The colony ship Covenant is headed for Origae-6, a distant planet where 2,000 men and women will begin a new life. A freak accident causes the crew to awaken early from hypersleep and with the ship damaged, the newly-minted Captain Oram (Billy Crudup), orders the ship to divert to a nearby habitable planet. When they set down, it soon becomes clear they're not alone on the planet...
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idley Scott's Alien is lauded as the film that effectively defined the sci-fi horror genre. Almost forty years later, he's now decided to come back to it and try his hand at it again. Prometheus was an ambitious attempt at striking off in a new path but still retaining some of Alien's core concepts. However, it failed to materialise on the screen for a number of reasons - including a flat screenplay, weak dialogue, and a fatuous attempt at franchise-building. This time around, thankfully, that's not the case.
he film opens on Michael Fassbender's android Walter patrolling the colony ship Covenant when a freak accident sees the ship disabled and the crew awoken from their slumber to deal with it. The resulting damage takes the lives of a few key members of the crew - in a particularly shocking way, it has to be said - and leaves them with a choice. Continue on to the designated planet that's been researched and vetted, or take a gamble and set down on a nearby planet that's pinging out a seemingly human signal. Before anyone has a chance to argue the point, Billy Crudup's put-upon captain orders the ship to land and then the real fun begins.
ight down the cast, it's clear that they've been chosen not because of their relative star-power - Michael Fassbender's the biggest name in the list, by far - but through their performances and ability to connect with the audience. Katherine Waterston has echoes of Sigourney Weaver's Ripley, but forges her own performance as the pragmatic, resourceful Daniels, whilst Billy Crudup expertly plays the captain who hasn't a clue what he's doing, but has faith in his ability nonetheless. Danny MacBride, meanwhile, gives an understated but effective performance as the ship's pilot. The standout performance, however, goes to Michael Fassbender - who plays two separate characters that share only the same face. Without giving too much away, it's an inventive way of tying the two films together and Fassbender's performance, particularly in the latter half of the film, is more terrifying than any facehugger or xenomorph you can think of. Related: How Alien Changed The Horror Genre Forever
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here definitely is a sense that had Prometheus been a better film, Alien: Covenant would in turn be a much cleaner, leaner film. That said, John Logan and Dante Harper's script takes what its needs and what it finds interesting from Prometheus and discards what's unnecessary, but only after explaining why in somewhat lofty, convoluted scenes with Michael Fassbender. Again, had there been no Prometheus, none of this wouldn't have been necessary. Like Alien, the screenplay allows us to find and understand the characters from doing rather than describing, except for one extended scene with Michael Fassbender wherein his character(s) discuss why they were made and why they cannot create. Unlike Prometheus, the overall plot doesn't get lost and at no point in the story is there any confusion as to what's going on. They landed on the wrong planet, it's all going sideways and now it's about getting off and back on track. Related: The Ultimate Alien Franchise Quiz
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lthough there's a lot of darkness in the frame, Ridley Scott knows how to bend it to whatever form he needs and this, in turn, works towards the screenplay. The planet they set down on is a dead one, so why would it be that there's sunlight on it? Meanwhile, the ship is rudimentary, brightly-lit and tactile, and you feel like it's a living, working ship rather than a blue-screen set. Likewise, the cinematography and camerawork echoes that same frantic feeling you got from Alien and one setpiece has a certain commonality with Aliens, but it's not a glaringly obvious reference as such. Scott knows how to pace and shoot a scene, and while there may be a reliance on gore and blood to make it horrific, the atmosphere of dread and mystery elevates the whole experience. However, the biggest problem lies in the alien and its somewhat lifeless, CGI-driven performance. When you saw it appear in, say, Aliens, you knew it was there in the scene - and not generated by a computer. There are a few moments in Alien: Covenant where the animation appears slightly jerky, but it's possible this was a design choice in order to make it seem jarring. Either way, it's a minor complaint, but a complaint nonetheless.
verall, Alien: Covenant is a course correction after Prometheus and is, by far, the best film in the series since Aliens.