Rob Reviews "Alien: Covenant"
I like sci-fi. I like sci-fi A LOT. Give me spaceships, lasers, rescue missions, and awesome explosions? You pretty much have me. Add horror to it? Aaaaaand, I’m out.
I have always been of the opinion that I do not like to pay someone to try to make me soil myself in any way, shape, or form. This is why I tend to avoid those types of films, haunted houses, and even ghost hunter types of shows like The Plague. I have seen some over the years, but I think “Alien” is the closest I have come to seeing every film in a horror franchise there is. Over the many years I have walked this planet, I have seen all of them but “Prometheus,” which worried me a bit going into “Alien: Covenant”. But, thanks to the wonderment of Wikipedia, the verification of the gist of it that I had read from my podcast co-host, and watching the two Prologues that 20th Century Fox put out on social media over the last few weeks, I was confident that I would not get lost as this film progressed.
In the second of the “prequel trilogy,” “Alien: Covenant” opens with the ship whose namesake is the second word of the film’s title on its way to colonize a new world, monitored by the ever-present computer named “Mother,” and its resident android, Walter (Michael Fassbender). When a sonic space storm causes damage to the ship, it’s crew is awakened from cryosleep about seven and a half years early from their destination to keep protecting its cargo of two thousand colonists and fifteen hundred or so embryos. Captain Oram (Billy Crudup) makes a command decision to try to cut the trip short after finding a much closer inhabitable planet, much to the behest of his first mate, Daniels (Katherine Waterson). As the Away Team survives a huge storm to get to the planet, the storm and mystery that awaits them is that much worse.
OK, so let’s answer the first question simply this way: I did not feel lost by not having seen “Prometheus”. I also am not sure I needed the Wikipedia page either, but watching the Prologues did help me with a couple of things, and I feel that even if you are up to date, you should still watch them (you can find them on YouTube). They do give a bit more depth on both the film’s opening sequence and a seminal moment later on. This is truly a story of its own that happens to intersect the one that came a half decade before it.
The cast is solid all around, featuring the likes of Demian Bichir, Carmen Ejogo, Callie Hernandez, and Danny McBride. A lot of people see that last name and feel like McBride could hokey up this thing, but even as a fan of the guy, I can tell you he doesn’t. He is enough of the type of character that we are used to seeing him play that it doesn’t feel awkward, but he does not go full Kenny Powers by dialing it back just enough to stretch his range with a bit more understated drama. There are a lot of interpersonal relationships here that give the story a bit more investment, and this cast truly gets it.
Now, that being said: another of my concerns going in was what I felt the fatal flaw was with the first “Alien vs. Predator”. (And yes, I saw both of those as well. I dug the comics.) With that film, I felt the filmmakers took too much time trying to make me care about the humans, knowing they would be nothing but fodder and collateral damage by the end of it. “Alien: Covenant” flirts with that line but does not cross it, which gave it a nice balance between the carnage and the human aspect of it. Screenwriters John Logan and Dante Harper really deserve kudos here for helping tell an interesting tale of the evolution of the Xenomorph race while also adding a notion of our own existence, evolution, and why playing God is not necessarily a good thing. By the way, is there some kind of rule that the female protagonist in this series at some point has to be wearing a tank top?
Now, I am not saying that I would go out of my way to see it again, but remember that this is not my wheel house. (Yes, I know, I have seen almost all of them, but I am a complicated dude. I don’t even understand it at times.) For fans of the franchise, I will venture to say that they will enjoy this more than most of the feedback I have heard about its predecessor, but I don’t know that this will truly satisfy their need for more of their favorite baddies. With a third prequel to close out the trilogy no doubt coming and director Ridley Scott saying that they will continue the “Alien” story after the previous films starting in late 2018, there is a lot more to come. I am sure of it.