Samuel Brace argues that Alien: Covenant is the best instalment in the franchise since Aliens…
Alien: Covenant has been called a return to form for Ridley Scott’s much famed Alien franchise after many were lukewarm on 2012’s Prometheus. This writer was actually quite fond of that film, and so was particularly pleased with how much Covenant resembled that movie while incorporating desirable aspects from the series’ other instalments. Covenant was a fun, frightening, and thoroughly engaging affair, highlighting everything that is great about the series without ever reaching the heights of Alien or Aliens — the two undisputed best entries into the franchise. There was however plenty to savour this time around, and three reasons in particular that rose Covenant to the position of the best Alien film since Aliens.
The Engineer Planet
What for me made Prometheus such an engrossing affair was the world building that came along with it. The world visited, with its Engineer temple, sculptures and history, was desperately fascinating and whet the appetite for more juicy info to come. Covenant took this aspect of its predecessor and ran with it, taking us to the Engineer planet that David and Elizabeth departed to at the end of Prometheus.
What we found there was fascinating; a destroyed civilisation, and the history of humanity’s creators. Via a flashback we were treated to certain horrific events that have huge ramifications for the world of this franchise, and got to see more of that disturbing and morbid imagery that permeated the Prometheus narrative. There was so much here to be found and savoured, an archaeologists dream one could say. If only there weren’t nightmarish creatures with a taste for man flesh to distract our heroes from enjoying the sights.
This evil treasure trove of despair was the perfect setting for the horrors to come, giving fans of the series’ lore further fuel to feed their world building desires, supplying us with more information on where the humans of this universe came from, along with depicting the grave errors of playing God.
Filmed with a visual flair that can’t be denied, this particular planet more than takes its place among the series other insidious locations.
Most folk’s main complaint regarding Prometheus was the lack of the series main antagonist, the Xenomorph. And while I can understand this grievance to a certain extent, the monsters provided in said film were more than an acceptable substitute and helped build out that rich history mentioned above. Scott has grand designs for his franchise, and in order to enact those designs, the Xenomorph’s ancestors, like ours, had to be explored.
But of course, Scott couldn’t help but listen to his critics and decided in Covenant to give audiences what they wanted; the return of a creature that has haunted so many dreams throughout the decades. The Xenomorph is back this time around, and just as vicious as ever. Thankfully the creature’s appearance was coupled with another variant, an important ancestor that caused just as much pain to the men and women of this much troubled expedition. And by adding in some of that good old world building, there were some important and frankly awesome new details learnt about the species. After Covenant, you won’t look at the creature quite the same way again.
Thankfully, their re-entry back into the series didn’t feel in any way forced, their presence was organic and paramount to requirements. Scott’s design is starting to take shape, and with the way the film closed out, one is left with not only a desire to see more of our acid bleeding friends, but a tremendous dread for what will bestow humanity because of certain actions taken.
While the back-story discovered in Prometheus was a winning feature, the best component of its formula was without a doubt Michael Fassbender and his synthetic character, David. Thankfully this charismatic miscreant is back for Alien: Covenant, and unfortunately for everyone else involved, he’s up to his old tricks.
Fassbender performs dual roles during this outing, but it’s David that steals the show not only from himself and the rest of the able cast, but from the Xenomorphs too. The ten years spent on the Engineer planet haven’t been kind to David, taking this mischievous android and turning his curious nature into something far more sinister. Every line that Fassbender eloquently delivers during Covenant feels instantly quotable, and only adds to the malicious nature of his environs.
Not only is it a sterling performance by the actor, but David’s impact on the series during the course of the film is monumental. Never has their felt like a more consequential character in the series, his actions during this movie far eclipsing those of his machinations during Prometheus. The universe has indeed been haunted by the Xenomorph over the years, but its David that is quickly becoming the series’ big bad, the puppet master that has released such horrors upon humanity.
Alien: Covenant isn’t a perfect film, but it stomps all over the series’ third and fourth entries, and beats out Prometheus into the number three spot by offering us more of what was great about that instalment, while bringing back some of the franchise’s greatest hits. This is quite the world that Scott has been building over the years, and I for one can’t wait to see the hellish destinations beyond Covenant’s horizon.