For the first time in a long time I can say that the Alien series feels like i did in the beginning. Alien: Covenant is ageless director Ridley Scott’s (The Martian, Blade Runner) best work in a long time. And by a long time I mean at least a decade.
A large part of why it works is because it has the same tone and look of the original. It is dark, spooky, creepy, menacing, and gory. Scott cheekily even references his 1979 film with subtleties like a tank top, big alien eggs and a plastic toy bird. Oh, and a pretty bad ass lady who takes control. He has gone back to the basics and it is a good choice. Some might be rolling their eyes at this point thinking it is just a lazy rehash. I am here to tell you that it is isn’t. Yes, it uses long established themes and story patterns, but that is why after five Alien films you are still a fan. You approve of what has gone on before and want more of it. Plus, in the hands of a talented director there is still enough wiggle room keeping things moderately fresh.
Most of the visuals are stunning. Credit to Scott and his cinematographer Dariusz Wolski (Prometheus, Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End) for creating such a rich yet dark and eerie world for us to feast our eyes upon. The shadows are everywhere succeeding in creating plenty of tension.
Though you could theoretically watch this film without having seen Prometheus it is helpful. Covenant is a sequel (though it is a prequel to the original Alien film) to that film that happens 10 years Prometheus. The only character that is in both films is the synthetic human David (Michael Fassbender – X-Men: First Class, Steve Jobs). Everyone else has gone bye bye.
This is a sci fi film but there are some nods to other films and genres. The biggest is to Frankenstein with all the playing around with creation going on here it is as plain as the nose on Barbra Streisand’s face. It adds to the creepiness going on. This is a mad scientist film that happens in space. Man and monsters. Man and his creation.
At this point I am going to let you in with the fact that I will not divulge much about the story here because the precious few surprises (and I don’t mean that in a bad way just in a the series has been going on for so long there is not much they can do) should be left as just that – surprises. Suffice it to say this is another film in the series that strives to show how the aliens evolved to become killing machines.
Besides all the horror and gore and scary moments there are some rather cerebral ones as well. Some are not as sharply executed as you might hope though none are disastrous. At times the dialogue is a little clumsy while others (largely due to Fassbender’s delivery and commitment) it is almost poetic. Moments of philosophy and existentialism creep into the party.