Director: Ridley Scott
Starring: Michael Fassbender, Katherine Waterston, Billy Crudup, Danny McBride, Demian Bichir, Carmen Ejogo
Run Time: 122 mins
‘Alien: Covenant’ is the hotly anticipated sequel to ‘Prometheus’, a film that seemed to have gone from most anticipated of its respective year to most disappointing overnight. Ridley Scott’s ‘Alien’ prequel proved wildly divisive amongst critics and audiences alike. I found it to be a deeply philosophical and fascinating watch and it contains some great performances from its cast. ‘Alien: Covenant’ has sounded as if it is the perfect sequel since its development from its fascinating concept of the crew being formed of couples and also the continuation of the storyline from ‘Prometheus’. The trailers have also been promising and the cast that Scott has assembled is very strong with new additions featuring the likes of Katherine Waterston, Billy Crudup, Danny McBride and Demian Bichir to name but a few.
‘Alien: Covenant’ is a mixed bag – at times, it is excellent and successfully builds on the mythology outlined by ‘Prometheus’ but it is equally painfully derivative to the point of almost insulting its predecessors. The film is clearly divided into three sections – its first and last a retread of ‘Alien’ only updated for 2017 but its mid-section is the sequel that I really wanted. That’s not to say there is nothing at all of value in its first and last third but these are where the majority of the problems that I had with the film are based. On the plus side, Scott manages to sustain tension throughout the film and visually, there are some stunning set pieces and cinematography.
The film contains two wonderful performances, one from Michael Fassbender whose enigmatic android, David and updated model, Walter, really get some character development. Fassbender pulls off the dual role sublimely and his character is one of the very best parts of the film – to go any further into detail would be to go into spoiler territory. The other standout is Danny McBride who, in a more serious role compared to the rest of his back catalogue, does a great job. Both actors really elevate this material. The rest of the cast are sound but unfortunately aren’t given all that much to do. Katherine Waterston, unfortunately, is a carbon copy of Sigourney Weaver’s Ripley and the rest of the cast just aren’t given all that much to do.
Story-wise, there are parts of this film that rank right up there with the best films in the series and Scott progressively manages to further the world established with ‘Prometheus’. It is a dark, damp middle section that kept me on the edge of my seat and the concepts that are introduced left me thinking for a while after leaving the cinema. This gem though is buried in a film either end of it that is very derivative. We aren’t given much time to get to know the characters before all hell ensues at the beginning, which is a shame when you have such a high pedigree of talent. The ending of the film is very interesting but the obligatory final battle is a complete rehash of ‘Alien’, albeit not as scary or as tension-filled. It also forms a massive gap in the film’s logic of its story but to go into detail would be to spoil the film. And that’s another problem I have with the film – Scott wanted to go back to the horror roots of the original but the film isn’t particularly scary partly because Scott never earns it. How are we supposed to be frightened in a situation where we cannot empathise with the characters or if you’re going to recycle horror tropes from far better films?! The tension is there but there isn’t all that much bite.
I was really excited when it was revealed that Jed Kurzel would be scoring this film, one of the best composers working in the film industry today. Kurzel’s score at times, soars, but for a lot if it, it unfortunately just isn’t that particularly memorable – he had the potential to knock this film out of the park! Dariusz Wolski’s cinematography is as usual, ace and there are some stunning shots in this film and he really makes the most of the set pieces that he can do with.
‘Alien: Covenant’ is unfortunately a bit of a disappointment considering the potential it had and based on the fact that I really liked ‘Prometheus’. ‘Alien: Covenant’ is a film though that will need to be rewatched because I think there is some further substance which wasn’t as apparent on first watch and also as its middle section really is fantastic. Fassbender and McBride are excellent here and when the film finds its footing, it is mesmerising but there is unfortunately, there is a lot of baggage in this film that doesn’t need to be here and it’s a shame it is so derivative in parts. It almost goes to the extent of being a parody which is always dangerous territory. I am still totally invested in this narrative that Scott has crafted and would still eagerly await a sequel but ‘Alien: Covenant’ could have been so much more.