I figured i should get this out while Alien Covenant is still playing in theatres, considering its rather troubling tumble in the box office it might not be around for very much longer and i think that’s a shame.
There are spoilers within this review, so in short my recommendations are:
Go see the movie, i’ve seen the movie twice and it holds up, and i think it’s better than Aliens.
Humanity once again embarks into space on a metaphorically named vessel, and once again they face horrors beyond their imagining.
Anyone who was dissatisfied with Prometheus‘ sloppiness and ambiguity should rejoice; Alien Covenant is a proper sequel to the previous prequel, instead of a direct prequel to Alien. It goes to great lengths to clear up some nagging questions that Prometheus’ left in its wake, but doesn’t resort to cheap or voluminous exposition in order to get it done. In fact it clarifies by evolving those themes, and maturing them to logical conclusions.
Showing not telling is Alien Covenant‘s greatest strength, with its first scene alone it explains why the engineers hated us and sets up the film’s themes with masterful precision and subtlety. David’s birth does double duty in showing the unfairness between creator and creation; indeed like the title might imply there is no covenant between the two. We expect (much like the Engineers did) perfection from what we create, more specifically we expect selfless servitude from our creations and the relationship is ultimately one way.
Michael Fassbender shines in double duty, returning as his previous android David and an upgraded model Walter. He is quickly becoming one of my favorite actors, as physically and emotionally he is capable of displaying a tremendous range; whether its his changed body language or quiet derangement he pulls all of it off well here.
To my absolute delight, strong narrative themes are not only driven by imagery and dialog they are also conveyed and underscored by a fantastic villain. Not in the Aliens though, they’re innocent in the plot (as they’ve always have been). But in mankind’s greatest creation: David. Whether it is him teaching a fellow android how to make music, to perverting the emotion of love; great scene after great scene is given to David to flesh him out in multiple disturbing layers.
He is an effective mix of motivations and contradictions, hating humans for what they wanted of him but at the same time creating his own life to share his own false covenant with them.
Ridley Scott brings back and stays faithful with the franchises imagery and themes; religious imagery, disturbing sexual undertones, masterful audio editing, literary references, and slow methodical pacing are all hallmarks of the Alien series and as a result AC slots nicely in with the other films. It also answers some questions about the series as a whole those being: what are the Aliens, why are they so hostile to us in particular, why is their life cycle the way it is, and what do they mean when taken in context with Prometheus and the Engineers?
When you boil down Alien Covenant to its nuts and bolts, you are left with a pretty run of the mill sci-fi thriller about how an AI will end up killing us. I’ve stated before that i don’t particularly find this narrative all that interesting, and it initially caused a bit of doubt as to whether i liked it as much as in did. It’s ultimately how well fleshed out David is that helps me accept AC for this fact, he is given the right amount of scenes and his arc is efficiently and effectively conveyed onto me.
Also anyone who is going in expecting a proper prequel to Alien or something with a similar tone to Aliens will likely be dissatisfied here. As some questions are left completely opaque as the end credits roll, and the movie isn’t filled with muscular high-octane set pieces.
In particular I was personally a bit annoyed with the speeding up of the alien’s life cycle as well, as opposed to the day or so it took Kane to die from his perverted baby, it takes Oram seemingly minutes. Which begs the question: why the change?
Alien Covenant is a testimony in how a good villain can really help in developing themes, and to make a movie expand beyond its initial simplicity.
However that isn’t the only leg that it has to stand on; with damning statements about our relationships with our creations (and even our children) at its helm it is an affecting film, as it offers up the chance for thoughtful contemplation along with gory thrills.
It is a satisfying sequel, and an excellent continuation of a much-loved series.
I highly recommend.
OUT OF FIVE