Updated: Feb 4, 2020
“What do you believe in, David?” “Creation.”
Alien: Covenant believes in creation as well. Specifically, the creation of the vicious creatures that Sigourney Weaver’s Ripley found herself battling during the series’ first four installments.
Covenant is the sixth film in the Alien franchise. It is a direct sequel to 2012’s Prometheus which was a prequel to the first four films in the series. It is the third film in the franchise (after the 1979 series debut Alien and Prometheus) to be directed by Ridley Scott.
Scott clearly has a strong vision for the world he helped to create. And Covenant is the darkest (and probably bloodiest) Alien film thus far.
The crew of the Covenant (including Katherine Waterston, Billy Crudup, Demián Bichir, Danny McBride and a very good Michael Fassbender playing two different androids) decide to explore a planet they have stumbled upon due to a mysterious distress call and, well, you can probably guess that things don’t go particularly well for them once they land.
However, one of the charms of the film is the way Scott takes his time exploring the new planet. The threat is established fairly early on which adds tension as the crew wanders around caves whose dangers the audience understands far better than the characters do. The coldness of the production design (by Chris Seagers) combines with the cinematography (by Dariusz Wolski, who also shot Prometheus) to give Covenant a very creepy feel.
Despite the familiar, and somewhat inevitable, story, this is one of the best films in the entire series. It is very aware of what it is. Much like Prometheus, it has a brain. But it is also quite terrifying. The film does far more to explain how the vicious aliens came to be than its immediate predecessor did. In fact, based on the way this film plays out, it may be difficult for Scott to find enough material for a third prequel. This seems to work quite well as a direct set up for Alien. Perhaps they’ll jump ahead and create a sequel to 1997’s Alien Resurrection instead.
In the previous film, the crew of the Prometheus met their creators and discovered molecules that contained the makings of the vicious creatures that are the centerpiece of the series. Covenant picks up ten years later as a ship filled with sleeping colonists looks to find a new home. This allows Scott to introduce themes of home, faith and existence into his world of death and destruction alongside ideas about creation and parenthood (which were both introduced in Prometheus).
The film is slow-paced but, even at 115 minutes without the end credits, it never seems to drag. There are some solid references to moments from previous films in the series for longtime fans. However, it is not just fan service. Covenant can still be enjoyed by newcomers to the franchise who enjoy a dark and scary horror film.
On first viewing, I would rank it fourth in what I consider to be a pretty good series of films. While not on the level of the first two (or even Prometheus), it is still a good example of outer-space horror (much better than March’s Jake Gyllenhaal starring Life). I recommend this film, especially for fans of the series.
4 out of 5
Cast: Michael Fassbender as David, Walter Katherine Waterston as Daniels Billy Crudup as Oram Danny McBride as Tennessee Demián Bichir as Lope
Directed by Ridley Scott Screenplay by John Logan and Dante Harper