Review: Alien: Covenant (2017)

Alien: Covenant: a prequel-sequel space venture that inevitably goes wrong. A veritable upgrade from Prometheus and a strong addition to the franchise, here is The Raving Gecko’s review of Ridley Scott’s latest mission into space where, of course, no one can hear you scream.

I’ll admit, I’m not part of the intended audience for this film.

Regrettably, I’ve only seen the first Alien (1979) and Prometheus (2012); while I admire them each in their own right, I’m not a ‘fan’ of the Alien franchise per se – they’re decent films, I’ll watch them, but I don’t typically love them.

Alien: Covenant, however, surprised me.

The xenomorphs are as bitey as ever in Covenant.

The Plot:

2109. En route to Origae-6 to start a new colony, the crew of USCSS Covenant, tempted by a seemingly rogue transmission, opt for a closer, seemingly equally hospitable planet. Only terraforming officer Daniels (Katherine Waterston) has concerns, fears confirmed when the group meets David (Michael Fassbender), a survivor of the ill-fated Prometheus mission 

With Alien: CovenantRidley Scott set out to reprise the spirit of the original film:  “I wanted to really scare the shit out of people,” he says:

“Totally, that’s the job. It’s like if I’m a comedian, I want to make you laugh like hell. My day job is to be an entertainer. Some of it is art, but fundamentally I entertain – never forget that.”

The Alien franchise has undergone a resurrection both artistically and commercially in recent years. Although technology and effects have moved on drastically in the four decades since Alien, Scott’s approach in many ways hasn’t: he uses computer-generated imagery and green screen only as a last resort, writes Tim Lewis.

The Covenant spaceship… was effectively built from scratch on a soundstage in Australia. There were hundreds of switches and dials, more than 1,500 electrical circuits, and Scott insisted that they all work.  

The reason? If you really want to scare an audience, then he believes you need to create characters they care about and an atmosphere that feels real. That’s why many of the most enduring horror films are the age-old classics.

This is where I forget my initial first impressions of the film and think: ‘holy shit, Covenant was real?’

In retrospect, I was fully immersed in this film throughout its runtime. Often, I’ll watch films and my mind will wander – wondering where the location of the scene is shot or why they chose to use those space helmets (that’s a film student, for you).

With Covenant, I didn’t once. I was absolutely invested in the story – for an Alien film, that’s a rarity for me.

While Covenant appears to be little more than fan-service and an opportunity for easy money, this is genuinely an enjoyable film. Katherine Waterston’s performance is stronger than Prometheus’ lead protagonist, Noomi Rapace’s, and, certainly reminiscent of Sigourney Weaver’s Ripley.

Meet Walter: Your friendly American android.

Michael Fassbender’s performance is as you’d expect it to be: flawless. Returning as the android David as well as his benign American counterpart model, Walter. If you’re a Fassbender fan, he gets a LOT of screen time… and rightly so: he’s one of the most versatile and proficient actors in the business.

It’s an Alien prequel-sequel: you’re going to get exactly what you expect, done well.

Thanks for reading.

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