I’ve been looking forward to Alien: Covenant for a while. There’s something about this franchise that just gets me where I live. Even when it’s combined with the Predator franchise, even when it’s Prometheus. I just like bio-horror. The face-hugger, those magnificent eggs, the chest-burster, the slick big-daddy aliens, the pulsating queens – I love all of it. And Alien: Covenant has something else I love: Michael Fassbender. Fair warning, in this review I’m going to talk about him a lot.
The crew of a colony ship, bound for a remote planet, discover an uncharted paradise with a threat beyond their imagination, and must attempt a harrowing escape.
Alien: Covenant is the story about an Android named Walter who has to look after the crew of a ship called ‘Covenant’, which is ostensibly a colony ship but I strongly suspect it’s more of a ‘B-Ark’ scenario (a-la Douglas Adams). These people are incompetent on a level you don’t actually see in space movies very much. Anything scarier than a torn solar sheet and they panic completely, locking each other in peril filled rooms, shooting indiscriminately near explosives and losing the ability to speak coherently to the people who would need to know what’s going on. These are the people who Walter has to keep alive and he is good at his job.
There’s a subplot in this film that I really liked. One of the characters discovers he is an artist and finds meaning in his life through the pursuit of this art. Various forces (dangerous aliens, a particularly bad form of Artist’s Block) try to stop him but he doesn’t lose sight of his vision and ultimately is the better for it. This is the story of the artistic spirit and how to triumph creatively. Art also featured heavily in the design. There was a LOT of Giger art in the middle that was glorious to behold. I’m not sure how much of this art is actually Giger’s (sadly he died in 2014) but it is all directly translated from his existing work. It was gorgeous.
Religion is something important in Alien: Covenant. There’s the whole ‘let’s find who created us’ angle, where man looks for his creator and comes out the worse for it. But that was Prometheus’s schtick. The treatment of religion is a bit subtler here. A man of faith becomes captain and he fears he will be viewed as irrational and ineffective because of his religion. He then goes on to make the very worst decision in every situation from then on in. His chief worry was not “how can we accomplish our mission” or “how can I be the best captain I can be” but instead: “Will they respect me now that I’m in charge?” To be fair, he didn’t overtly use faith to come to or justify his decisions, I will admit. And it could be argued that there was a Plan for him after all.
There were a couple things I didn’t like. It was about 20 minutes too long. Michael Fassbender’s shirt stayed on the entire time. The plot was slow to get going and wandered a bit throughout until about the midpoint. There was a plot twist you could see coming a mile away. These are quibbles that don’t detract though. It doesn’t feel like a 2 hour movie, and the easily guessed plot point was probably never meant to fool anyone. It’s less a question of ‘if’ and more a question of ‘when’ and ‘how’. The answer to which is: later than I thought, and, deliciously.
So is Alien: Covenant worth watching? Yes, if you’re a Michael Fassbender fan or an Aliens fan. If you’re not, you really should become one or the other, and this film is the perfect chance to become both. It makes me want to see Prometheus again. It also makes me want to learn to play the recorder for reasons known only to those who have already seen the film.