Alien: Covenant (2017)

  • Time: 122 min
  • Genre: Horror | Sci-Fi | Thriller
  • Director: Ridley Scott
  • Cast: Michael Fassbender, Katherine Waterston, Billy Crudup


Bound for a remote planet on the far side of the galaxy, the crew of the colony ship Covenant discovers what they think is an uncharted paradise, but is actually a dark, dangerous world — whose sole inhabitant is the “synthetic” David, survivor of the doomed Prometheus expedition.


  • Did you hear the news? With Alien: Covenant, director Ridley Scott has been cloned and has gone Hollywood! Either that or the studio execs at 20th Century Fox bullied his film, finagled the final cut, and tried to re-release The Descent.

    “Covenant” (my latest review) is the sixth installment in the ever- popular Alien franchise. As most critics (including this one) have noted, it’s a stronger flick than Alien: Resurrection and 1992’s Alien 3. Sadly, that’s not saying much considering those sequels are not watchable to begin with.

    From 1979 till present day, Alien: Covenant has allowed Scott to one up the grossly, blood and guts factor. Also, he has been able improve on certain special effects with his nasty species moving faster than ever (you actually view an alien kill in full detail). What “Covenant” lacks unfortunately, is feeling. Heck, it’s so anti-climatic and clunky. Every time you think suspense is about to build with exploding stomachs or massive firepower, Ridley Scott brings Alien: Covenant to a screeching halt with Michael Fassbender (in dual roles) lamenting on the events of “Covenant’s” prequel, Prometheus.

    Regrettably, Alien: Covenant dismisses what made the first two installments so legendary. Gone is the haunting, horror film feel of ’79’s Alien. Gone is the rocketing, foot soldier aspect of 1986’s Aliens. Finally, gone is James Horner and Jerry Goldsmith’s stirring musical scores from both films.

    In terms of the actors and their characters, it just gets worse. In place of Lance Henriksen, Yaphet Kotto, and the late Bill Paxton, “Covenant” gives us a miscast Billy Crudup, comedian Danny McBride, and a wooden Demian Bichir. In place of heroine Sigourney Weaver, well Alien: Covenant brings forth an admirable yet second-tier Katherine Waterston (Steve Jobs, 2013’s Night Moves). The ship computer Mother still exists but yeah, things just aren’t the same.

    All in all, “Covenant” has what no other Alien film possesses and that’s a twist ending. It also gives us the famed horror cliché in which you have sex and then poof, you die. These are nifty attributes but they don’t quite hold enough interest. You’re better off seeing March’s Life starring Jake Gyllenhaal. That vehicle was a blatant Alien ripoff but it’s still better than what’s going on here. My rating: A mixed two stars.

    Rating: 2 out of 4 stars

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  • What does one expect going into Alien: Covenant, the latest in the Alien franchise? If one expects a return to the glory days of the first two Alien films, then one may be sorely disappointed. Director Ridley Scott may have come back to weave more tales out of the franchise he birthed but, as evidenced by 2012’s Prometheus, this current strain of Alien films is but a guise for what Scott is interested in, and that is less a scare-you-out-of-your-seat horror thriller than a philosophical rumination on the origin of the species, whether it be man or monster or a hybrid of both. Which is not to say that the R-rated Covenant is lacking in blood and gore – faces are hugged, chests and backs are burst, throats are used as birth canals – but the violence is deployed more as a palate cleanser between discussions on gods, creationism, free will, and the survival and betterment of the species.

    Set ten years after the events in Prometheus, the film introduces the Covenant, a colony ship carrying about 2,000 hyper-sleeping colonists and 1,000 embryos. Their charted course to a remote planet, Origae-6, is disrupted when the vessel is hit with space debris, forcing synthetic Walter (Michael Fassbender) to awaken the all-couples crew earlier than scheduled. Secondary systems are damaged but, more significantly, the Covenant’s captain (James Franco in a barely there cameo) dies when his pod malfunctions. Oram (Billy Crudup) assumes command, though his insecurities about being a man of faith have to be assuaged by biologist wife Karine (Carmen Ejogo).

    When the crew receive a mysterious human signal from a human planet showing signs of an inhabitable biosphere, Oram decides to redirect the mission much to the strenuous objections of the former captain’s widow Danny (Katherine Waterston). What they find appears inviting enough but it isn’t too long before two of the more disposable characters are infected and become reluctant incubators for the new breed of aliens, which are spikier and develop at an alarmingly faster rate than previously seen. The surviving exploration crew also encounter David (Fassbender), the sole survivor of the Prometheus mission, who has been marooned on this literal graveyard of a planet, and whose very presence intrigues Walter, who has been designed as a less complicated version of him.

    The meeting of these two synthetics – one capable of empathy and sympathy, the other of a curiosity that curdles into contempt – is the essential core of Covenant. The film snaps into focus, not only because their exchanges encapsulate the film’s themes so well, but also because Fassbender, as to be expected, delivers a masterful dual portrayal. The seamlessly CGI’d flute-playing scene between the two may border on camp, but the homoerotic charge adds an unexpected layer to a scene that is all about two different approaches to playing God.

    It’s evident that Scott is enamoured with David and why not? Aside from Sigourney Weaver’s iconic Ripley, Fassbender’s David is the most compelling character in the Alien franchise. Yet this also poses a problem in that one is more inclined to root for the monster than the designated hero or heroes. This is not a knock on either Noomi Rapace, who played the doomed Dr. Shaw in Prometheus, or Waterston, who proves her mettle in Covenant’s multiple final acts. Both actresses do their best to live up to Weaver’s incomparable grit, but neither the characters nor the actresses are a match for David and Fassbender. Even setting David aside, none of the casts possess the spark and personality that the actors had in Alien and Aliens. One felt for those characters because actors like Veronica Cartwright and Yaphet Kotto from the former and Bill Paxton and Jenette Goldstein made them more than one-dimensionally written alien fodder. Of the Covenant crew, only Danny McBride as chief pilot Tennessee manages to distinguish himself from a mostly forgettable group.

    Serving as a transition gap between Prometheus and the first Alien movie, Covenant is not as egregiously expository as Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. It does have its merits – excellent production and sound design, to name but two – and, depending on your investment in Scott’s intention on expanding the Alien narrative, is satisfying enough that it may whet one’s appetite for another installment. But only if Michael Fassbender returns as David for David is the alien to be truly feared.

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  • (RATING: ☆☆☆☆ out of 5 )

    GRADE: B


    IN BRIEF: A fun-filled horror film that is more of the same gore and action as expected, but less on originality and cleverness.

    SYNOPSIS: On a mission to colonize another planet, a crew of astronauts meet some hungry aliens along the way.

    RUNNING TIME: 2 hrs., 3 mins.

    JIM’S REVIEW:  The Alien series has been with us for nearly 40 years since it debuted in 1979. 20th Century Fox rode to the 21st Century and beyond in its own parasitic form, sucking the life out of this initially strong sci-fi horror film series with its sequels and prequels. Except for the original classic by Ridley Scott and its second chapter, the superior Aliens by James Cameron, it has been a downhill slide into mediocrity. Now spawning a total of 5 films on this cat-and-mouse theme, Alien: Covenant becomes No. 6 to enter uncharted territory (excluding the dreadful two Alien vs. Predator rip-offs). It is a worthy chapter to the franchise.

    I must state that I had high expectations with this project, as this film is again being directed by its talented mentor, Mr. Scott (although he did lose his way in his philosophical mystical prequel, Prometheus, which lost its way from the central premise of his films’ success: to scare the hell out of its target audience with blood and gore). Here, he has returned to his winning formula and stays comfortably in its safety zone, (unlike its astronauts), rarely venturing out of the perimeter of originality. We are firmly ensconced in the horror genre on this mission. (Of course, we are not alone…Dinner will be served promptly at 8, or 15 depending on how many crew members will be the main course.)

    Mr. Scott is always the consummate craftsman. His films, including this one, have a stark beauty filled with wild action that any adrenaline jockey would love. This good-looking film has strong production values as well, including top-notch photography by the capable Dariusz Wolski and concise editing by Pietro Scalia. The director knows how to build tension and creates visuals that are very impressive. (Lest we not forget Artist H. R. Giger’s Oscar-winning creature design of the xenomorph which remains the film’s chief ace card.) While his screenplay credited to John Logan and Dante Harper is predictable. (Who will be next to suffer a grisly death? Just how dumb are these trained professionals’ life-and-death decisions?) Add to that, all of the characters are a standard variety (the heroic captain, the empowered female warrior, the likable sidekick, etc.). But the fun is in the familiarity of the set-up…and the script takes its time developing its characters and plot before providing the scares and cheap thrills. (Just like Alien, the creature finally rears its ugly head about 40 minutes in.)

    This second prequel continues its tale as it addresses the Prometheus storyline and brings that to a satisfying conclusion. Our story now picks up in 2104, about 15 years later. Its “new” players fill in quite nicely. Katherine Waterston plays the intrepid Daniels Branson (a.k.a. Ripley) although Ms. Waterson brings enough individuality to claim the role as her own. Joining her on her mission to colonize a new planet are Billy Crudup, Danny McBride, Jussie Smollett, Carmen Ejogo, Amy Seimetz, Demian Bichir, and seven other human appetizers that are on the menu. Also going ala carte is Michael Fassbender playing the android, David 8, and his later model, Walter, and he is terrific. The actor steals the movie with his subtle interpretation of both pivotal roles.

    Yes, there is an abundance of action sequences and scary moments, none of which I will reveal. The film builds tension well throughout its telling, although its many climaxes are a bit of overkill, literally. That said, Alien Covenant conveniently lives off its original 1979 host source and provides enough mayhem, gore, and action for most moviegoers, especially any horror film enthusiast with a taste for bloodshed. Dessert, anyone?

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  • “They disobeyed a direct order.
    She buried her husband.
    No, Karine, it’s not that.
    They don’t trust me.
    And they don’t trust me for the same reason the company didn’t trust me … to lead this mission.”

    I never thought I would ever ask the following question: “Mr. Scott, could you draw a line under the whole Alien franchise and concentrate on other projects? Please?”. As an “Alien” fan of the first hour, I was deeply disappointed about this film. In hindsight I thought “Exodus : Gods and Kings” was even better. It’s best they forget about “Alien : Covenant Sequel” which is scheduled to appear in 2019.

    I was actually more excited about “Prometheus” than about this creation. I ignored the whole fuss about the religious and existential aspects in “Prometheus”. In my opinion “Prometheus” was a relief after the disastrous parts III and IV of the “Alien” saga. Admittedly, the xenomorphs weren’t omnipresent in “Prometheus”. But the graphics were unprecedented and made my SF heart race again. Scott brought a breath of fresh wind in this SF horror. In “Alien: Covenant” it’s more like a used wind. On the one hand, the functional goal of this film is the cause of this. After all, it’s just a bridge between the “Prometheus” project and the older “Alien” work. But on the other hand, it’s the ease with which this movie is made that lies at the base. Because ultimately it’s nothing but a recycling of old material.

    In “Prometheus” a spacecraft was launched into space to search for the so-called creators (“Engineers”) of humanity. In the end, they discover that these creators want to wipe their creations of the table. The end of the film shows a glimpse of creatures that cause death and destruction in the “Alien” saga afterwards.

    Now we see the spacecraft “Covenant”, loaded with colonists and embryos, which (as in “Passengers”) is heading for a planet in another solar system to set up a new colony. Until the ship is hit by a “neutrino burst” and the crew is shaken roughly out of their artificial sleep. When one of the crew members receives a signal from John Denver’s “Take me home” during a repair, they set course to the origin of the signal without hesitation. And thus they end up on a planet with similar living conditions as on Earth. Moreover, they find traces of a previous landing.

    Despite the fact that “Alien: Covenant” is no more than a link between the “Prometheus” narrative and the original first episode, this movie started promising. In retrospect, however, it’s nothing more than a rehashing of previously used ideas. Even the numerous Aliens didn’t impress me. The aggressive and intimidating look of the space monster in the first films ensured some terrifying movie moments. In this film, they weren’t exactly very intelligent and far from slimy. The only original twist in this film was the side those creatures chose to burst out of a human body this time.

    As a die-hard fan of the Alien saga, I was waiting impatiently (even though I’m not in favor of prequels and sequels) for this new episode and I was also expecting big things. Therefor it’s a great disappointment when I saw how such an original and infamous epic story was reduced to the level of a meaningless, brain-dead soap purely based on commercial considerations.

    Even though the visual aspect was of an unprecedented level (after all Ridley Scott was holding the reins) and the first half hour (despite the cliché content) was promising, I came to the conclusion that the obtained result was shamefully bad. The Aliens weren’t terrifying and at one point they looked like the Velociraptors from “Jurassic Park”. Some scenes were basically moronic. And be honest, Katherine Waterston will never be able to match Ripley’s masterly played character. The only plus and admirable part was the double role of Michael Fassbender.

    When are they going to realize in Hollywood when a sequel to a successful film has nothing significantly contribute to the story and just simply repeats parts of the original (repackaged), one can better refrain from this release. But I get it. The movie has gained a loyal crowd of fans who look forward to any new episode. It doesn’t matter how bad it is, there’ll always be a huge audience to check it out. In most cases this enthusiasm is being followed by disillusion. There are countless other examples. From “Die Hard” to “Terminator”. Or take a look at “Beverly Hills cop”, “Nightmare on Elm street” and “Home alone”.

    The pilot film is sensational and unique. In some cases, the sequel offers added value and is highly entertaining. But from then on, it usually goes downhill. There’s nothing great about these sequels. The only reason for their existence is pure commercial. Shame on you Mr. Scott. To be honest, I never expected you to fall for that.

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