Movie Review: Alien: Covenant

Certificate 15, 122 minutes

Director: Ridley Scott

Stars: Michael Fassbender, Katherine Waterston, Billy Crudup

Alien: Covenant is effectively the sequel to Prometheus although, unlike the latter film, it is obviously part of the Alien franchise. In Prometheus it wasn’t clear until the very end that the film was connected to the franchise, when an Alien xenomorph finally appeared, although there had been clues prior to that: the room with the storage containers where the virus that the giant aliens, the Engineers, had created to wipe out life on Earth were stored did look give images of the facehugger eggs in Alien and the armoured suits of the Engineers themselves were like the dead pilot in the crashed spaceship from the film.

Alien: CovenantThis film opens some time prior to the events of Prometheus, many years by the looks of it. It begins in a largely white room  where a man in a chair is identifying carious things. Another man, a Peter Weyland (Guy Pearce) much younger than he was in Prometheus, says that he is the seated figure’s father, because he created him. The seated man is David (Michael Fassbender), the synthetic who caused so much trouble later on.

It then goes to what is presumably the future (a figure of ten years after the Prometheus disappeared is stated at one point, but that might not be entirely accurate due to travel times). The USCSS Covenant, a colonisation ship, is proceeding to Origae-6 where a colony is going to be set up. There are 2,000 colonists, 1,400 foetuses and 15 crew, with the colonists and crew all being in hypersleep. The only person ‘awake’ is Walter (Michael Fassbender), a newer model synthetic. He is running the ship, along with the computer, Mother (Lorelei King), who sounds like a definitely inferior artificial intelligence compared to Walter. The Covenant is 7 years and 4 months away from its destination and Walter is deploying the sails to recharge the energy resources when Mother detects an incoming neutrino burst. With the sails deployed, a massive energy spike hits and the sleeping crew goes through emergency revival.

Unfortunately, one of the crew, the captain, is trapped in his mod which doesn’t open when it catches fire, killing him and putting the first officer, Oram (Billy Crudup), in charge. His new second is ‘Danny’ Daniels (Katherine Waterston), the partner of the now deceased captain. A number of the colonists and foetuses were also killed in the accident and putting the ship to rights will take 48 hours.

During a spacewalk to reattach one of the sails which was torn free in the neutrino burst, pilot Tennessee (Danny McBride) gets a rather scrambled transmission to his suit. Back on board the transmission is unscrambled to a degree and its recognisably English, and a song, a song being broadcast well past where any humans are supposed to be. The source of the transmission is also tracked back to a nearby habitable world. Said world is not only a few weeks away, it’s a better candidate for colonisation than Origae-6. The world itself has never been surveyed and is unknown, and it really should have been discovered. Daniels is against going there, as she believes it’s too good to be true, but Oram says it’s a much better prospect, so much closer and the rest of the crew isn’t willing to go back into the pods again. Daniels, although she doesn’t know it, is absolutely right.

At the new world, Lander 1 (although they only have one lander) is taken down to the surface (in a scene that brings back memories of the Marine drop in Aliens) with the Covenant remaining in orbit with three crewmen remaining behind with Tennessee in charge. On the surface communications with the Covenant are extremely poor and the pilot of the lander, Tennessee’s wife Faris (Amty Seimetz) remains with it to try and improve communications whilst the rest head to the source of the signal. They discover a field of cultivated wheat where no Earth crops should be. On the way, Oram’s wife Karine (Carmen Ejogo) – many of the crew would seem to be couples – and one of the soldiers – they have an armed escort – Ledward (Benjamin Rigby) stop so the former can take samples whilst the rest continue to the source of the transmission they detected. Ledward disturbs some strange pods on the ground and what initially look like spores, but which behave with far too much purpose, infect him.

The source of the signal is a crashed Engineer vessel, the one which Elizabeth Shaw departed in at the end of Prometheus when she decided to head to where the Engineers live. This is known because they find identification tags and a picture of Shaw in the crashed vessel as well as the signal being emitted from the ship’s control panel. Another one of the soldiers gets infected by the spores from the pods.

Ledward is, by this time, rapidly becoming ill so Karine takes him back to the lander. The other man is also becoming ill as well, so the rest head back too. Things start going from bad to worse as, in the lander, a creature erupts out of the infected lander. In the attempt to kill the creature the problems with shooting guns off at canisters containing explosive gasses is demonstrated and the lander is destroyed, along with the alien.

Another erupts from the second infected individual and this one escapes, causing another death in the process. Although these creatures do not, as yet, fully look like the Alien xenomorph, nor where the infections caused by facehuggers, the resemblance is definitely there. The new creature is driven off by the arrival of another person – David. David once again has a body but, given that he has definite issues, issues which resulted in the death of everyone on the Prometheus bar Shaw, whether or not his arrival is a good thing is yet to be determined. The surviving members of the landing party obviously want to get back off the planet but they need a ship and they are being whittled down by some very dangerous creatures.

This is quite a violent and bloody film, which is not that surprising. There are some staples of the franchise, such as a strong female lead character (Waterston apparently knew that parallels would be drawn between her character and Ripley), and another main staple is the characters being whittled off one by one, sometimes in quite gory ways.

There are twists to the plot but they aren’t really that surprising when they occur. Indeed, at least one of them is practically expected to happen and is effectively foreshadowed to a degree, which may or may not be intentional. Fassbender’s portrayal of David and Walter manages to convey differences between two otherwise-identical beings. Walter does not seem to have the same problems as David did; apparently David’s problem, for other humans, was that he was far too human. The film as a whole does not really surprise with the story and it was clear that when it would seem to have reached a conclusion, it had not. There are definite resemblances to both Alien and Aliens in both some of the scenes and some of the plot elements.

With various elements being reminiscent of earlier films and the twists not being that surprising an element of suspense and tension is taken away from the film, although the watcher may be waiting to see when one of these is revealed.. Not having certain things as predictable as they actually were would have improved the film. Having said that, it is still an enjoyable watch. Alien: Covenant may not measure up to Alien or Aliens – no film in the franchise since them has – but it is definitely not the worst in the series by a long shot.

 

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