Firstly there is a lot of reading in this breakdown of the movie, so if you’d rather listen to my tired self mispronounce Covenant (because the movie made me stupider than normal) then you can watch the below video! (Some mild swearing)
We’ve already heard what Kervyn had to say about Alien: Covenant last week, but he’s rather shady so we don’t always trust him. Plus, he’s a bit too soft to talk about the movie in detail for fear of spoilers. So strap on your face huggers, things are going to get nasty!
I also watched Alien: Covenant last week and felt that it was rather damn stupid. It has about as much to do with Ridley Scott’s iconic 1979 film as Prometheus does, so very little. Much like the divisive Prometheus, Covenant tries to cover themes that are pretty far removed from the terrifying Xenomorph, only this time on a much smaller scale but with far reaching consequences. Say what you will about Prometheus but it wasn’t afraid to reach for the stars, which sadly led to it tripping under a falling spacecraft. But here all those lingering intriguing mysteries about the Engineers and why they did what they did are just swept away in a wave of black goo.
And what actually happened there? Did the goo that David dropped from his stolen spaceship just kill the Engineers or transform them? According to the explanations we got about how the bioweapon worked, it should be the latter, but then where did all the resultant thousands of Xenomorphs disappear to afterwards? Also, what happened to that huge Engineer ship David’s ship appeared to be docking with prior to the attack? Did the Engineers look out the window, decide ‘bugger that’ and zip off somewhere else?
What I will say though is that what Covenant does do well is offer a far more vicious version of the alien nightmare than Prometheus did, returning the franchise to its blood-splattered roots. Sadly this is set to the background of a robot going through an existential crisis where he quite literally spends much of the film talking to himself. And teaching himself how to play the flute in the most homo-erotic way possible.
Horror. In space. That was why I loved the original Alien so much. The nightmare was hidden behind bulkheads, above you, below you and bam! Possibly now IN you. You actually saw very little of the alien demon monstrosity and that plays on so many primal human instincts it’s no wonder people truly freaked out in the cinema. Even in the James Cameron directed sequel, Aliens, darkness is the cover of the beast. Covenant pulls back this extra dimension of terror and gives you aliens in… daytime. Both literally and figuratively as these prequels keep casting off the shroud of mystery to where the aliens came from, almost to the point of a science lesson.
It really feels like Ridley Scott wanted to recreate the first two movies but needed to change things up, and adding a day sequence with aliens running around like they were extras on the Lord of the Rings set ticked his boxes. Don’t get me wrong though, Covenant introduces us to some new horrors that are truly scary. The brute force and gore that manifest around them are certainly shocking to watch and at times quite uncomfortable. I hesitate to use the term ‘gore-porn’ as it stops just short, but at times it certainly approached those posts yet never actually frightened me. Then again, when you care so little for the characters that can be expected.
It is a sadness when a cast as great as this is so under utilized, leaving the majority of the thespian lifting to be done by Michael Fassbender in dual roles as David and Walter. Katherine Waterston, as second in command, certainly does a fine job with what she has – and even gets to have her own Ripley moment in the movie’s rather lacklustre finale – and Danny McBride as Tennessee was surprisingly good too, but so much of what happens to them is reactionary and not internally driven. There are just hints at some character depth, like with newly promoted Captain Oram, played by Billy Crudup.
Oram’s personal struggle as new captain and with people dismissing his suggestions because he is religious is something I would have liked to have seen more of, but it’s just mentioned and forgotten. Instead he is awarded the ‘least likely to succeed at anything’ award by blindly following David into a cavern… Full of eggs… Which are apparently totally okay to look into… He believes this after seeing that David likes the aliens (he almost cries when Oram kills one of them) and not one alarm bell went off… Also a point: Where the fudge did the eggs come from? Where is the alien queen?! Sitting on a shelf next to Freddie’s Greatest Hits?
Sadly acclaimed performers like Demian Bichir and Amy Seimetz’s roles are also delegated to being meat bags. Of course movies like this need some cannon fodder, but Cameron managed to get away with creating memorable characters that have stayed with us decades later – at least we have Fassbender ‘times two’ though.
He is excellent (as usual), donning both an English accent and American in his roles. Sadly some of these scenes were so overtly camp they jarred from the whole experience and felt like they had no place in the film. That’s not to mention the Fassbender-on-Fassbender action (‘I’m a REAL bot!’). I also found the motivations of David very suspect, seeming to manifest as a plot driver more than any sort of judicious plan from Scott. Indeed his character does quite a bit of damage as far as removing mystery around the aliens themselves – in the end they’re nothing more than a high school science project from an android with a god complex.
The first act of Covenant is really excellent though. Offering some of the original space elements we love so much, along with a sound score that is superb. It offers excellent horror in both the way its languid pace is broken and with nods to the audience of what is going to happen. However, even here a lot of the same is on offer. People waking from cryo-sleep? Check. Going to investigate a signal? Check. Shit gets real and people get their faces hugged and then gestate an alien in their bodies which bursts out of their chests? A big ol’ check.
The second act is where things take a Prometheus turn that leaves a lot of plot holes and bad genre trope choices – I think the only person in the cinema who wouldn’t see the David/Walter swap plot twist coming would be Helen Keller. Also, when David was pretending to be Walter, why did he help them kill the alien after literally crying like a baby when one was murdered by that meddling captain?
The movie also goes all Alien 3, as old lead character Elizabeth Shaw gets an undignified off-screen death that wasn’t even worthy of a flashback. In fact so much of Alien: Covenant literally contains the same elements that other movies in this franchise has offered – shower death scenes, flowering open alien eggs, Xenomorphs hitching rides on spaceships, knocking aliens out airlocks, etc – and this is why lets it down. I would go as far as saying this is a hybrid Alien/Aliens version 2.5 that ticks all the boxes but at the expense of creating something new and logical.
So that’s our long-winded, spoiler-filled take on Alien: Covenant. What did you think of the movie? Sound off in the comments below!
The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Critical Hit as an organisation.
Last Updated: May 23, 2017