Covenant certainly has ups and downs, but the actors are game and manage to keep you interested throughout. Katherine Waterston (Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them), Danny McBride (Eastbound & Down), and Billy Crudup (The Longest Week) are all solid as crew members of the titular colonization vessel, but this ends up being Michael Fassbender’s show.
In a dual performance as the returning “David” and his upgraded model “Walter,” Fassbender (X-Men: Apocalypse) manages to travel quite the spectrum from gloriously over the top to downright creepy. The themes of creator and creation are explored from vastly different viewpoints through both of the films non-human characters, it’s an interesting approach but one that slightly diminishes the weight of the subject at hands. The debates between David and Dr. Shaw in Prometheus were intriguing because they focused on fact versus emotion, in Covenant it’s a bit harder to be as invested in the discussion when it takes places between two androids.
Now, while Alien: Covenant certainly cut down on some of the philosophy of Prometheus, it also cranked up the horror. The creatures do not introduce themselves with much subtlety in this outing. The blood comes quick and, while there isn’t a standout sequence like the operating table in Prometheus, there is far more to go around. The initial encounter feels reminiscent of the Raptors in the tall grass sequence in The Lost World: Jurassic Park, it’s quite a departure from the typically claustrophobic atmosphere represented throughout this series and a tactic I hope to see explored further in the upcoming sequels.
We’re treated to a few classic face huggings and chest burstings before finally getting a fully formed Xenomorph. Like Jason’s hockey mask or Freddy’s razor glove, there’s just a childlike glee associated with the first appearance of those slimy, double mouthed bastards. Unfortunately the action sequences are a bit uneven. The cat and mouse elements are effective, the deaths are pretty gruesome, and for the first time we get some badass first person Alien vision. The issues lie within the bigger set pieces never quite establishing enough tension with the Xenomorph coming across somewhat underpowered.
Overall Alien: Covenant falls into the same vein as Jurassic World and The Force Awakens, serving as both connected entries in a larger series but also retreading some of the same plot points of the original films. The other common theme between those three films is the old notion of “absence makes the heart grow fonder.” Movies such as Alien: Resurrection, Jurassic Park 3, and the Star Wars prequels all suggested that the franchises needed a long break, and they all returned triumphantly with both fans and critics.
While Alien: Covenant is far from perfect, you’ll be hard pressed to find more better bang for your buck when it comes to summer popcorn horror; plus the ending sets up the already announced sequels in a way that any fan of the series has to be excited for.