After the beating Prometheus took from critics and fans, the rumor is that Ridley Scott proclaimed, “They want Aliens? I will give them f___ing Aliens.” And so the Prometheus sequel morphed into an Alien Prequel.
Set ten years after Prometheus, we are introduced to a ship called the Covenant. It is carrying thousands of colonists (and embryos) and is headed for a distant planet suitable for human colonization. Piloted by a crew of married couples. When tragedy strikes and kills the captain, the crew goes to fixing the ship. They desire to honor the death of their captain, but Oran (now as the acting captain) is focused on the business. As they finish the work, a transmission is intercepted. It leads to the discovery of a habitable planet just weeks away. Somehow this transmission and planet escaped notice. Oram wants to visit the planet, as their original destination is seven years away. Daniels (who was married to the deceased Captain) expresses concern that this is a bad idea. Also on the ship is a Synthetic named Walter (played by Michael Fassbender). While he looks like David, he is a decidedly different character.
They land on a lush, yet seemingly lifeless planet. And things rapidly descend into horror. Some of the crew is exposed to spores that result in proto-xenomorphs that burst from the backs of victims. You know, instead of from the chest. David saves the crew, only to be revealed as a lone hermit who spent the last ten years trying to create a weaponized life form. In a flashback we discover that when Shaw and David arrived at the planet, he dropped the goo on the Engineer populace. Now he hopes to do the same to humanity.
The film borrows from all the previous films in it’s resolution. For example, there is an airlock fight like Alien and Aliens. The film has a lot of ideas that never play out. And worse, the questions of Prometheus are cast aside, as is Shaw. The film telegraphs it’s twist ending from miles away.
The film takes several moments to cast Billy Crudup’s Oram as a disgraced man of faith. Not disgraced in regards to his faith, but rather that his faith has had him blackballed from further advancement within the company. The problem is, aside from a couple mentions of his faith, we never really see what that faith is in…or why it has been an impediment.
Daniel seems to be in shock the entire film, some of which is understandable, but then she suddenly becomes the “Ripley” of the film. And they try and out-Ripley with Daniel. She swings around the outside of a ship with a giant gun blasting away at the xenomorph.
For the large part, the effects are good, though there is one scene where a newly birthed xenomorph is clearly (and pretty embarrassingly) CGI. Like Prometheus, the ideas seem unexplored and the story incomplete.
I did not hate the film. Fassbender was great in his dual roles. Walter had an entirely different tone and cadence to David. I have always liked the design of the Alien franchise. And the ships in Prometheus and Covenant do not feel like they cannot occupy the same space as the rest of the franchise. In Alien we saw an industrial transport ship in Aliens a military vessel, in the third film a dilapidated prison and in Resurrection a military station. All of these were utilitarian. The Prometheus was a private company’s high tech research vessel and the Covenant is a luxury transport.
I really like the design of the proto-xenomorphs. They are creepy and unnervingly vicious. I liked the characters for the most part, and felt Danny McBride’s Tennessee one of the more stand out characters, in spite of being a fairly standard character in these types of films. I would put Covenant above, say, the Alien Vs Predator films or Alien Resurrection. But it does not rise to Alien or Aliens either. The movie takes so many shortcuts, it results in characters looking a bit stupid. “Lets not wear protective gear in a new environment, after all, we can breath the air!” It is still a disappointing follow up with a annoying and dismal final reveal.