ALIEN COVENANT (REVIEW)
Dir. Ridley Scott
Reviewer. Martyn Wakefield
Picking up 10 years after the events of PROMETHEUS and many more before the 1979 classic ALIEN, COVENANT sees a colonisation mission go wrong when the ships captain steers them off course to an uncharted planet. Upon arriving they learn the fate of the Prometheus crew and remaining survivors only to discover that the planet they thought would be their new home, also brings death.
Boasting a superb cast including Michael Fassbender, Billy Crudup, Katherine Waterson, Danny McBride and Callie Hernandez, the fresh blend of new talent and household names works in Scott’s favour. While Fassbender and Crudup deliver on what is expected, Waterson steps up to the new Ripley moniker portrayed on the advertising campaign and even McBride convinces at a fairly non-comedic role as the ships pilot.
Where PROMETHEUS alienated (no pun intended) hardcore ALIEN fans while also relished in creating a new mythology for the series to focus around, it certainly does well to set the scene for the unfolding events here. Themes of humanity and creationism are further explored this time round but with a much darker edge than previously conceived. COVENANT manages to bring back the high-octane action and scares that made the franchise so beloved to begin with, it also makes room for a new direction and one that bridges the two worlds created by Scott; the science-fiction world discovery of PROMETHEUS with the terrors of space bought with ALIEN.
This time round, the clue is in the title and the big bad creature that terrorised movie goers in the 80’s and perhaps a few more later on, takes centre stage. A fully formed Xenomorph makes its evolution and takes on the crew of the covenant and quickly reminds us that while it may be no match for the other ET species in this universe, it sure as hell is the most primal.
One thing to mention here is that this is the goriest entry to the franchise and one that blends a Frankenstein-esque monster more diabolical than could have been imagined with the creature feature we all wanted. This eight entry to the saga (taking in account those two not so epic battle matches) is one that shows there is fresh blood yet to inject into a one note feature. Rather than pitting the crew against Alien, which we still get, this story takes a far more darker twist in the evolution of not only its title character but that of humanity itself. As the ships captain expresses, this is a film as much about faith, humanity and creationism as it is about a group of marooned spaciers running and screaming for survival against a born hunter.
Fassbender is spectacular in a role that creates an uncomfortable edge more akin to Hannibal Lecter than any machine before it. Here playing good and bad, it’s intriguing to watch an actor play by two ideologies at the centre of a story on biblical proportions.
If you’re looking for answers from questions asked in PROMETHEUS, COVENANT won’t deliver but for what it is worth, it manages to make its mark not only as a solid entry to the series but also a highly imaginative self-contained movie, something many franchises never quite manage to balance. In an age where super hero movies and shared universes build on each film, they forget that for audiences who missed previous entries are already removed from any satisfaction. Here, Scott allows audiences to see a film that will bring new and old fans together for a thrill ride and some very vicious violence.
Of all the films in this series, ALIEN COVENANT is the most solid horror entry, balancing many ideas of terror from a mad scientist to sheer survivalism, there’s much more here than what meets the eye. In doing so it proves that even a series as old as ALIEN, there’s still new blood to play with and finally gives a worthy prequel to both ALIEN and James Cameron’s follow-up, ALIENS. With such a successful follow up, here’s hoping there are more adventures in space between the two time periods of Scott’s space opera. In space nobody can hear you scream, but remember, they can in a cinema!