Alien: Covenant, 2017.
Directed by Ridley Scott.
Starring Michael Fassbender, Katherine Waterston, Billy Crudup, Danny McBride, Demian Bichir, Carmen Ejogo, Amy Seimetz, Callie Hernandez, and Jussie Smollett.
Alien: Covenant arrives in a Blu-ray+DVD+Digital Copy package that gives you multiple ways to watch the movie and its bonus materials. While the Alien franchise is probably played out at this point, Covenant is better than the mess that was Prometheus.
Sometimes sequels can work even if a movie was made without them in mind (see Back to the Future). Sometimes, though, a movie strikes one note so well that sequels are pretty much pointless (see Jaws).
Alien, though, is an interesting case study in sequel development. It was a one-note movie that set up a wash-rinse-repeat formula that could quickly become tedious, but I found that its two sequels formed a nice trilogy. (I know, I’m one of the few who liked Alien 3.)
However, the vision of the future that Alien posits offers some interesting territory to explore. After all, Weyland-Yutani is the true villain in the first three movies, and it’s not hard to imagine a future world where corporations have ever-increasing control over our lives, to the point that they’re willing to sacrifice a few employees if it means they can make a major breakthrough in their bio-weapons division.
With that in mind, I’ve been willing to give this ongoing a series a shot, although Alien: Resurrection was poorly conceived, Alien vs. Predator was unremarkable (I haven’t seen AVP 2), and Prometheus was a mess. That brings me to the latest installment in the series, Alien: Covenant, which from the get-go seems determined to serve as a reboot of sorts, with plenty of nods to the original Alien, from big things like the opening credits to little things like the presence of a drinking bird toy.
After a brief prologue, the film takes us to the spacefaring vessel Covenant, which carries a crew and 2,000 colonists, all in hibernation and headed to a new planet where humanity can establish a foothold. Walter (Michael Fassbender), an android in the mold of David from Prometheus, is tending to the ship when it’s damaged by a stellar neutrino burst. He orders the ship’s computer, MUTHUR (Alien fans know all about that AI), to wake the crew to assist with repairs, but the captain dies when his stasis pod malfunctions.
The second in command, Oram (Billy Crudup), takes control and, against the advice of the captain’s widow, “Danny” (Katherine Waterston), orders the crew to investigate a mysterious transmission picked up from a habitable planet. If you’re guessing it’s the same planet that David and Shaw were headed to at the end of Prometheus, it won’t be the first time you’ll figure out something before it’s revealed to you in this movie.
Most of the crew boards a lander to investigate, leaving three members of the team behind to continue repairs and mind the ship. On the planet’s surface, two of them are infected by alien spores that enter their bodies and produce white creatures that are vaguely similar to the xenomorphs we all know. The surviving crew members find refuge with David, who has resided on the planet since the end of Prometheus.
David has a bit of a Dr. Moreau vibe to him, and he soon proves to be the real enemy that the crew must get away from. Thanks to his manipulations, two xenomorphs enter the story, and the third act of the film involves the remaining crew members trying to escape. As in Alien and Aliens, there’s a false climax, and the ending features a twist that you could probably see coming.
Unfortunately, few of the crew members are really memorable. Oram talks a few times about being a person of faith and how that makes people see him as an extremist, but there’s really no payoff to that, nor does his contentious relationship with the crew really go anywhere either. Most of the characters seem to exist so they can be killed in various gruesome ways, as if director Ridley Scott is channeling a bit of the Friday the 13th series.
In the end, Covenant succeeds as a straight-ahead action movie that dispenses with much of the convoluted “mystery box” elements found in Prometheus, so it ranks below the first three movies and ahead of the rest of them. It gives the xenomorphs an origin story, so I’m not sure where the Alien series can go from here, unless someone wants to explore Weyland-Yutani’s role in the series a bit more, since the company tends to be in the shadows.
This home video release features the movie on Blu-ray and DVD discs, along with a code for a digital copy. The bonus features, some of which are in the digital copy too, include:
- Commentary: Directory Ridley Scott takes the 30,000-foot view in this track, discussing the film from a thematic point-of-view. It’s not a bad discussion, but he takes himself a bit too seriously, and sometimes he commits the cardinal sin of describing what we see onscreen.
- Deleted and extended scenes (18 minutes): While it’s easy to see why much of this footage was cut, some of it could have remained in the film to provide some much-needed character development.
- USCSS Covenant (16 minutes): This includes three videos that add a bit to the characters’ backgrounds, such as a series of clips from the psych evaluations that were performed before they joined the ship’s crew. You might wonder why they ran one on an android, but it makes more sense when you consider what became of David.
- Sector 87 – Planet 4 (9 minutes): Two video clips and an image gallery that lend more insight into what happened to David and Elizabeth after the events of Prometheus.
- Master Class: Ridley Scott (55 minutes): This is the meat of the bonus materials, and it features quite a bit of footage of Scott and the cast and crew making the movie.
- Production Gallery: Concept art of the environments, the creatures, along with the director’s famous “Riddleygrams,” which are storyboards and sketches drawn by him.
- Two theatrical trailers
Ridley Scott supposedly has at least one more Alien film in mind, and James Cameron has made noises from time to time about coming back to the franchise. I’ll continue to check out new entries in the series, but I increasingly find myself believing that the first three films were the first and best word on these movies.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★