Wednesday, 10 May 2017

Film Review: Alien - Covenant

Ridley Scott is back in the Space Jockey saddle for another stab at his beloved Alien franchise; only question is, does this new instalment sail amongst the stars or crash land?

Katherine Waterston as Daniels
Set a decade after Prometheus, Alien: Covenant follows a colony ship that diverts from its original course to investigate a mysterious signal. After setting down on the habitable planet, the crew of the Covenant uncover a monstrous life form that will stop at nothing to hunt and destroy every last one of them.

So far, so Alien. If that synopsis sounds an awful lot like the original 1979 Alien, it's because Alien: Covenant is marketing itself as a stripped down, back-to-basics affair. However, don't let the trailers fool you into giving this one too miss, as just below the surface Alien: Covenant is holding onto a host of stuff that makes it so much more than just a retread of the original film.

If you're a fan of Prometheus like myself, you'll be pleased to hear that Scott doesn't skimp on sewing up those stray story threads. I'd delve into more info but that would spoil the joy of watching Alien: Covenant unfold in front of you - and I really mean that. This film is a joy to watch, a punchy, scary onslaught that is gory, bleak and downright weird at times.

Scott lets loose with his darkest and most twisted ideas, delivering a cruel and suspenseful thriller that is stomach-churning to say the least. It's by no means the perfect film and still falls way short of aping the original Scott/Cameron duology, but it's an entertaining, haunting and satisfying follow-up to its misunderstood forebear that should appease lifelong fans and please relative newcomers alike.

Just take a Gaviscon fam
Thrust into the lead role on this occasion is Katherine Waterston (from Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them) as Daniels. Cast in the same mould as Ripley and Shaw, Daniels gets an ounce of backstory and an arc of sorts, but its Waterston's performance that really sells us on the character, even when the writing isn't up to scratch.

Instead, Scott shifts the focus onto a returning Michael Fassbender, only this time Fassbender plays a different Weyland android called Walter. Fassbender owns this film from start to finish with a truly excellent performance that oozes ambiguity and an undercurrent of suspicion.

Danny McBride, Carmen Ejogo, Callie Hernandez, Billy Crudup and Demain Bichir play Tennessee, Karine, Upworth, Oram and Lope respectively. The supporting cast are something of a mixed bag, as always, but I enjoyed McBride's character a lot and Hernandez and Crudup are good too.

What I liked most about Alien: Covenant is how unafraid it is of getting really weird at times. Scott skews closer to the philosophical angles of Prometheus than I was expecting, blending together a potent concoction of religion, artificial intelligence and human endeavour. The entire second act is pretty much devoted to it. It slows right down and spears in an unexpected direction - which I loved.

What emerges on the other side of this deep dive is a patchwork quilt of ideas that somehow mesh together to create something genuinely interesting; there are tinges of Mark Shelley's Frankenstein in there, John Milton's Paradise Lost and of course some of Scott's own Blade Runner.

A word that springs to mind is operatic. It's like a Greek tragedy in space with monsters and androids that is really nightmarish and grotesque, and I kind of liked that about it.

In terms of complaints, I only have a couple. The third act is a little rushed, particularly one transitional beat that could have been stretched, giving the characters (and audience) room to breathe. I don't think Waterston's Daniels was given a huge hero moment akin to the airlock scene or power loader sequence, or at least not one that uniquely belonged to that character.

The Verdict: 8/10

Alien: Covenant is the more confident, twisted and self-important older brother to Prometheus. It sets its sights absurdly high and serves up extra helpings of gooey ickiness that could almost be described as a mutant hybrid of everything we've seen in the series so far, with the added kick of its own strange ideas. Come for the scares but stay for Fassbender.

Alien: Covenant is in cinemas across Australia tomorrow. 


  1. Great review! I'm looking forward to this.

    1. Thanks Brittani! I've read a lot of stuff that says it's a mixed bag but I really enjoyed it :)



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