By Harrison Majithia
I love the Alien franchise, even for all its faults (…Alien: Resurrection); so of course, I jumped at the opportunity to review Covenant, Ridley Scott’s third addition to the Alien universe. I was cautiously optimistic (after Prometheus, can you blame me?), but everything seemed to be there – a small crew picking up a signal which leads them to a planet in which the alien attacks and impregnates a crew member, grows into a full-sized monster and utterly decimates the crew.
Is it formulaic? Yes, but nobody goes to see a slasher film without expecting all the hallmarks of a slasher film. Credit where credit is due, Ridley Scott delivered exactly what we expected. He brought the franchise back to its roots but, with that said, I think there’s an important distinction to be made – this is Alien, not Aliens: Covenant. It’s not an action film, it’s a horror film.
This doesn’t mean the film is without surprises – the return of Prometheus android David was a surprise, not because I didn’t know he’d be back, but because I didn’t expect to like an element from Prometheus as much as I did. Simply, Fassbender’s performance in Covenant is incredible. He steals every scene he is in, playing David with a subtle menace that conveys security to the crew who find him, but to those who saw the previous film, an air of immediate danger. Fassbender also plays the crew’s own synth, Walter, who is the opposite of David in every way, to the point where you don’t trust Walter purely because they look identical. Like the crew gradually becoming cautious of David, you grow to trust Walter. This dynamic places you in a weird situation – you’re both opposing and rooting for Fassbender. The film plays on this confusion brilliantly, and some of the best scenes in the film come from Fassbender interacting with himself.
Unfortunately, the rest of the crew are largely characterless (hell, even Jonesy from the first two films had more personality), with mandatory final girl Daniels (Katherine Waterston) essentially being a blank slate onto which I guess Scott assumed we’d project Ripley-like qualities, doing his work for him as far as empathy is concerned.
Finally, I haven’t spoken about the Xenomorph because I think the less you know about it and its introduction, the better. However, I will say this – the CGI at some moments in the film is terrible. There was one scene where the ‘Xeno’ climbed down a ladder which looked so fake I almost laughed. Terrible CGI aside, however, the film is (at the risk of sounding like a psychopath) gloriously unafraid to be bloody and violent – the first truly visceral Alien film in a long time, and for that I praise it. As an entry to the franchise, it’s one of the better ones, though in a series with such a dichotomy of quality, that might not mean much.
4/5 star rating
Image courtesy of 20th Century Fox