Alien: Covenant takes place 10 years after the events of Prometheus, and for the most part it offers up a few key answers fans have been clamoring for from that film. It also provides a triumphant return to the franchise’s sci-fi/horror roots with plenty of blood, guts, and gore, so generally speaking it’s a solid movie and I believe most Alien fans will appreciate it.
Although, new questions get raised, while certain plot points from Prometheus are essentially forgotten in what turns out to be a semi-reboot for the Alien prequel films. Depending on how you liked Prometheus this could be troubling, because you don’t get detailed answers to many of its more questionable events, but you do get a sweeping revelation about the genesis of the Xenomorph species that everyone first saw in Alien, which just may be good enough for both hardcore and casual fans of Scott’s horrifying space opera. If anything else, Covenant’s twist ending (which is blatantly telegraphed unfortunately) has now setup a clear path for where the prequel films can go, while also revealing who the true lead character will be moving forward. Let’s just say it’s pretty clear who the Ripley character is now, at least in a sense of who the main character will be and how they’ll be the main delivery vehicle for subsequent Alien prequel narratives.
Like I mentioned earlier Covenant is a solid flick. It could probably even be considered as a great sci-fi horror film thanks to its reliance on the formula that made the first two Alien films so memorable. This movie definitely does not lack tension, and while it doesn’t opt for many jump scares it does offer a more saddistic feeling thanks to the fact that the movie finally confirms who or what is the champion of the Xenomorph species we all fear. You’re not given a direct answer as to why the Xenomorphs were created to be perfect killing machines, but there is enough exposition by one character to figure out why they were created and how they were created. I for one would have loved to have a few flashbacks to better explain some of these major events, but the dialogue is written well enough to allow you to draw your own conclusions, but for the sake of spoilers I have to walk a tight line, so explaining this aspect of the film isn’t easy without ruining the headier revelations.
I can just say that there easily could have been another prequel before Covenant that showed more of what David and Shaw were up to when they first landed on the home planet of the Engineers. This prologue video is pretty damn good, but again a full film could have been justified to paint a much clearer picture of what the hell what down from the time David and Shaw showed up on the Engineer’s world, to the landing of the Covenant crew. If you didn’t realize in Prometheus David is a key figure in all of this, and while he gives some backstory on his travels to the Engineer world and what he’s been up to, I would’ve enjoyed many more scenes of him explaining himself, especially to his AI brother Walter, who is also played by Michael Fassbender. Fassbender’s skill is put on display during these exchanges, which also highlight how much different David — Weyland’s first ever Android — is from subsequent ones like Walter and eventually Bishop. All keys to how Alien lore has played out.
Fassbender’s characters are definitely the juiciest in terms of their impact on the film and the franchise as a whole, as the other cast members are never fleshed out enough to make you care enough about their situation. Daniels, who is played by Katherine Waterston, is clearly supposed to be the new Shaw or Ripley if you will, but she too never feels overly important as most of the movie she’s playing the number two role in terms of commanding the crew. She’s not a horrible lead, but I didn’t feel like she was the next Ripley, which I think is now by design based on how the film ends, and who is really the main character in these Alien prequels.
I do appreciate the smoke and mirrors Scott is using to keep us guessing with these prequels, but it also tends to cheapen some of the new characters, so while Daniels does embody a strong female who can kick ass and take names, I don’t think she was used properly and ultimately ends up to be much less important to the franchise than I at least expected. If anything else she provides some of the best action set pieces from the film, but outside of that she’s mostly a hollow character who never ends up feeling like the beacon of light that will save the day in the end like Ripley.
I do appreciate where things are headed from here on out, even if the ending of Covenant raises a few serious continuity issues for fitting in with the events of Alien. I’m assuming Scott has all of his duck’s in order narratively and that the timelines will work out, but unlike the ending of Prometheus, it’s pretty clear who is in charge, and what may happen next, which can be appreciated. Covenant definitely infused the best of the old Alien films with the nuances of Prometheus, so again I think it’s mostly a successful film. My biggest critiques revolve around the main characters, who all but David feel kind of cheap and generic, and don’t really add much to the franchise’s lore.
I also would have liked deeper dives into David and Shaw’s time on the Engineer homeworld before the Covenant crew shows up, as well as a bit more concrete information on the Engineer pathogen than the quick and easy explanation David gives to the Covenant crew. I feel there are some great bits of lore to be told around the pathogen, the Engineers, and the Humans, but what we get is more of a one sentence throw away answer that you just have to accept and move on. You pretty much once again have to draw your own conclusions and hope that they’re right, so I was hoping for more definitive answers than what we got, but at least the film ends in a manner that leaves only a few questions about where things will go next and how the prequels will meet up with Alien.
You should definitely see Alien: Covenant in theaters, because it is a spectacle, and while not perfect, it’s still a very enjoyable sci-fi horror flick that has hints of the magic Scott found in Alien, as well as deep levels of mystery and unexplained lore that was featured in Prometheus. I think it’s a successful bridge and that Scott did his best to clear up the confusing aspects from Prometheus, while also shifting the tone of the prequels to be more in line with the original movie and its amazing sequel. Just don’t expect to go into the next Alien/Aliens, as Covenant is definitely its own unique entry into the franchise, and one that I can ultimately get behind and excited about where it will go next.
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Review Statement: The author of this review paid for a public screening for the purposes of this review.