Michael Fassbender, Ridley Scott and The Xenomorphs are back in the latest outing from the Alien franchise. But has it run it’s course?
When Alien was first released in 1979, Ridley Scott had succeeded in terrifying the World and effectively creating a franchise in the Sci-Fi/Horror Genre. The original was preceded by Aliens (1986), also directed by Scott, Alien 3 (1992) and Alien: Resurrection (1997) before moving onto Alien vs Predator (2004) and Alien Vs Predator: Requiem (2007). The prequel, Prometheus was released in 2012 and was again directed by Scott and so Alien: Covenant finds itself jammed between it’s prequel and it’s original, with just enough nostalgia and originality to keep it sailing through intact.
The film opens with the creation and first steps of Fassbender’s robot character David from Prometheus, in a large white room occupied by a piano and a huge sculpture of Michelangelo’s David overlooking a calm and beautiful location. His creator, Peter Weyland (Guy Pearce) asks his robot to perform simple tasks as well as asking to name himself before urging him to question mankind’s meaning of life, explaining to him that death is inevitable and all we can do is search our entire lives for an answer. Fast forward a decade or so and the ship Covenant is transporting embryos on board with a team searching for a suitable location to use as a new home. Whilst the ship is recharging it’s energy, disaster strikes and the Covenant finds itself in need of a new Captain to take control. Oram (Billy Cudrup) takes charge of the ship with Tennessee (Danny McBride) and the newly widowed Daniels (Katherine Waterston) seemingly his second in command. Whilst out trying to repair the damage, Tennessee intercepts a signal from a planet that looks to be capable of supporting human life. Despite facing opposition from Daniels, Oram orders the ship to head for the stormy new planet as they aim to find a suitable place to support their embryos. But they soon regret their decision.
What to make of it then? After a delicate and slow start, Covenant does manage to get itself into a relatively high gear. It would have been nice to have gone into a bit more detail as to why seemingly everyone on board was married and also if there was a bit more fast-paced action in the first third of the film. Once they reach the new planet, it’s a nice touch that the crew aren’t in immediate danger; it builds up the tension and also lets you get to grips as to why they received their signal but again, it did feel as though it was being done at a slower pace than most Sci-Fi/Horror films. Once things do eventually get rolling though, it is a brutal as you’d expect.
The performances are very good and convincing. Waterston, Cudrup, Carmen Ejogo, Demián Bichir and Jussie Smollett in particular all give believable and enjoyable performances in their crew member roles. Cudrup especially revels in his portrayal of a Captain who clearly is too harsh and out of his depth and similarly, Waterston gives a very punchy performance of the brave and gutsy Daniels who has recently lost everything she could hold onto. Danny McBride’s portrayal of pilot Tennessee is one of the film’s most pleasing aspects and with a performance like this, you can soon see him breaking out from the loud and brash characters we are used to see him playing. Fassbender though, will likely and deservedly take most of the plaudits. The way he flitters between the subservient American Walter and the creepy, rigid British creation of David is alarmingly natural, which makes you feel just as uneasy as the aliens bursting through the crew’s backs, chests and mouths!
Which brings me to the continual theme of the franchise, the relentless attacks of the aliens. You’d have thought by now that we’d be used to what is going to happen and that it wouldn’t be as scary or as frightening. But somehow, those horrible, croaky buggers still managed to make me jump and, I’ll shamefully admit, look away from the screen. It’s safe to say that despite their numerous re-emergences that the Xenomorphs will always be a safe bet for anyone wanting to take on the batten should there be anymore films to come.
But should there be? Despite Alien: Covenant being shot very well, with great effects, an enjoyable twist at the end and being centred around a very human-based premise; the idea that one day we may well have to relocate our species is surely becoming more and more inevitable, it does seem that this could be a fitting end to the franchise. The beginning of the film does seem to drag and there are elements to the plot that will be confusing to anyone who hasn’t seen Prometheus, but it still does pack a punch and manages to be just as shocking and as brutal as many will have hoped.
Alien:Covenant is released on Friday 12th May in the UK and Friday 19th May in the USA by 20th Century Fox
Watch the official trailer here