Film Reviews

Alien: Covenant (2017)

alien covenant poster.jpg

Starring: Michael Fassbender, Katherine Waterston, Billy Crudup, Danny McBride

Director: Ridley Scott

The crew of a pilgrim ship heading for a new world are woken by an accident 7 years from their destination, and the deaths of their crew make them wary of re-entering cryosleep. Enter a chance transmission from a habitable planet right nearby, which means they can settle here and now. But is it too good to be true?

As the crew investigate the transmission, two of their number fall ill with a strange parasite which bursts through their skin, and the only survivor on the planet seems to be a sinister android called David, a creature we met before in Prometheus.

It’s a strange film. In the timeline, it sits after Prometheus, which was a prequel to the Alien franchise. It tells more of the story of the evolution and creation of the alien xenomorph, and explores questions of creation and God, with a little less focus on pregnancy and those themes than earlier films. It does some original things with the aliens themselves, which is quite creative, and the design elements here are really impressive, with the effects, locations and spaceship looking really beautiful.

However, the film lacks any urgency overall, which is kind of central to a thriller. Partly, this is because a large amount of time is spent with Michael Fassbender as two different generations of synthetic human, the original David and a later version, Walter. The relatshionship between the two is oddly homoerotic, and perhaps incestuous, if you think about it. David is overplayed a bit as a creative and intellectual robot, a sociopath in the Hannibal mould. But with long screen time spent on him, he almost feels like a protagonist rather than the antagonist.

The crew of the ship Covenant, which gives the film it’s title, are all rather dull. They generally have one facial expression each, and there are a few too many of them for them all to get enough screen time for you to care what happens to them. Their deaths are wonderfully sudden and bloody, but there’s no real tension built around it. They generally make foolish emotional decisions, which for me made them feel disposable in the sense that they create the situations that lead to their deaths. The leader is a fool who spouts almost biblical quotes and has little spine, there’s a cowboy who talks about the crews tits and “heroically” makes idiotic decisions, and there’s Katherine Waterston as Daniels, who is a one note Ripley wannabe, without her natural grace and confidence. She’s fine, but we should have more of her if she’s our protagonist.

Generally, there are no real stakes for these people, not enough escalation and since we barely know them, no tension. It’s functional as a science fiction film, but it’s a less than average thriller. But for the 5th film in a series, it’s pretty much what you’d expect. I miss the old days of Alien and Aliens.

See It If: if you’re an Aliens Franchise fan. It doesn’t reach the thrilling heights of the first and second films so might not please those who aren’t devotees and just want a sci-fi survival horror.

If you’re interested, I have taken a look at the Aliens franchise as a whole, you can read it HERE.


22 thoughts on “Alien: Covenant (2017)”

  1. Hi there, I’ve really enjoyed listening to your podcast about the alien films and reading your reviews. I consider Alien one of the greatest horrors ever made and Aliens is one my favourite films. I thought this film was awful when I went to see it. Not only because of the flaws that you’ve pointed out but because they are answering questions that don’t need answering. Horror is about the unknown. In the original film, it was just a nightmarish situation in the deepest, darkest corners of space (Where did the eggs come from? Why were they on the ship? What was the giant ship? Who was piloting that ship?) and all that Ridley Scott has been doing in the latest films, is answering these questions and destroying the mystery of the alien. I was also disappointed in how quickly the aliens in the film were dispatched. I thought these creatures were the ultimate killing machines? I think the alien is now comparable to Freddy Krueger or Jason Voorhees and I find that a little sad. Out of every monster that has ever appeared in film, the alien is the only one that felt truly ‘alien’ and with every needless bit of information we are given the alien loses that mystery.
    Great review though. I look forward to reading more of your work 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I have to agree with you. I think the unknown or the hinted at makes an audience really uneasy. Unless you’re building on that in some way, and leaving even worse unanswered questions, you’re destroying the mystery, the fear. Thank you for listening and for reading, and also for your long and thought out comment. Great to hear from you.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. “Alien: Covenant” does have many problems, as you stated. But I am a diehard “Alien” fan and so I went to the theater to see this. I felt I got my money’s worth — it was a matinee and only cost me $6.29. The action sequences were very good, the special effects were amazing, and a few more questions were answered.

    Yes, “Covenant” is nowhere near as great as “Alien” and “Aliens,” but I found it entertaining despite the numerous logical problems of the script.

    Some internet sources say Ridley Scott will make two more “Alien” movies, others say one more. However many, I will watch them all.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m glad you enjoyed it, that’s what it’s all about! When you say you got a bargain price ticket, do you mean that you would have been happy to pay more or that you’re happy you didn’t pay more to see this one?


  3. I thought it was rubbish.
    Unknown signal with obvious Earth connection? Fine, turn off course and investigate. Before you land, though, maybe ask what the hell John Denver is doing so far from home. And if you don’t get a satisfactory answer, send your synthetic down – alone. If you absolutely have to drop every available crew member planetside, what’s wrong with protective gear? The atmosphere may be breathable, but you don’t know what animal or even plant life may be hostile to humans.
    People doing dumb stuff in outer space. But even more dumb stuff getting done in the script room.
    Alien 1979 gave us an alien craft, undisturbed for millennia. Long enough that the pilot’s corpse had fossilised. Now we have David, 21st century android, cooking up hell just a few decades before Nostromo picks up a signal. I thought it was very convenient too that the Engineers had not altered their technology in the ages since they visited Earth; David’s ship was able to berth at the floating thingummy above the Engineer city without a single question about compatability.
    I didn’t think it was possible to make a more idiotic Alien movie than Prometheus but Covenant comes pretty damn close. What keeps Prometheus out in front is the massive flaw in the basic premise. The Engineers had supposedly been visiting human sites around the planet and only 2,000 years ago did they become displeased with us. All those maps with the five astral bodies were made before that – but those maps led to the planet where the evil black goo had gotten out of hand. Wouldn’t it be more logical to direct us to the home planet? I mean, if they liked us and wanted to welcome us home.
    So here we are, waiting for another movie, or two, or three, that will lead back to John Hurt’s terminal indigestion… to quote Corporal Hicks: nuke it! Nuke the franchise from orbit. It’s the only way to be sure.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. I’m a huge alien fan, always have been. As for this one, I have kind of mixed feelings about it. There were some amazingly disgusting scenes that were truly in spirit with the original movies, and I thought the entire atmosphere the movie breathed was also very cool. The characters though, were pretty much forgettable,although I do have to admit that I thought that Daniels was pretty cool (but ofcourse she was not Ripley). And ofcourse Fassbender did it again as usual.
    But there were also some things thst didn’t work. There were some pretty slow parts in the film as well, that seemed to drag on forever. And I also thought the film played it safe by going over some pretty familiar grounds. Still I liked it enough to enjoy it. Supposedly the last installment will directly tie into the events of the first Alien movie, so that will be really interesting to see I think 😊 As always I loved reading your review 😀

    Liked by 1 person

  5. 🙂 I agree overall with your review, the middle section rely slows down the film as it becomes “Catching up with David” time. But the earlier bits are actually quite good, and a few of the mistakes they make actually seem appropriate (like all the slipping, panicking and stray gunfire in the medibay sequence) It’s a shame, because there was a great film in there, if they had developed the characters and neomorphs more.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Sadly I felt let down by the film – I had been hoping to see more of the Engineers, although the rumour mills have them returning in the next instalment apparently…

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Thanks for this great review, I’ve been debating about seeing the film since it came out and been hesitant, largely because of Prometheus, which I really didn’t enjoy. It sounds as if this is one not to rush to see, I’ll wait till it’s on TV or something.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. As you say in your fine review it serves well as a satisfactory genre film with some moments of genuine awe and excitement. However, now the Alien franchise is really akin to the Bond series (which I really enjoy), where it ticks specific tropes and boxes for the fans. Thus, I think the days of the originality of Alien and Aliens are gone. But if they get a risk-taking filmmaker perhaps they can breathe new life into the old sci-fi dog.

    Having said that I think having Fassbender in the dual role raised the quality of the film and story and I think this is where the writing was far more successful that the oblique confusion of Prometheus. Plus, the monsters and Ridley Scott’s visuals were awesome too. Shame, as you say, about the cardboard cut-out crew (Waterson aside) on board who, once again, were just Xenomorph fodder.

    Liked by 1 person

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