Review – Alien: Covenant

By Ethan Schimmoller on

About Ethan Schimmoller

I'm a purveyor of all things horrific and macabre. During long nights, you can find me spinning tales of terror from behind the glow of a computer screen. I'm also a tenured professor of Defense Against The Dark Arts.
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They say in space, no one can hear you scream. Luckily, I didn’t watch Alien: Covenant in the cold vacuum of space, so the cries of terror and disgust were music to my ears. This film kept my eyes glued to the screen as I watched everyone’s favorite predatory xenomorph turn our protagonists into a veritable buffet of interplanetary indulgence. If you’re looking for a return to Ridley Scott’s Alien universe, look no further than perhaps the most audacious and gruesome Alien yet!

Alien: Covenant marks the sixth installment in a series that started back in 1979 with the original Alien. It boasts a diverse cast of Billy Crudup, Danny McBride, Katherine Waterston, and Michael Fassbender (with one very disappointing cameo that may leave you scratching your head.) This film is an excellent display of Ridley Scott’s directorial prowess, with big titles such as Gladiator (2000) and in recent years, The Martian (2015), under his belt, we didn’t need another lesson in Scott’s mettle. You can’t help but have an inkling of satisfaction at the thought that he now returns to the universe he created all those years ago, much to the adoration of fans. The original Alien stands the test of time, and will continue scaring people the world over for years to come. With success like that, the masses were hungry for more. But, could Ridley Scott really return to form, and give us another installment in the Alien franchise? In my mind, this seemed like a daunting task as the demand for more xenomorphic mayhem was barely satisfied by Prometheus (2012). How wrong I was.

The synopsis for this film follows in the footsteps of its previous entries: a crew of space-faring colonists, aboard the “Covenant” are on a lengthy journey from their port of origin, Earth. The sole purpose of this intergalactic mission, is to reach a new home for humanity. With no less than two-thousand colonists in stasis on board, the film sets the stakes of failure right away. The plot spares no expense taking off instantly, as an unexpected malfunction causes a fatal catastrophe on board. This causes an obvious drop in morale and changes plans, as a shift in leadership causes the crew to doubt their resolve for such a lengthy journey. Shortly after, with the help of a distress signal, a new planet is found – this one much closer. It turns out that this newly discovered terra proves to be capable of sustaining life for the thousands of nomadic souls who have undertaken the journey.

This is where you see the first wrinkles of personality start to develop for the characters. Once the picture starts to creep towards the latter half of the first act, you can feel the tension building in your chest.

A team is dispatched to land on the planet’s surface, and find the source of the distress beacon, all the while exploring their new home. This is where hopefully you realized it was not a movie suitable for children and took your kids to see something else. Subtlety, yet knowingly, the plot begins to grow towards ever more gruesome prospects. The colonists become stricken with an unknown pathogen, and become a breeding grounds for a brand-new style of alien, never before having graced the silver screen. Fans of the chest-bursting scenes in previous films will no doubt be delighted as the gore begins to flow. These scenes made some fellow audience members tilt their head away slightly, yet I knew their eyes never left the screen. They had become affixed. The return of a familiar face in the form of Michael Fassbender, reprising his role of David, is one of the last glimmers of hope in this darkening landscape. So as not to spoil the story for some avid watchers of the Alien franchise, I must digress at this point. Rest assured, the visceral action continues without a hitch, as well as some very dark truths about the origin of the xenomorphs.

To speak about the cinematography and production value of this movie, would simply not do it justice. This film needs to be experienced first-hand, but I can say that everything about the picture is exemplary. Scott’s use of real world shots, coupled with flawless CGI, are nothing short of awe-inspiring. Every landscape, every set, and every character give this film credibility it would be lost without. Bright colors, and beautiful scenery give way to a claustrophobic darkness of panic, that only makes you grip the handles of your seat ever tighter. The main antagonist of the series, the xenomorph, looks brilliantly rendered in CGI. Fans may be disappointed due to the lack of alien suits and prosthetics, but the design of the creature will harken back to the first-time the monster terrified viewers. The violence and gratuitous amounts of blood, are in no short supply here. This movie had me squirming in my seat, as my visual empathy made me feel what the characters were going through. As far as the score goes; tones from the previous film make their return. Elegant and inspiring at one moment, yet tense and moody the next – it complements the film extravagantly.

The performances of the cast serve the film marvelously. Katherine Waterston shows real emotion, and doesn’t disappoint in a role that Sigourney Weaver made famous. Resident funny man Danny McBride provides little to no comic relief, but that’s just fine, as you’re made aware everything is not going to be okay. He instead shows that maybe he’s been in his current role too long, as his performance is stellar. I’ll be looking forward to further endeavors by him in the future. The real star, however, is Michael Fassbender. This brilliant man ups the ante by taking on the task of two roles. Walter is a newer model android, tasked with the protection of the Covenant, and its crew while David, is our protagonist from the previous film Prometheus. A simple scene in which these two interact together, was one of the high points of the film. A role like this let’s Fassbender stretch his creative legs, to the delight of viewers.

At its core, Alien: Covenant is an excellent installment into the series, with a few forgivable stumbles that won’t detract from the amazing overall quality. Ridley Scott does an excellent job of giving you answers, while creating a million more questions. Projects are rumored to be in the works, and with that, I’m ready to see more. After seeing this film, I’ll be staying away from all colonization missions, no matter how lucrative the pay. You, however, can see Alien: Covenant in theaters now!

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