Ribs crunching, bones crashing, body counts rising, and lots of blood, spilled and skewed with reckless abandon. Needless to say, Ridley Scott is taking fans back to basics with his latest gore-soaked, Science-Fiction frenzy.
Set in the year 2104, just eleven years after the doomed Prometheus voyage of the preceding film, a grand-scale colonisation mission aboard the Covenant is on target towards the distant planet Origae-6. After a freak incident, a crew member receives a rogue signal originating from a nearby planet, which under inspection appears habitable. Deciding to take a closer look, the crew stumbles upon a horrific virus that threatens to consume them all.
The Alien franchise has never been known for the intelligent decisions made by its characters, and Alien: Covenant proves to be no exception. The decision to abandon the mission and visit a planet that mysteriously calls to them is just one of the elements that it helps to disregard in order to enjoy what the film excels in, which is its ability to scare and shock.
H.R. Giger’s wonderful creation, the film’s iconic Xenomorph, although given the computer animation treatment, looks great for the most part. This alien is much more rabid than that encountered in Scott’s original horror masterclass. A creature that once used shadows to conceal the entirety of its monstrous form is now fully exposed. Yet, it manages to retain its fierce form. It is a monster that manages to maintain its ability to induce a terror that has held audiences captive since 1979.
The films combination of elements from the original and also James Cameron’s Action-blockbuster Aliens makes Covenant much more familiar than Prometheus, and manages to deliver what many fans wanted from the former. Although it unmistakably appears as a return to form for the franchise, it is also worthy as a sequel in that many of the questions left unanswered in Prometheus are lavishly acknowledged. Despite the familiarity giving way to cliché and predictable progression, it is incredibly entertaining to watch the crew battling with an array of new creatures and old, whilst also expanding the film’s mythology.
The performances are satisfying in most respects, and manage to remain convincing regardless of some clumsy dialogue. It is Michael Fassbender that once again delivers an astonishing performance, made ever-more impressive in that this time he is fulfilling a dual role. His characters remain fascinating and menacing in equal measure, and aid the film with intriguing screen presence. Without his performance the titular aliens would entirely dominate your attention.
Luckily, the immersive spectacle provided by the films frightening imagery and action set-pieces dominate your attention for the majority of the running time. The landscapes are shot with a beautiful and creative imagination by Dariusz Wolski, and are impactfully realised by Scott. The planet’s surface is an environment that appears arresting, perplexing, and treacherously desolate. Every step the crew takes in the blind pursuit of inevitable demise ratchets up the tension; this is a director with a comfortable and authoritative control over his audiences fear.
Alien: Covenant, despite pacing issues and flaws of rational progression, is a surprisingly ominous chapter in the films prestigious franchise, and it is the films success in the Horror-genre that provides its superior qualities. For fans of the original, this is a refreshing return to form for the director that perfected the art of terror an immense thirty-eight years ago.