Director: Ridley Scott
Cast: Michael Fassbender, Katherine Waterston, Billy Crudup, Danny McBride, Carmen Ejogo, Demián Bichir
UK Distributor: 20th Century Fox
Genre: Sci-Fi | Horror • Year: 2017 • Country: United States • Running Time: 123 minutes • Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1 • Image: Colour • Language: English • Rating: 15
Back in 2012, director Ridley Scott gave us Prometheus, a solid prequel set some thirty years prior to the events in his seminal 1979 space-horror Alien which set its focus on exploring the true origins of humanity. Five years later comes Alien: Covenant, the second instalment in the Alien prequel series – set just 10-years after the events of Prometheus, bridging the gap between that and Alien – here following the travails of the crew of colony ship Covenant as they make their way to the remote planet, Origae-6.
Maintained solely by upgraded synthetic, Walter, the Covenant is hit by a freak neutrino burst well into its journey, waking the majority of the crew from stasis with some unfortunate casualties, affecting a good deal of the two-thousand colonists and thousand embryos on-board. During repairs, the crew intercepts a human radio transmission from a nearby unknown planet (appearing to be a better suited planet for colonisation), with first mate and acting captain Oram (Billy Crudup) giving the order to change their course and investigate, much to the disapproval of terraforming expert Daniels (Katherine Waterston).
Descending to the surface, the expedition team track the mysterious signal, discovering human vegitation and breathable air, though the total absence of wildlife and noise proves disconcerting.
The team’s initial descent into the unnerving new world feels strangely familiar to that witnessed in Kong: Skull Island, and similar to that, Covenant is let down a little in the fact that it never explores the landscape in anywhere near as much depth and detail as it should.
Following a bloodbath attack from some newly hatched Neomorph’s, the surviving crew are led to safety by the island’s sole inhabitant and only survivor of the Prometheus mission, prototype android, David (also Fassbender), at which point Scott reintroduces his existential exploration of ethics, robotics and creation, strangely between the two synthetics themselves, setting the stage for some fun new twists and turns.
With Alien: Covenant, Scott does not so much add anything new to the franchise as merely fill in a few of the gaps, paying significant tribute to his original films as he does so with a nostalgic, greatest hits style approach homaging everything from the fragmented title sequence, accompanied by Jerry Goldsmith’s stirring main theme (cleverly worked into Jed Kurzel’s impressive score) to the return of ship computer Mother, the face huggers and many other now iconic designs from Swiss master, H. R. Giger.
Covenant certainly ups the stakes with regards intensity and gore, but there is certainly scope to go even further, and Scott has a knack of reeling things back in when they are at their most effective.
That said, it is another exceptional feat of design and innovation, with chilling silences, evocative ambience and spine-tingling visuals combining to deliver a thrill-ride high on tension, yet hampered by some forced dialogue and slightly unremarkable characters.
It is nevertheless a hugely ambitious and intriguing entry into the Alien canon, and though it is almost four decades since they first appeared on cinema screens, Scott proves that the hellish Xenomorph’s are still as fascinating and terrifying as ever.