In 2012, Ridley Scott returned to the Alien franchise after more than thirty years. The resulting movie, Prometheus, was not what many wanted it to be, but it left the door open for more to come. That more has arrived in the form of Alien: Covenant, a movie which does not hide its connection to the beloved sci-fi franchise. It embraces it wholeheartedly and, in many ways, gives us the Alien prequel we all hoped that Prometheus would be. It may not be perfect, but it is a return to form where it counts. For the most part.
Fox‘s Alien: Covenant centers on a group of 15 crew members aboard a colonization ship set for a distant planet, light years away from Earth. The crew is forced to make some tough decisions when something goes wrong, leading them to scout a planet they never intended to visit. They quickly discover that they are not alone and that there are more threats present than they initially thought to be the case. The crew then finds themselves in a fight for their lives and the lives of those aboard the covenant ship who are hoping to start a life far away from Earth.
The problem with a movie like Alien: Covenant, and perhaps the problem with every movie in this franchise since James Cameron’s Aliens, is that the movies are being measured against arguable perfection. Alien is still the gold standard for sci-fi/horror and Aliens is still possibly the best sci-fi/action movie ever made. Even though Alien: Covenant carries the namesake of those beloved movies, it isn’t necessarily fair to judge it against those truly remarkable pieces of cinema. In that, we can’t reasonably expect to love it as much or in the same way that we love those movies. With that said, despite some flaws, Alien: Covenant feels like the most worthy entry in the franchise since Aliens. It feels like an Alien movie. It looks like an Alien movie. Nobody kills Newt. It definitely doesn’t commit the sins that other sequels/prequels in this franchise have in the last thirty years.
There will certainly be comparisons made between Alien: Covenant and Prometheus and, while this is decidedly a better movie no matter how you slice it, this movie doesn’t ignore its predecessor. It heavily relies on it and embraces it. So, if you are someone who likes Prometheus, you will probably walk out of Alien: Covenant feeling quite liberated. If you are someone who feels Prometheus is a frustrating movie that didn’t deliver on its promise, you may be forced to look back at it as a necessary evil, because the best things about this movie don’t happen unless Prometheus happens. Or at the very least, they wouldn’t carry nearly as much weight. That said, it is very clear that Ridley Scott understood the shortcomings of that movie and didn’t make the same mistakes twice.
Alien: Covenant is a beautiful looking movie. It is very much a Ridley Scott movie in that way. It is a scary movie, blending elements of both Alien and Aliens together to make an interesting hybrid that doesn’t reinvent the franchise at all, but brings us to a familiar place that should delight fans who want to see some Xenomorph action, as well as some new horrifying additions to the series. Alien: Covenant is a weird movie. Delightfully weird, if you allow it to be. There are some strange things in this movie and, if you embrace the strangeness of it, they help Alien: Covenant be its own movie and stand apart within this universe.
Like the best movies in the franchise, Alien: Covenant is an ensemble piece and it is a damn fine ensemble. So much so that it really isn’t worth dissecting the performances individually. That said, Ridley Scott realized that the best thing he did in Prometheus was cast Michael Fassbender. So he decided to figure out a way to give him two parts in this movie. His performances as both Walter and David are a credit to the brilliant actor that he is. If Michael Fassbender were a less capable actor, this movie would have totally fallen apart. Again, this is not a perfect movie, but the haunting and unsettling performance given by Fassbender here makes it easier to gloss over some of the imperfections that exist in Alien: Covenant. Also, Danny McBride can really act you guys.
If there is one major complaint that is sure to be had with this movie, it is the lack of practical creature effects. There are some, but don’t expect to see dude’s running around in awesome Xenomorph suits. This movie is full of CGI creatures and for many, the practical creature effects make an Alien movie great. I understand that sentiment, so those who hold that as a make or break factor for this movie may find Alien: Covenant to be disappointing. Though, I would argue that if you can get over that, there is a lot of joy to be had here for those who have been frustrated with movies like Alien 3 and Alien: Resurrection.
At the end of the day, we were promised an Alien movie, and Ridley Scott gave us an Alien movie. That is what we wanted with Prometheus and, despite some flaws, we finally got it. This is a movie that adds a lot to the lore of the franchise and doesn’t just rehash everything that came before it. There are some risks taken in Alien: Covenant that may divide some fans, but without risks, we wind up with boring. Alien: Covenant is a lot of things, but it sure as hell isn’t boring.