At this point, 38 years into the Alien franchise, Covenant feels indulgent. The latest iteration from the imagination of Ridley Scott is good but not great. The original was a masterpiece of psychological horror and the follow-up Aliens is a masterclass in action thriller from James Cameron himself. Ever since then, the franchise has been on a downward spiral into tepid waters.
The spiral has been well documented. From Fincher’s much maligned third film, to the horrific Alien Resurrection, the once beloved series has dived into mediocrity.
So when Covenant was announced, essentially the second in a three part prequel that began with 2012’s Prometheus (which I quite liked) I was meh about the entire thing. In my mind this planned prequel was Scott cashing in on decades worth of deserved reputation to make movies nobody but him were really excited about (Which I honestly have to applaud).
After having watched Covenant and Prometheus in preparation for this weird prequel sequel, I came away smiling. Is it fantastic? No. Will it make my “best of” list at the end of the year? No. Was it an unnecessary film? Yes. But did I have a ton of fun watching it? You bet your ass I did.
This is a movie for Alien fans. The type of fans looking to make the little connections from movie to movie that help flesh out the Alien universe as a whole. Covenant filled in the numerous gaps and questions that Prometheus left me with, while simultaneously introducing an entire new cast of characters, and posing a few interesting philosophical queries that were given ample conclusion.
The set-up is the pretty goddam familiar, which I suppose I can forgive . A crew of researchers are hurtling through space looking for a new planet to colonize and upon receiving a distress signal (with a cool-ass John Denver reference) they head off course, land on a seemingly perfect new home world, and then of course, shit hits the proverbial fan. It’s nothing we haven’t seen before, but the cast and the script they’re given to work with by John Logan and D.W Harper, elevate the story above the familiar. It’s also a beautifully looking movie as one has to come to expect from a Ridley Scott Flick. Goddam can that man direct a movie.
With the cast specifically, and I can’t believe I’m writing this, Danny McBride is the standout. I have an unbridled dislike for him and all things Eastbound and Down, but here he’s just the right amount of sardonic, caring and action star cool. There are a few scenes of genuine emotion from him that made me really think, given the right role McBride could be a fantastic talent. Also Katherine Waterson as the main character, is a total badass and is reminiscent of early Ripley. Round out the cast with the always solid Billy Crudup and the talented Michael Fassbender—you have great roster of actors.
The action is fast and brutal, mixing the more in your face violence of Prometheus with the creepy, horror aspect of the original. And while the Aliens aren’t experimented on or kept in cages (Ahem the bullshit that was Alien Resurrection) you do see them quite a bit in Covenant.
My one major gripe about this newest Alien movie outside of the fact that Prometheus is required viewing, and that’s not just a “oh it’ll make more sense suggestion,” is that in order to get the most of the movie, you have to watch two different youtube promotional prologue videos which are basically scenes that were cut from the film. There’s a very important scene in literally the first five minutes of Covenant, that if you haven’t watched the youtube clips, you won’t really care about and to me that’s completely unnecessary.
In my opinion they should have included both these five minute shorts or whatever you want to call them because it actually rounds out the rest of the movie. It seems like poor planning, or who knows maybe they needed to shave 10 minutes off the run time.
Anyway to wrap it up, Covenant is actually worth your time if you’re an Aliens fan. Even if you haven’t seen the original, but caught Prometheus out of sheer curiosity, go see this one, it’ll make that one a lot more fun on second viewing. I really hope we get to see at least one more movie out of this weird series Scott’s got going, but after a rather bad showing at the box office, the future of the Alien franchise is most certainly up in the air.
Alien Covenant: If you’re invested in the series go see it in theatres. And if you don’t care about the Alien franchise...well, don’t watch it?