Movie Review – ALIEN: COVENANT Isn’t ALIEN Yet, But It Doesn’t Have To Be

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It’s been ten years since Peter Weyland financed the ill fated Prometheus expedition, intent on finding and meeting the supposed creators of the human race or “engineers”.  Now Weyland Corp. has become Weyland Yutani, and their focus is now that of “building better worlds”. To that end the company has sought out other habitable distant planets for the purpose of colonization. The crew of a Colony Ship named Covenant are charged with transporting over 2,000 cryo-slumbering colonists and over 1,000 frozen embryos to their destination on the planet Origae-6.

During the voyage, an energy flare from an exploding star causes damage to the ship, causes the death of a few colonists and the ship’s captain, who becomes trapped in his cryo-stasis pod as it encounters a catastrophic malfunction. The rest of the crew having been awakened by the mission’s synthetic crew member, Walter, assess the damage and begin repairs. As they complete the necessary repairs to Covenant, they receive transmission fragments from a planet in a nearby system.

Data gathered by the crew seems to show that this planet easily meets the suitability criteria for colonization. The ship’s newly appointed captain, Chris Oram, believes it would be in the crew’s best interest to, at the very least,  send a team down to investigate. Despite the fact that it would save the crew and it’s “passengers” another seven years of travel, Daniels, the chief terraformer on Covenant, feels it would be best to stay their original course.

The team sets down on the planet and are astounded by the serene picturesque landscape. But as the old saying goes, if something seems to good to be true, it probably is. The crew of Covenant is about to discover that Oram’s leap of faith has set them upon the road to hell, that is said to be paved with good intentions.

Ridley Scott is back at the helm and continues to take us along the path leading up to the events of his 1979 sci-fi horror classic, Alien. Dante Harper and John Logan penned the script for Covenant based on a story created by Michael Green and Jack Paglen. This is not yet a complete return to pure Alien form, nor should it be, as it logically has to overlap in order to tie up loose ends from Prometheus. Granted as some questions have been answered a plethora of new ones have arisen. And these answers await a green light from Fox to start the next chapter. The story does a good job of using an initial dramatic incident at the beginning to not only introduce the characters, but also to give a quick read on their personalities, which also helped to more quickly develop some of them. Now these are not particularly exciting characters, they aren’t Colonial Marines or hotshot scientists doing the personal bidding of a rich old man. These are real people, husbands and wives, with specialized skills for creating a colony on a distant planet. They aren’t necessarily supposed to be able to face off against this particular threat, especially since they weren’t supposed to land on THIS planet to begin with. And ultimately the fact that these are people who are just looking to make a better life for themselves is what makes their fate so horrifying. Especially since the colonists are not just plagued by the alien threat, but also from s villain hiding in their midst. The story does build a bit slowly to start, but does feature some very intense sequences. There aren’t as many of the old school out of the darkness jump scares, like in the original with Dallas in the air-shaft. But frankly, I’m OK with that just as long as there are scenes that offer some true and prolonged intensity, which there are. Now I do miss the feeling of claustrophobia and being in a confined space with no idea where danger may lie. But an argument could be made that being in the open and completely vulnerable, in an unfamiliar environment, can be equally frightening.

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While everyone in the cast played their parts well, there is an obvious focus on a certain four cast members: Michael Fassbender, Katherine Waterson, Danny McBride and Billy Crudup. Fassbender reprises his role of David, but also adds another synthetic to his resume in the character of Walter. Walter, while amiable, is a more functional and utilitarian synthetic. On the other hand, David has become more enigmatic than he previously was. Waterson DOES NOT PLAY RIPLEY NOR IS SHE THE INTENDED EQUIVALENT…let’s get that out of the way right now. She gives Daniels pragmatism and resourcefulness while still allowing her to be vulnerable. McBride also DOES NOT PLAY KENNY POWERS HERE. Quite the contrary, he played his character Tennessee in a way that gave him genuine dramatic appeal and integrity. As Chris Oram, Crudup gave a sense that his character has only as much self confidence as he is lent by others. For a character who places such weight on belief he doesn’t place much in himself.

 

Effects wise, I have already heard so much complaining from the fanboys about the use of CGI and how it looks horrible. Sorry fellas, but it seems you haven’t done your research. This film actually does employ a good amount of practical effects and animatronics. In fact there were three men that got inside the skin of the two of the main alien types: the xenomorph and the neomorph.  Javier Botet played a xenomorph, Andrew Crawford played a neomorph, but Goran D. Kleut had the opportunity to be both types of alien. Granted, some CGI will be employed, but from what I saw today it does nothing to adversely affect the overall look of the film, which was incredible.

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Another aspect that really helped to tie Prometheus and Covenant together, while connecting them to Alien was the soundtrack. Portions of Marc Streitenfeld’s Prometheus score and Jerry Goldsmith’s Alien score are woven throughout the film giving some musical provenance to the connection of these films to the series.

Personally, I really enjoyed this film. And since Fox Studios have made it pretty clear we aren’t likely to see an Alien 5, I’m glad to see Scott telling more of the story, even in the form of a prequel. If some fans are concerned that this erodes the mystery of where the xenomorph came from or how it got to LV-426…DON’T WATCH IT!. Nobody is forcing you. This film isn’t intended to be exactly like its predecessors. What would be the point of that? It is, however, one step in mapping out a history that finishes up with the crew of the Nosrtomo. So if you have a real interest in the mythos, this film is beginning to forge a true connection to the original. One that will hopefully continue on with further films in the series. 8 / 10


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