ts been five years since we were given a new instalment in the Alien universe. We’ve now have sequel to the 2012 motion-picture Prometheus. Even though now we’re now being given prequels to original four films, I can’t help but wonder how far will 20th Century Fox be able to push the Alien franchise. It was interesting seeing the Engineers of humanity and how they decided to create a new form of life. It was also great to see the birth of the first form of the infamous Xenomorph burst from the chest of one of the Engineers.
Fast-forward to 2017 and Prometheus has a sequel. Alien: Covenant felt different to an Alien film. Even though we hardly any scenes with the Xenomorph until near the end, the film felt it was dragged a bit. I did like the use of the soundtrack from the original Alien film appearing as they were in orbit of the planet where David was marooned.
This film partners with Prometheus but connects with the original Alien film with its use of gore and storytelling. Throughout Covenant there are nods to the original 1979 film. I really liked that. I’m one of these audience members when a film pays respect and gives nods towards its original source.
The film is still heavily influenced by religion. However Covenant focuses on David having a God complex and how he’s eager for the birth of a new form of life. His God complex stems back to “awaken” or his birth as he’s activated by the aged and dying Peter Weyland. It always seems that the androids in the Alien Franchise has a superiority complex over humanity. However, Bishop from Aliens seems to be the only decent one who’s eager to help the good guys.
I did find Alien: Covenant to be long-winded, however I did enjoy it and found questions that was left me asking after Prometheus answered. I really liked the fact that David completely decimated the Engineers with the virus he gave to Liz Shaw’s partner in the previous film. However, this caused a domino effect and created the deadly plants that would later kill most of the crew of the Covenant. I really liked the fact the Xenomorphs and the eggs are no longer the deadly creatures of the Alien universe. We now had killer plants and plants that send out killer pollen thus makes people deliver smaller Xenomorph through any part of the human body. That scene when it bursts through one of the crews’ mouth was a cracker! The films also holds the imagery created by the late H.R Gieger.
When it was intense, Covenant was really intense. The first encounter with the nascent domeheads is a full-on onslaught, from the uncomfortable scenes of uncontrollable shaking to moments of dark absurdity to the beasties revealing a hitherto unknown skill at head-butting. Yet once the hunt is on, Scott can’t muster the sustained tension of Alien. There are some creepy kills but none that recapture the imagination and design of the original’s death. He also cant build momentum in the same way, the sence of narrative urgency sadly missing.
The Covenant crew are a particularly nondescript, inter-changeable bunch. Some show promise. Waterston’s Daniels is crippled with grief. Newly promoted Captain Oram is dealing with doubts that his religious faith will undermine his authority. But only Danny McBride’s Tennessee really registers, and that’s partly because he wears a cowboy hat. Infact, the most interesting character relationships come betweenthe two synthetics: newbie Walter and Prometheus holdover David. Both skilfully differentiated by Michael Fassbunder, the pair meet as David is the only inhabitant of the newly found planet. There are weird, interesting scenes as David teaches Walter to play flute, out-score each other on Romantic poetry and in, what feels like a bizarre piece of Fassbender slash fiction, kiss.
Yet it is also the point where Scott gets to indulge his Blade Runner-Prometheus preoccupation with playing God in on-the-nose discussions. At its best, aka The First Two, the Aliens series works as dirty B movies, embedding all the meaning in the imagery. Here it is done in dialogue about the frustration of not being allowed to create the loneliness of dreams. It’s just a shame that one of cinemas greatest image-makers couldn’t deliver his ideas visually.