Alien Covenant (2017)

Directed and Produced by Ridley Scott

Written by John Logan & Dante Harper

Starring Michael Fassbender, Katherine Waterston, Danny McBride & Billy Crudup

Cameo by James Franco (?)

Back in 1979, Ridley Scott unleashed the horror of the Xenomorph into filmdom with the titular film “Alien“. Fast forward to 2012 and then.. “Prometheus” happened. It was a strange film, one upon which viewers were uncertain wether it was part of the Alien mythos or not, frustratingly unconfirmed by even Scott himself. It took another five years but finally we have a film proper of the Alien canon complete with facehuggers, Xenos and more. It took 20 years since “Alien Resurrection”, so was it worth the wait?

My answer is a semi-enthusiastic yes. Covenant is a strange film in that it maintains the odd mystic philosophical-theological laden feel of Prometheus and yet it also encapsulates all the brutal horror and slime/gore slicked violence that we’ve come to associate with the franchise. It’s a mismash that is only somewhat successful. On the one hand we have the somewhat pretentious philosophizing that literally quotes classic poetry and references to revered classical art pieces and operatic orchestral pieces. Then we also have brainless cannon fodder characters doing brainless things. It zigzags from one character quoting Byron and commenting on Wagner’s musical opus to another character wandering off from the group to pee like so many ill advised slasher victims. It’s the ultimate dichotomy of high culture and low culture and it just doesn’t really work.

Furthermore there is some frustration at the much revered return of the Facehuggers and the Xenos being forced into the background a bit. True, they look great and they’ve never been more savage, animalistic and violent but they’re also bit players in an overall serialized prequel series. Also I’m personally a bit torn at the complete re-design of the Chestburster.

Though outside of these faults, I quite enjoyed the film. True, I don’t think this contnued Prometheus series is the best idea for the franchise but at least Scott has acknowledged what the audiences want. This film truly is a grand callback to the series early roots complete with easter eggs and smirk worthy references. It’s all bolstered by Scott’s typically epic scope, absolutely gorgeous cinematography and a great musical score that deftly blends both the original Jerry Goldsmith score and the regal new musical accompaniment from Prometheus.

The cast is a highlight. Waterston carries the tradition of strong female leads and Danny McBride gets to exercise his serious chops (notwithstanding a distracting and pointless cameo from his frequent collaborator, James Franco). Fassbender knocks it out of the proverbial park with his dual android role capturing both the evolved humanity of Walter and the more primal minded yet cold and calculating David. His scenes in which he acts against himself are both bizarre but utterly captivating. Elsewhere, everyone does fine but with such a large group of characters (16 individuals) the majority get lost in the shuffle, emerging as naught but faceless fodder to be picked off in a matter most gruesome. On that note, brace yourselves because this film runs red. The kill scenes are easily the most violent and graphic of the series and even this stalwart gore vet cringed a couple of times. Wonderful gore effects all around!

For all its faults, Covenant is a rock solid entry into the canon. It’s by no means perfect and the vestiges of Prometheus cling ever so stubbornly yet it offsets this with a return to form for scifi/horror merging and some great technical achievements. It sits comfortably in the upper echelon of the series, not quite eclipsing the landmark first two films but reigning above everything that has been delivered since.

3.5/5 Black Alien Spore Pods

Splatter Factor: 4/5 *** EVERYTHING is shown in this one. The violence never really cuts away leaving us privy to classic chestbursting scenes as well as the new “Neomorphs” which split from spinal columns and out of mouths. Elsewhere there are jaws torn off, acid wounds, decapitations, violent and primal maulings and a great, classic double-jaw punch kill. Sick, vile and all around excellent stuff on hand **

The Collective speaks:

Through the whims of our conduit we have long been privy to the exploits of this so called Perfect Organism. We certainly can respect the creature’s parasitic way of life and the regality of a Hive Mind. Although this film leaves such aspects behind in lieu of several solitary beasts, we enjoy the red and the slime that they impart upon these disappointingly inept star travelers. We look forward to what more these insectoid legionnaires have in store amongst the red soaked stars..

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