This is one I have been waiting on for a while. I remember seeing Aliens at home when I was young, seeing Alien 3 in the theater (the Special Edition with 50 minutes of additional/alternate scenes is SPECTACULAR!!!), and thinking that Prometheus was pretty close to perfect since it does exactly what it set out to do:
Backing into the first Alien film almost perfectly…
That’s not to say Prometheus isn’t without flaws… some of the characters make some really REALLY bad decisions in the film. It’s never a good idea to try to charm an alien snake that wants to break your arm and crawl down your throats and shoot out your head later on in the film… Seriously, if you see something unknown, DON’T MESS WITH IT!!!
Also, why did David need to infect Halloway, somehow knowing that he would have sex with Shaw and get her pregnant with the mega-face-hugger? And what was the purpose of the mega-face-hugger? Okay, I concede that something had to happen to get the Space Jockey (retroactively called “Engineers” in Prometheus) pregnant with the first Alien, but there are a lot of coincidences with that “plan”…
Anyway: Spoiler Alert — Horseshoe shaped ship crashes, Engineer gives birth to first alien…
Prequel perfectly sets up Alien…
Not so fast…
Ridley Scott felt there was more story to tell there.
First off, Ridley Scott is one of my favorite directors. If you’ve read my posts on Blade Runner, you know I could gush about how much I love his visual style in his films. Alien: Covenant is no different. It is an absolutely beautiful film to watch — despite how disturbing the content of the film is.
Is it perfect? No. In fact, dare I say: hard core fans might be a little disappointed with it since it disregards certain elements of the Alien life-cycle that were established in the films that followed the first Alien film. That’s what happens when Ridley Scott recovers creative control of the franchise: he gets to tell the story the way he wants to, and that is not a bad thing.
The story begins with a colony ship suffering a catastrophe. During repairs, the crew discovers a signal of a woman humming a John Denver song which originated in a nearby solar system.
While investigating, they discover a world that seems ideal, and that is where things go horribly wrong for them as two of the crew members get sick and quickly deteriorate…
That leads to one of the most terrifying scenes in the film, as new type of alien (called a Neomorph) tears its way out of one of the colonist’s back in a suspenseful scene that lasts about five minutes… Ridley Scott really knows how to build the tension in scenes like this. Even though it is long and drawn out, it never gets boring…
Enter: David — the sole survivor of the previous film, Prometheus. Michael Fassbender does double-duty in this film, reprising the role of David, and playing a new synthetic named Walter.
It takes a certain kind of actor to pull off a performance like this, and not confuse the audience… and Fassbender is definitely up to the task. He switches between characters with an ease that makes it easy to tell which character he is playing, and the scenes where both characters appear on screen together a treat to watch.
Some of the scenes where Michael Fassbender is acting against himself as both David and Walter are SO GOOD that they are uncomfortable to watch. There is a scene where David kisses Walter, which has become rather controversial, with some reviews stating that it is catering to the LGBT crowd. But for me, the scene made perfect sense, and was appropriate. It completely defines the character of David for the audience. It makes it abundantly clear that he has a god complex, and is totally in love with himself. What better way to show that than to be able to kiss yourself, so I just felt like the scene fit the character.
And let’s face it: that is not the most disturbing thing David does in Alien: Covenant.
While Prometheus tried to ask grand questions of “Where do we come from?” and “Who made us, and why?”, Alien: Covenant asks a much more simple question:
“Who is the real monster? The creature? Or the “monster” who created it?
As I said earlier, this film disregards the established life-cycle of the alien in one key aspect: the eggs containing the face-huggers were created via horrific genetic experiments rather than being laid by a queen.
The parallels between David’s experiments, and the experiments of Nazi “doctors” at the death camps in WWII were quite strong toward the end of the second act of the film. In the film, David kills an entire race by unleashing a biological weapon that wipes out all organic life on the planet. He then begins to perform genetic experiments on the corpses using this biological weapon. He creates several types of horrifying creatures, including the Neomorph seen earlier in the film, before finally creating several eggs which contain the face-hugger that fans of the franchise are familiar with.
Needless to say, the face-huggers impregnate a few colonists, and we spend the rest of the film watching a battle against the traditional Alien that we have seen in the previous films.
I wish the third act of the film spent more time focusing on the Alien, but the film does end on a perfect note: with a reveal about Michael Fassbender’s character Walter, which will have you begging for a sequel! I won’t give it away: it was a bit predictable, but that won’t make the reveal any less enjoyable when it actually happens.
All said, I like the film. I don’t think it was necessary in the franchise, but it is definitely a worthy entry that asks an intriguing question.