Film Review: "Alien: Covenant"

The “Alien” franchise has a lot going for it, with 1979’s “Alien” being a masterpiece in horror and 1986’s “Aliens” being a masterpiece in sci-fi action. However, the films that followed, 1992’s “Alien 3” and 1997’s “Alien: Resurrection,” have been overall panned by fans and critics and caused a fair detriment on the franchise. It was 2012’s “Prometheus” that created a division among fans, with some enjoying the film as a whole and others saying it was a huge letdown. But where does “Alien: Covenant” fit among them?

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Set about 10 years after the events of “Prometheus,” the film follows the crew of the colony ship Covenant, where they are in search of a habitable world to colonize. When they land on a potentially-habitable planet, they discover that there’s more to the planet than previously believed and they enter a world filled with danger lurking in every corner.

It wasn’t until 2015’s “The Martian” when director Ridley Scott was put back on the map since he hasn’t had a huge hit in the past few years like he used to with films like “Alien” and “Blade Runner.” However, if anything, “Alien: Covenant” is a solid return to form for Ridley Scott, as it accomplishes what it was destined to achieve, despite some occasional problems.

While the film overall doesn’t manage to fully capture the suspenseful atmosphere of “Alien” and the exhilarating action of “Aliens,” “Alien: Covenant” nonetheless provides the audience with a tone and atmosphere reminiscent of the original “Alien” while also providing action sequences that reminded me of “Aliens,” with the gore and violence promised from the promotional material fully fleshed out and hard to watch. While the action and suspense aren’t on the same level as the original films they harken back to respectively, they still provide for a great time at the theater.

While 2012’s “Prometheus” tried to go too big with its ideas many times, “Alien: Covenant” worked in that it took those ideas and condensed them into a smaller story while also presenting those ideas in a more intriguing way. It provided a nice balance between the suspense-driven thriller of “Alien,” the action-heavy adventure of “Aliens,” and the thought-provoking sci-fi flick of “Prometheus.”

The film also manages to add several new concepts to the mythology of the “Alien” franchise that are more interesting than the concepts added by “Prometheus.” But it should be noted that there are a couple things added that seem questionable and may not be that effective in developing the mythology. But as a whole, the world-building was done very well in the film.

However, much like “Prometheus,” the film is absolutely stunning to look at. The visuals are beautiful and the production design of the Covenant and the sets on the planet are gorgeously brought to life. Ridley Scott is widely known for creating gorgeous-looking films, and the “Alien” films have some of the best production design in any sci-fi film, and “Alien: Covenant” is no exception.

The cast also do an admirable job and give exceptional performances individually, with Michael Fassbender, Katherine Waterston, and Danny McBride being the standouts as the synthetic android Walter, terraforming expert Daniels, and pilot Tennessee respectively. All of them are captivating to watch and give charismatic, profound performances that feel suited to them.

But, as stated previously, the film is not without its issues. For the most part, the issues that are present are minor. There are moments where a scene in particular continues to drag on for a little too long and take up time. Because of this, the film could’ve been shortened down by 20 minutes or so. There was also a sense of predictability in some spots, some more obvious than others, that do hamper the experience a bit.

But one of the most prevalent issues that keeps it from being a great film overall is that it doesn’t really add much to the franchise. Whereas “Alien” and “Aliens” each added something fresh to the franchise, nothing really stands out from “Alien: Covenant” that makes it a special entry. There are also times where the ideas brought over from “Prometheus” seem to take over the film a bit too much and thus the film gets a little heavy-handed for a bit. The film also displays a big plot twist that was very predictable and easy to figure out immediately.

Overall, “Alien: Covenant” is a very fun time at the theaters. A well-set tone and atmosphere, admirable performances, and fascinating visuals and production work in unison to create an entertaining thrill-ride, whether you’re a fan of the “Alien” films or not. But, it would make sense to keep expectations a little low because people expect this to be a great “Alien” film when in actuality is an “Alien” film with elements of “Prometheus” and thus may not be what many people expect. While it doesn’t do anything new as a whole and can be meandering and heavy-handed at times, “Alien: Covenant” is a solid entry nonetheless in the iconic science-fiction franchise.