Alien Covenant (2017) by The Critical Movie Critics

Movie Review: Alien: Covenant (2017)

Here it is, the comeback the “Alien” franchise sorely needed.

“Nothing,” remarked Daniels (Katherine Waterston, “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them”) on the noise level of her surroundings, a gorgeous planet seemingly teeming with conditions perfect for them, 2,000 in-cryosleep passengers and 1,000-plus embryos to colonize. Little does the character know this, but what spooks her is what hooks us: There is no “Ridley Scott’s return to sci-fi”-scale of buzz revolving around Alien: Covenant, and Sweet Brown is always on deck whenever the footage approaches non-tense content.

Yet, being a direct follow-up to “Prometheus,” the film has to wax theology at some point. Fortunate for all, is that sections of this nature are succinct and has fluidity here, no more is the drunkard who introduced the unexpectedly big ideas that conceive this prequel series. It’s clear that writers Dante Harper and veteran John Logan want the story of Alien: Covenant to be one of answers and explanations rather than questions and mysteries where some are more warranted than others. Take the introductory sequence where Peter Weyland (Guy Pearce, “Iron Man 3”) is testing out his new android servant David (Michael Fassbender, “The Light Between Oceans”) — in an area of four or five minutes we know how David got his name, how existence became a haunting notion and the perks of being Creator.

Such a refined and ominous seed for the horrors soon to befall the Covenant crew, which has deviated from the original destination to inspect a John Denver-heavy transmission stemming from the bellows of a rather familiar C-shaped starship. Those versed in horror sci-fi trappings know for sure everyone is entering a trap, but try and convince them to avoid the devil after enduring a crisis. In another display of storytelling efficiency, a freakish solar flare post opening-titles cremate Daniels’ captain husband (James Franco, “Why Him?”), thrust the leadership onto a born-stern-but-then-shaken Oram (Billy Crudup, “20th Century Women”) and make the rest who are awake rather aimless. As highlighted in the prologue short, “Last Supper,” the neat couples-only element in this team promises an emotional punch when a partner is endangered. Or severed.

79-years old the man may be, but Scott continues to set the bar for thrill-brewing and gut-spewing techniques. The titular beast isn’t alien to anyone who knows films (even if a whiter variant debuts here — only slightly different), but its well-known horrific nature stays refreshing through Scott’s pointed focus on the violence plus the aftermath, which veteran cinematographer Dariusz Wolski captures with sickening beauty and composer Jed Kurzel helps bolster with some futuristic purgatory-esque sounds. Quieter moments, sparse and brief they are, also demonstrate the director’s emphasis on using performances to set up the purest ounce of atmosphere. The result is two crew members’ search for what the computer, MUTHUR (voice of Lorelei King), calls an “unidentified life form” that is as gripping as later in the film, when the crew bumps into David and one android teaches his double the art of fluting. That latter sequence, though, has a bit more edge in terms of being memorable. Do try to stay composed when David tells Walter, the Covenant’s American-accented android, to concentrate on the “fingering.”

Here is also where Alien: Covenant shows its breaks with tradition. If no androids are on screen, the film follows the humans, nondescript as characters yet great as Xenomorph chow (some are convincing while being chowed down). Some little highlights along the way — such as Waterston’s Daniels is a bad-ass of her own, or the Ripley-free league and Danny McBride’s apparently great turn at being serious — but the people of the Covenant won’t be in the minds like those of the Nostromo or the Colonial Marines of “Aliens.” The film also marks the first time that motion capture is involved in building the Xenomorph, not for every appearance but those that do show an obvious touch of digital wizardry. At least the crew has the legendary Javier Botet (“Mama”) to “become” the central antagonist, and puppetry is still the order of the day for the chest/back/throat-bursting action.

The composure of Alien: Covenant is a tad less appealing when it does something on its own, all of which serve to build a foundation for what comes after. Like the creatures’ reliance on a host, the film is strongest when it fixes its predecessor’s “love” to be ponderous or has the technical department to be inspired by the original. It’s admirable to see a friend getting back to form, reclaiming the leanness and directness that got them the love initially, but it’s also worrisome to wonder where they will go from here.

Critical Movie Critic Rating:
4 Star Rating: Good


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The Critical Movie Critics

Graduated from the University of Houston. Love writing about culture and film. Life at the moment directed by Sam Mendes. Could use more friends and cinephiles on Facebook or Twitter.

'Movie Review: Alien: Covenant (2017)' have 12 comments

  1. The Critical Movie Critics

    May 15, 2017 @ 8:51 pm preacherman

    Beware–there were a lot of early reviews for Promethues singing its praises and it was a thorough letdown.

  2. The Critical Movie Critics

    May 15, 2017 @ 9:13 pm Mark

    Jump scares, gore, eerie setting. Alien: Covenant is nothing special.

  3. The Critical Movie Critics

    May 15, 2017 @ 9:18 pm CSSTyrant

    Covenant will not recapture what Alien and even Aliens delivered. Even if the Xenomorphs are edited to include a new subspecies we’ve seen them before and know what they’re capable of. How many colonists, scientists, search parties, etc do we need to feed to them for it to be enough?

  4. The Critical Movie Critics

    May 15, 2017 @ 9:45 pm OhWhen

    Ridley Scott is past his prime. Alien should have gone to Neill Blomkamp who would have done something more visionary with it.

    • The Critical Movie Critics

      June 2, 2017 @ 10:10 pm Nguyen Le

      I would have loved to see Blomkamp’s vision as well – all that concept art and buzz are tantalizing. Still, his uneven track record gives me the worries…

      • The Critical Movie Critics

        June 3, 2017 @ 4:10 pm OhWhen

        As a writer-director, he’s come up with some really original sci-fi. District 9, Elysium and Chappie are all strong movies. His general themes dealing with the human condition could have been a perfect fit after Prometheus.

  5. The Critical Movie Critics

    May 15, 2017 @ 10:23 pm Dinososaurus

    I don’t care what prequels/sequels get dreamed up -I’m sticking with the original Alien movie. Everything about that film was right, everything since can’t hold a candle to it.

    • The Critical Movie Critics

      June 2, 2017 @ 10:18 pm Nguyen Le

      I love Alien, too – untouchable classic. I do admit I like the idea of going back and finding out how the monsters came to be. Prometheus should have been that, an opener to possibilities within the franchise, but what it has done instead is placing subsequent films in course-correcting mode. As I’ve said, I’m cautiously excited for what’s next.

  6. The Critical Movie Critics

    May 15, 2017 @ 11:56 pm negamerlin

    Aside from Covenant adding nothing substantially new to the series my biggest gripe is it relies on everyone acting irrational and breaking protocols. Going off course, not quarantining the infected, walking into obvious traps, and many others are unacceptable behaviors from highly skilled/trained individuals.

  7. The Critical Movie Critics

    May 16, 2017 @ 3:28 am tallyhacker

    Good review. I’m anxious to see it myself.

    • The Critical Movie Critics

      June 2, 2017 @ 10:19 pm Nguyen Le

      Appreciate your review of my review :) Have you seen it yet?

  8. The Critical Movie Critics

    May 16, 2017 @ 11:10 am Andy

    This leaves a lot of the questions asked during Prometheus unanswered but I still enjoyed it a lot for what it is: a doom and gloom creature flick with a lot of blood and guts. But to me that’s all the Alien movies are supposed to be.

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