Yeah, in case you missed it, there’s yet another Alien movie to add to the list of this saga. I actually purchased a blu-ray box set of the other 5 films, but didn’t get a chance to watch it before checking out Alien: Covenant. The film is directed by Ridley Scott, director of the original Alien film, and in terms of the timeline, the story in this one takes place somewhere between the end of Prometheus and the original Alien.
So it acts as a kind of prequel, but also a sequel in the wake of Prometheus, which was a very divisive film, and left many audiences (those who liked it, as well as those who didn’t) concerned about the lack of closure offered by the time the credits rolled.
So, what’s the verdict on the latest film by the legendary Ridley Scott? Please be warned that spoilers fill follow! And that’s why Spoiler Cat is here to try and stop you from scrolling on if you haven’t seen Alien: Covenant yet.
Back to Horror
So the one thing that many a critic, fanboy and general audience member will tell you, is that Alien (1979) is best described as a space horror. The film is not actually that action packed. There’s some interesting character building, and then our hero finds herself in a truly dire situation as a murderous alien life form enters their ship and starts killing off the crew members. Alien: Covenant goes back to these basics mostly.
What makes it horror is everything from the style, to the choices for the deaths. It’s the spaces in which the death and destruction operates: Usually small spaces, or living spaces of the crew on the ship.
While the buildup and face-off has its fair share of explosions and gunfire, much of the fear experienced by the crew members, and our protagonist happens on a very intimate level, and that idea is the most horrific: that there are no safe spaces, wherever they move on the ship. The idea that these people are travelers inhabiting a ship, planning to inhabit a planet, and then this shit goes down; well that’s almost as scary as Freddy Krueger showing up while you’re sleeping.
Michael Fassbender’s character really is the main character of this story. In much of the marketing, they set up Katherine Waterson’s character, Daniels as the lead, envoking imagery of Ripley from the original franchise in much of the posters and trailers as well. But the truth is that this is a story of an android turned mad scientist as he explores the meaning of creation; comes to terms with his superiority of his own creation, his own shortcomings, as well as rejoicing in what he perceives to be the perfection of his own creation: The xenomorphs.
Yeah, we learn that through experimentation and genocide, David was actually the one who created the xenomorphs from the black goo that was being used by the Engineers in Prometheus. He returns to their home and destroys all of them; possibly kills then experiements on Elizabeth Shaw (who had fucking SAVED his bitch ass!), and experiments with the balck goo xenomorph DNA, learning all about them, and creating new iterations of the species over time.
The reason I make the distinction between actor and character in this point is that I believe that there could have been some improvements with the specific way in which ths story was told; however, Fassbender does some heavy lifting from an acting standpoint with what he’s been given, so big ups to him.
Katherine Waterson is a brilliant actress, and I’ve enjoyed much of her recent work, but she’s no anchor here in the way that Sigourney Weaver’s Ripley was in the original franchise. I guess the issue here is that this is the other side of the coin of Fassbender’s greatness in this film. Both of these things are linked to the script, which gives Fassbender so much more to do, while sidelining Waterson’s Daniels into this catalyst for something else, and the problem is that I’m not so sure what that something else really is.
The other way to look at it is that Daniels is the audience surrogate who’s in the thick of things on the ground of the chaos, while Tennessee (played by Danny McBride) is the audience surrogate for what’s happening from the birds eye view above the planet. I’m just not sure that both works well, and if I had to choose one, the Tennessee character just works better.
The Bad (There’s not much!)
There’s some irony in what most people are criticising about the film, and that’s the reveal of David’s role in it all, as well as the entire part that happens on the Engineers’ planet where Elizabeth and David had crashed before. Most critics have suggested that the film would be much better if it didn’t try to explain all the details of the xenomorphs.
A preferred version of this story (according to these critics) is one where the xenomorph just shows up, kills poeple, and gets killed, or someone escapes. So like basically the first Alien movie then, right? I’m pretty sure these assholes would have criticised it for not being original enough had the film taken that route.
To be honest, I had a blast with Alien: Covenant and I don’t see many issues with it. The idea that the xenomorph’s existance shouldn’t be explored stands at odds with the request for more information about where the story goes in the wake of Prometheus. You just can’t have your cake and eat it too; and I don’t think that exploring the origins of the aliens makes for a bad Alien film at all. Then again, I liked Prometheus, and that film is hated by so many people, and I have no idea why.
You can watch the trailer for Alien: Covenant below:
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