It’s at least better than Prometheus
The Skid Reviewer
Alien: Covenant’s Director Ridley Scott must’ve heard the screams of frustration as Alien fans left theatres after watching Prometheus in 2012.
While I was one of the few that enjoyed Promethus for what it was, I was still left dazed and confused for much of that movie. Questions like what exactly is that aggressive black goo? What did we do to anger our creators to deserve obliteration? Why do experienced scientists think it’s okay to poke stuff?
While Covenant continues to pose new questions, it also provides answers, and does so within a much more immediately enjoyable and rewarding experience. In many ways – stylistically, thematically, structurally – it sits neatly between the existential ponderings of the previous film and the sumptuous horror of the 1979 original. And while it fails to match the original in terms of sheer terror and elegance, Scott nevertheless delivers some imaginative takes on familiar sequences and rich, satisfying answers to Prometheus’ lingering mysteries.
Covenant delivers a focused, suspense-driven story as various members of the crew play host to a variety of vicious parasites which burst forth in gruesome fashion. Scott even offers up a grisly new rendition of the infamous chest burster sequence which is an effective and full-on piece of body horror, though it’s almost impossible to match the surprise of the 1979 original. It’s an early statement of intent: the sterile musings of Prometheus violently give way to splintering ribs and blood-spattered med bays.
I also liked the fact that Scott initially holds back the classic xenomorph teased in trailers in favour of a pale, haunting creature. The classic alien is withheld for good reason, and when it finally makes an appearance, it’s worth the wait, punctuating the most intriguing and disturbing section of the movie.
It remains one of the greatest monsters in all of cinema, though it’s still strange to see the original design brought to life with computer animation and moving with such intense ferocity and speed. It’s not badly done by any means, just at odds with how that creature was originally used.
Another thing I liked was that Covenant’s early action sequences are exciting; even though much of what unfolds has been seen before in the series. It’s testament to Scott that he’s able to find new and visually striking ways of tackling these set pieces.
Covenant is the first film in the series (not counting the awful AvP spinoffs) to take full advantage of outdoor locations adding novelty to what could’ve otherwise be a staid sequence.
Meanwhile, Scott’s compositions and visuals benefit from how he dovetails detailed sets with impressive location work. It’s like watching an idyllic postcard of New Zealand fade into one of Hieronymus Bosch’s hellish landscapes.
The cast is strong: Katherine Waterston plays the resourceful Daniels and deftly handles the tricky transition from supporting role to heroine; Billy Crudup perfectly suits the friendly yet out-of-his-depth captain; Danny McBride, meanwhile, does a lot with limited screen time to establish pilot Tennessee as the most likeable crewmate.
My main beef with this movie is the third act, which was a bit too predictable. Towards the end of the movie, the invention dries up to a degree, with Scott delivering what feels like a compressed version of the original Alien. The outdoor scenes are replaced by claustrophobic corridors and pinging motion-trackers. I’m not sure if it’s knowing self-homage by Scott or a lack of new ideas for how to end this sort of movie – regardless, it’s still a fun conclusion, though slightly cliched next to the invention that precedes it.
Alien: Covenant strikes a more favorable balance between the unwieldy philosophical ideas of Prometheus and the classic horror and suspense of the 1979 original film. Despite continuing Prometheus’ questionable line of inquiry into the xenomorphs’ origins and occasionally adopting its histrionic tone for entire scenes, Covenant’s framework and exciting action put enough new spins on the series’ most reliable touchstones that the cast is able to carry it through to a satisfying end.
So if you’re a fan of the Alien franchise, go check it out. It’s at least better than Prometheus.
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