Fans of the Alien franchise will experience a huge sense of relief as a chestburster explodes from a human torso in Ridley Scott’s highly-anticipated Alien: Covenant, a sequel to the 2012 film Prometheus, the second instalment in the prequel series and the sixth instalment overall in the Alien franchise. Truth be told, the third instalment directed by Scott, a dazzling film that questions creation and destruction, is a welcomed return to its horror roots. The intriguing next chapter in the sci-fi franchise, which plays out a little like a greatest-hits package, is genuinely haunting.
Alien: Covenant sets out to carve its own place in the canon by combining ideas introduced in the 1979 classic with the themes of spirituality and creation found in the first prequel. It’s a film that attempts to bridge the gap between the flagship originals and the prequel by offering more frantic horror and gore at the hands of the xenomorphs. However, it doesn’t do away with the deeper thought-provoking philosophical ideas that brought gravity to Prometheus.
With each passing Alien film, we are introduced to a new group of people who come into contact with the xenomorphs. In Alien we had miners, in Aliens we had the military, in Alien Ressurection we had smugglers, in Prometheus we had scientists and in Alien: Covenant we have colonists. In 2104, after a distress call, the Covenant crew detour from their mission to build a civilisation in a far away solar system to search for life on an abandoned and unidentified planet, which they hope could be better suited for their objective. Naturally, things go horribly wrong and they find themselves caught in a nightmare. Their stupid decisions are ultimately punished with gruesome deaths.
While the plot does seem remarkably familiar, the writers throw in a number of surprises that help the film feel fresh. Covenant wastes very little time and sets up the premise quickly. Disaster strikes from the very first opening scene of the film and all of it leads from one horrible moment to the next.
Of course, an Alien film would not be complete without an android and a tough heroine, which come in the form of Fassbender’s Walter and Katherine Waterston’s Daniels. While Fassbender remains the best thing to happen to the series and steals the show with every frame that he is on screen, Katherine Waterston feels more like a second-rate Sigourney Weaver. Although she is given most of the screentime, she is far less interesting than most of the other characters on board. Danny McBride, who most people expected to play the film’s comic relief, offers up some of the film’s most emotional moments and proves that he’s capable of playing more refined characters.
Although this is the first Alien film to be released after the death of H R Giger, his haunting and beautiful designs are still present in the archaeology of the spaceships and the designs of the fast-spawning extraterrestrial creatures. Everything looks visually stunning, with Scott recreating some of the best visuals from previous films.
Alien: Covenant offers bursts of revelation about the franchise moving forward – there is a huge reveal here that shakes the very pillars of what we know about the mythology. There’s still a lot of unanswered questions that remain, but there is enough here to intrigue you to come back for more. It manages to break new ground while paying tribute to the classic films.