'Alien Covenant' Review: A Worthy Addition To A Much-Loved Franchise
After being somewhat sceptical about an Alien reboot (given the ridiculously underwhelming monster mash-up Alien vs Predator) the release of Prometheus back in 2012 proved that there’s still more (alien) life in the franchise yet. Director Ridley Scott (Gladiator, Hannibal) was more than capable of creating a series of Alien prequels worthy of the much-loved originals.
Fast-forward five years to Alien:Covenant, and Scott has managed to create an equally disturbing movie, one fraught with all the perils, horror and gore that fans have become accustomed to whilst successfully weaving the bigger questions surrounding human existence, creationism and life on other planets, into the narrative of the story.
We join the unfortunate crew of the USCSS Covenant, which includes android, Walter (Michael Fassbender), terraforming officer, Daniels (Katherine Waterston), captain, Christopher Oram (Billy Crudup), and Tennessee (Danny McBride), on a colonising mission with two-thousand sleeping humans in search of a hospitable Earth-like planet known as Origae-6. Things start to go awry though when an unexpected storm and a rogue radio transmission causes the crew to prematurely awaken from their hibernation and redirect their course to a closer planet.
When Daniels argues against this – highlighting the dangers of inspecting an un-vetted and potentially hostile world, one can’t help but will the other crew members to take heed of her warning, although admittedly that wouldn’t have made for a very good film if they had.
Upon their descent into this dark and desolate land, it’s not long before the crew start to realise that something is amiss and soon all hell breaks loose as the old titular nemesis rears its ugly head from the bowels of one unlucky crew member.
What ensues is a gripping and truly frightening experience, filled with terrific suspense that never quite allows you to relax in your seat. It’s as jumpy as ever, and even the inevitable peer over a slowly blooming Facehugger managed to draw a round of collective gasps from inside the cinema. One particularly gruesome bathroom scene sticks in mind due to its bloodcurdling and graphic nature, making Hitchcock’s infamous shower scene in Psycho look like a relaxing bubble bath.
Covenant also ties in seamlessly with its predecessor; many questions left unanswered after Prometheus are slowly revealed throughout the course of the film whilst simultaneously posing new ones about the direction of the next movie for us all to ponder.
But, as enjoyable as the film is, it is unquestionably the masterful performance of Michael Fassbender that steals the show. In Covenant, Fassbender is at his mesmerising and show-stopping best; it’s ironic that for a character that is so stone-faced and devoid of emotion he is able to create the most endearing and polarising character in the film, which is a true testament to his acting ability.
The film, is of course, not without its criticisms. The first hour is relatively slow-paced and takes a while to get going, but once it does, it doesn’t suffer from any other pacing issues. Furthermore, as great as the visuals are throughout the film, particularly the stunning space sequences and intense action scenes, I couldn’t help but think the shots featuring the Alien were a little too frenetic, as it’s sometimes difficult to focus on what’s actually happening.
The computer generated Alien is also somewhat disappointing, looking more like a creature from a video game than a film. This can detract from the intended scare tactics in some regards, and perhaps I’m being nostalgic when I say the original Alien, was not only more intimidating, but believable as well. Maybe this is a criticism of modern cinema rather than this film in particular, and although it may seem like nit-picking, it says a lot about the movie that these were the only genuine reservations I had about the film.
Alien: Covenant is a thoroughly enjoyable cinematic experience that will leave die-hard fans of the franchise, and indeed those who are not, more than satisfied with what have they seen. Engrossing, violent, intense, petrifying, and above all else, great fun, Covenant is an excellent addition to the Alien series and a credit to those movies that have gone before it.
If the next instalment in the franchise is anything like this film, we are in for a treat.
Alien: Covenant is scheduled to be released 12th May in the United Kingdom and 19th May in the United States in 3D, 2D, and IMAX 3D.
Images via 20th Century Fox