Alien: Covenant Review: Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!

Posted by Matthew on May 23, 2017
Movies, Reviews

I know what you want to know. “Is it good?”

Turns out the sequel to Prometheus –and it is very much more a sequel to that movie than it is a prequel Alien— is not only good, but retroactively makes Prometheus better. What are the odds of that?

It’s been 10 years since Dr. Shaw and David were left as the last survivors of the good ship Prometheus. The colony ship covenant, with its 14 crew and hundreds of colonists, is headed towards a new world when they encounter a rogue signal from a habitable planet. This is an alien movie so naturally they investigate. Once they get there they are almost immediately swarmed by monsters. Some of them burst out of the bodies of infected people, and some of them are the ideas leftover from that last movie.

Let’s be clear here, this is a movie with xenomorphs so you are going to see some people get killed and you are going to see them get killed brutally. More brutally than ever before even, but that’s sort of par for the course with an ongoing franchise. The stakes have to be raised, and raised they are. These parts of the movie are by far the less interesting ones. I’ve seen people get brutally killed before and I’ll see it again.

Prometheus has always felt muddled to me, pulled between the wants of a Big Ideas science fiction story and the franchise they settled on to explore those ideas. Covenant manages to fuse these competing interests in a far more cohesive way, focussing on Michael Fassbender’s performances. Yes, this is a sequel, so not only is he playing the Covenant’s synthetic person Walter but also the Prometheus’ synthetic, David.

All of the best scenes of this movie feature one of these two, but the very best scenes feature both, and through them the films big ideas are explored. Walter, a newer model who is purposefully less human, and David, who was purposefully too human. Walter feels a duty to serve. David feels the same resentment toward his creators he did last time around. The collision of these two ideas make for some incredible, and occasionally homoerotic, tension between the two. It’s hard to understate just how fantastic Fassbender is in both of these rolls. Each of them are brought to life not only with different accents, but also posture and body language. There’s even something different in his eyes.

The rest of the cast does admirably, too. Katherine Waterson does well as the Ripley of the crew. Billy Crudup is fine as the ill-fated, faithful leader of the crew, but Danny McBride steals basically every scene he’s in. The adage that comedians make great dramatic actors remains true.

Ridley Scott seems to want to explore how we create and how our creations turn on us. Using the franchise that created him, or at least his reputation as a brilliant filmmaker, is a deft way to do that. If nothing else the actions of David in this film make clear his intentions in the last one, and I count that as a good thing.

So whether you want to see some alien monsters murder some humans to death, brutally and efficiently, or explore big ideas about creating, our intentions in creating, and the intentions of our creations, Alien: Covenant is one you should see. This is the second part of a new trilogy and where I wasn’t very excited to see where things would go after Prometheus, I am very excited to see where things will go from here.

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