A return to form for the long running franchise that successfully incorporates the strongest elements of its predecessors.
Ridley Scott returns to direct Alien: Covenant, his third film in the franchise and the sixth instalment overall. This gorgeous movie takes the series back to some of its horror roots, whilst continuing to expand on the story Scott began telling with Prometheus back in 2012.
Set in the year 2104, the colonist ship Covenant is midway through its journey when an accident forces the crew out of hyper sleep. When what appears to be a distress message is intercepted, the crew decide to investigate a nearby, earth-like planet, much to the protest of second in command, Daniels (Katherine Waterston). Accompanied by the synthetic Walter (Michael Fassbender), the crew arrive on the strange world and slowly begin to uncover the dark mystery of what’s happened there. When a deadly infection spawns a new threat though, the crew begin an intense fight for survival as both their mission and lives are put in jeopardy.
It’s worth mentioning right from the offset that the film is visually stunning. Ridley Scott’s talent for directing sci-fi can be seen throughout the movie, with some truly breath-taking shots. Everything looks authentic and true to the franchise, from the costume design to the Covenant itself. If nothing else, Covenant really is a lesson in the art of filmmaking, with Scott and cinematographer, Dariusz Wolski, really raising the bar.
The film is made up of a very strong cast with Billy Crudup, captain of the Covenant, and Katherine Waterston both putting in solid performances. The stand out act however, is Michael Fassbender. Returning to play both Walter and David, a returning character from Prometheus, Fassbender really carries the film at times with his somewhat unsettling portrayal of the synthetics. The rest of the cast are good when present, but in a film of this nature, most characters are dispensable with screen time being limited for many.
Fans will be glad to hear that Scott has successfully returned to some of the elements that made the original Alien so great. Tension is masterfully built throughout the movie, with this impending sense of dread constantly lurking. The film doesn’t hold back on the gore either with Covenant arguably being the most violent Alien film out there. However, this is violence that feels earned over the course of the film, which is fortunately much unlike some of the franchise’s weaker movies. All this combined with Jed Kurzel’s fantastic score results in a tense, haunting atmosphere being present for the duration of the movie.
Covenant has certainly marketed itself as horror heavy sci-fi, but as well as this, it also succeeds at being thought-provoking and even philosophical film at times. It should be noted that this is very much a Prometheus sequel as opposed to an Alien prequel in both look and story. The return to a more terrifying feel however, is something that helps Covenant improve on much of what its predecessor was criticised for. It is testament to Ridley Scott as well that he has been able to achieve this element of horror without relying too much on the series’ famous Xenomorph that, whilst present in the movie, isn’t the only threat.
The only complaint would be that the film struggles a bit tonally in the final act. A mixture of clever sci-fi and alien action often doesn’t mix well and results in some sequences that, whilst being great to look at, feel inconsistent with the film’s overall tone. It’s in these scenes that the reaction to some of Prometheus’ criticisms are most evident.
Overall, strong performances, fantastic directing and a masterfully crafted atmosphere make Alien: Covenant one of the strongest entries in the series to date. Audiences can expect a clever sci-fi that mostly brings together some of the franchises best features.
Alien: Covenant, directed by Ridley Scott, is distributed in the UK by 20th Century Fox. Certificate 15.