Scott’s ‘Alien: Covenant’ Gives Life to Another Polarizing Hybrid
Over the past decade, acclaimed director Ridley Scott has made a handful of polarizing decisions. For every crowd-pleaser like The Martian, he’s also given audiences a meandering misstep such as Exodus: Gods and Kings. But none of his recently films have been so divisive as 2012’s Prometheus. Five years later, Scott ventures back into the world of Alien with its prequel-sequel, Alien: Covenant.
From the marketing campaign, the appeal of Alien: Covenant heavily hinges on the fact whether you enjoyed the franchise’s tonal deviance set in Prometheus. It’s been about a decade since the events of the prequel. And once again, we witness another space mission aboard an ill-fated Weyland Corporation craft. No shocker there. This time, the Covenant, a colonization vessel with 2,000 souls is en route to Origae-6 to start anew.
With the exception of Alien 3, Alien: Covenant walks the same path as its predecessors. An unexpected malfunction along the way awakens the crew out of hypersleep. Now, the mission to Origae-6 could have been straightforward, but that’s just too easy. Acting captain Oram (Billy Crudup), thrown into the commanding role due to a sudden tragedy, picks up a transmission from an unknown planet that might even offer a better deal than their original destination. I never knew how enticing John Denver’s Take Me Home, Country Roads could be.
Once on the surface, Oram, Daniels (Katherine Waterston), Lope (Demian Bichir) and their synthetic Walter (Michael Fassbender) explore the terrain. With this new slew of characters, we begin to wonder how this all plays into the events of Prometheus. Fassbender’s synthetic David last seen in Prometheus has taken up residence there and the two stories begin to converge. Noomi Rapace’s Elizabeth Shaw also finds her way into Alien: Covenant, bringing her narrative full-circle.
Scott is well-aware that Prometheus wasn’t universally acclaimed by critics and audiences. It exists within the Alien universe, albeit it’s not rigidly labeled as a direct prequel. Its ties aren’t as blatant to the original as say The Phantom Menace is to Star Wars or The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey to The Lord of the Rings. Instead of full-blown philosophical mumbo jumbo, Scott meets his audience halfway with a Prometheus, Alien hybrid.
SEE ALSO: Alien Covenant Review: In Space, No One Can Hear You Complain
Don’t get me wrong, once we meet David on the surface, there’s plenty to ponder worthy of an Introduction to Philosophy class. For some, creationism, evolution and man’s hubris may be enough to turn off some audiences a second time. Especially when we sit front and center waiting for Xenomorphs to terrify the crew one by one. The horrific side of Alien: Covenant has its time to inject its carnage too. Though, the screenplay by John Logan and Dante Harper does have its issues with a smooth tonal transition. With elements of Prometheus, Alien and Aliens throughout, Scott’s mad scientist routine almost finds its payoff.
Like the previous films, Alien: Covenant is helmed by a well-rounded ensemble. Katherine Waterston is a worthy female lead to Sigourney Weaver’s Ellen Ripley. Thankfully her miscast performance in Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them was just a fluke. Though a stoner comedy regular, Danny McBride was surprisingly enough the film’s hidden gem as the Covenant’s pilot, Tennessee. And of course, Michael Fassbender relishes the complexities of his dual performance as both David and Walter. Double the Fassbender, double the fun. By the end of the film, he icily hits home the film’s original title, Alien: Paradise Lost with such precision.
Yes, Alien: Covenant still makes some of the mistakes that Prometheus made five years ago. Expert scientists are still as idiotic as ever. Don’t touch the black goo. Just don’t touch it. But at least this crew knows how to run away from gigantic, rolling alien ships this time. Die-hards of the franchise might also be frustrated by the rewritten mythology and now lack of mystery surrounding the Space Jockeys and Xenomorphs. That’s just prequel-itis at its worst. Like Prometheus, audiences will remain divided over Alien: Covenant. Though its roots are more embraced for this second go-around.
Still, Ridley Scott has made Alien: Covenant a hauntingly gorgeous follow-up to Prometheus that looks and sounds fantastic. Even with its abundance of predictable throwbacks, it’s by far the franchise’s best offering in 30 years. Together, Alien and Aliens set a bar too ambitious for Scott’s most recent outings to touch.