Ridley’s Back Baby… Kind Of
Reviewed by Mason Manuel
Following the absolute nightmare that was the Alien prequel, Prometheus, Director Ridley Scott once again takes the reigns of his flagship franchise. Feeling like a “I’m sorry” note for fans who had such high hopes for the mentioned prequel, Covenant refreshingly steps away from the vagueness of its predecessor and delivers some real answers plaguing the Alien story for years. However passing the bar set by his last entry is not exactly a high goal to set and therein lies some of the deep set issues with the actual film.
It is hard to imagine that aside from the original film and the prequel, Scott has been fairly distant from the Alien story. Yet, as the now familiar broken letter opening credits begin to crawl on screen, the film feels natural, like he never left. This year’s band of extraterrestrial chow comes in the form of the Covenant crew; a ragtag group of couples all looking forward to starting a new life on a faraway planet. Before they can reach their destination, their ship encounters a critical meltdown, forcing the crew to wake early and consider their options. Somewhat conveniently, there happens to be a much better suited planet quite nearby, which also has an odd radio signal sourced from the old crew of the Prometheus. The Covenant team decides it best to investigate and then reaps the obvious consequences.
The schism I feel for this film is me wanting to like it so much for it going the extra mile to explain the lore of this decades old story and wanting to hate it for such obvious glaring flaws. Almost recycling the plot of the first film, our main heroine (played by Fantastic Beasts’ Katherine Waterson) is a carbon copy of Ripley, complete with being third in command, but having none of Sigourney Weaver’s trademark sarcastic charm. Danny Mcbride does a surprisingly good job dealing with dramatic territory and still coming off easily likeable as the fun going pilot Tennessee. Michael Fassbender returns in his old role as the android David while simultaneously playing another model named Walter. This leads to some fun interaction between the “two” which would be gag worthy if Fassbender didn’t sell it so well.
Visually, the film is breathtaking, if a bit overtly nostalgic. Scott makes great use of the cramped corridors of the Covenant ship not unlike the claustrophobic containment of the Nostromo from Alien. To be fair, the film spends a surprising amount of time in wide open outdoor spaces as well, leading to one particularly fun/scary scene starring the new, spine tingling (heh heh) Neomorphs. The trademark scifi color saturation of green and silver can be a bit off putting at times but more often than not the scenery impresses.
The pacing of this movie does less so though. Clocking in around two hours, Alien: Covenant feels like it could have gained some momentum from cutting off a half hour. Too often characters are dillying around trying to make small talk when other very important events are frustratingly happening just around the corner from them. When the action does finally reach critical plot points, the wait feels like a necessary suffering. The answers revealed for Alien’s many questions are a delightful breath of fresh air that feel smart and detailed. Despite Covenant’s many flaws I am excited to see what the next one reveals.
Ridley Scott definitely raises the bar from his last foray into Alien territory but still has a ways to go to make it back to the original draw. Interesting questions and answers are introduced making sitting through boorish moments a bit more bearable. Matched with some awesome visuals and (mostly) great performances, Covenant leaves you hungry for more. Here is hoping that the quality of the franchise continues to rise. RDR gives it a 6.5 out of 10.
Photos Courtesy of Scott Free