2017, Alien Technology, Alien Worlds, Aliens, Androids, CGI Monsters, Cinema Knife Fights, Horror Movies, LL Soares Reviews, Michael Fassbender, Monster Babies, Monster Movies, Monsters, Outer Space, Prequels, Ridley Scott, Science Fiction, Scientific Advancements, Space, Space Travel, Spaceships, Unfortunate Astronauts 1
Cinema Knife Fight Presents:
ALIEN: COVENANT (2017)
Review by L.L. Soares
(THE SCENE: A large spaceship traveling through outer space. L.L. SOARES is one of the pilots. MICHAEL ARRUDA enters the room with a tray.)
LS: I see you got some lunch.
MA: Piloting this ship really builds up an appetite.
LS: You mean, it’s boring.
MA: That, too.
LS: You’re right on time. I was just about to start our review of the new Ridley Scott film, ALIEN COVENANT (2017).
MA: Oh yeah. I knew we were on this spaceship for a reason.
(MA suddenly drops his tray to the floor and starts screaming)
LS: Uh oh.
(MA falls to the ground and starts convulsing. Suddenly, a baby ALIEN bursts from his chest)
LS: Michael? Are you still alive, buddy?
(The bloody ALIEN creature scurries across the floor. The sliding doors open, and it runs out into the bowels of the ship).
LS: Not good. There are two thousand people sleeping down there, colonists in suspended animation. I guess I should go protect them. But I want to review this movie first.
(LS walks over to where MA is, unmoving and bloody, and picks up the tray, which is miraculously undisturbed. He carries it over to the pilot’s seat.)
LS: Waste not, want not. That’s what I always say. (Takes a bite out of a sandwich). Where was I? Oh yeah, the new Ridley Scott ALIEN movie. I guess I’ll have to review this one solo.
ALIEN COVENANT is the second film in Scott’s prequel series that takes place before the events of his classic ALIEN (1979). As such, it’s also a sequel to 2012’s PROMETHEUS. Wow, has it really been five years since the last film? Seems like just yesterday.
COVENANT opens on our old friend David the Android (Michael Fassbender). Remember him from the previous film? It’s a flashback, it appears that he’s just become aware of himself, and he’s having a conversation with his creator, Peter Weyland (Guy Pearce in old age makeup). Remember Weyland from PROMETHEUS, too? He appeared briefly in that film as the guy who was financing the journey of the Prometheus. Well, he sticks around long enough here to have a conversation with David, and reiterate some of his key ideas from the first film. And then we move forward in time and space to the spaceship Covenant.
The crew and passengers of the Covenant are in suspended animation, and the ship is being run by an android who looks an awful lot like our old friend David, except he’s not. He’s just a similar model, but a more updated version, named Walter (and also played by Michael Fassbender). Walter, interacting with the ship’s computer, Mother (voiced by Lorelei King), makes sure the Covenant stays on course. It’s headed to a habitable planet in another galaxy called Origae-6. But two things happen to change course.
The first is that some random outer space energy surge damages the ship, and wakes up the crew, who go about trying to fix things. The second, is that they get a distress signal from another planet nearby, that also appears to be very similar to Earth, except they (and the people who sent them on this mission) had no idea the planet existed. Also, unlike Origae-6, which is still 10 years away, this new planet is like…there.
When something happens to the captain of the ship, Branson (poor James Franco!), his second-in-command, Oram (Billy Crudup), takes charge. Oram decides to take a landing party down to this new planet and check it out.
There, they find an atmosphere very similar to Earth’s, with trees and rivers and even wheat! Everything seems to be going fine—until it doesn’t. Eventually, we’ll get to see more of the Xenomorph creatures who first appeared in ALIEN (1979), and we get to find out what happened to Android David (Fassbender), who, at the end of PROMETHEUS was traveling in space with Dr. Elizabeth Shaw (Noomi Rapace), searching for the meaning of life. We eventually find out what happened to them. There’s also a brief appearance by the bald-headed giants, called the Engineers, who we first saw in PROMETHEUS, and who presumably created all known life in the galaxy.
And that’s the story in a nutshell. There are lots of twists and turns throughout the story, and I’ll let you experience those for yourself.
So how does ALIEN COVENANT stack up to PROMETHEUS, and to the original ALIEN itself? Let’s see, shall we?
First off, the cast here is pretty good. No Idris Elba and Charlize Theron, but we’ve got not one, but two Michael Fassbenders, as androids David and Walter. He was the best thing in PROMETHEUS, and he’s just as good here. Just like in PROMETHEUS, the androids are the most interesting characters in the story. There’s even one scene where David teaches Walter how to play the recorder (which is odd, since they’re robots and don’t have lungs) that seems almost like a seduction. And Fassbender pulls it all off.
Billy Crudup (previously in the great flick, JESUS’ SON, 1999, as well as being in MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE III, 2006, EAT PRAY LOVE, 2010, and he was Dr. Manhattan in WATCHMEN, 2009) is fine as Captain Oram. The rest of the crew includes Katherine Waterston (great as Shasta Fay Hepworth in the underrated INHERENT VICE, 2014; she was also Tina in FANTASTIC BEASTS AND WHERE TO FIND THEM, 2016, as well as being in STEVE JOBS, 2015, which also starred Michael Fassbender) as Daniels, the wife of the captain who died early on (poor James Franco!) and now second-in-command to Oram. She’s the most prominent female character here, and she’s very good.
Danny McBride, one of my favorite comic actors (also in PINEAPPLE EXPRESS, 2008, THIS IS THE END, 2013, the two HBO series EASTBOUND & DOWN, 2009-2013 and the more recent VICE PRINCIPALS) plays it straight here as pilot Tennessee. He’s done serious roles before, and he’s very good here. Some of the other cast members include Demian Bechir (the very talented actor who was also in WEEDS, 2008 -2010, A BETTER LIFE, 2011, for which he was nominated for an Oscar, and THE HATEFUL EIGHT, 2015), who is totally underused here; and Amy Seimetz (also in YOUR’RE NEXT, 2011, and the excellent UPSTREAM COLOR, 2013) as Faris, Tennessee’s wife.
The script is by John Logan (GLADIATOR, 2000, THE LAST SAMURAI, 2003, and SPECTRE, 2015) and Dante Harper, based on a story by Jack Paglen and Michael Green, and based on characters by Dan O’Bannon (who wrote the screenplay for the original ALIEN) and Ronald Shusett.
I thought the script was more accessible this time around. While PROMETHEUS was a good movie, it had a tendency to get rather cryptic at times. The pacing for COVENANT is also an improvement (PROMETHEUS seemed to plod along at times). There are also a lot more ALIEN creatures this time around, and different kinds of them, including the big bad version we’ve been used to since the beginning. Where PROMETHEUS seemed reluctant to be a total balls-out ALIEN movie, COVENANT doesn’t have the same reluctance (just look at the title).
It’s funny. Back when PROMETHEUS came out, and Michael and I reviewed here at Cinema Knife Fight, I gave it four knives (Michael, for the record, was disappointed and gave it two). But PROMETHEUS, it turns out, wasn’t all that memorable. It’s still a good movie, but now I’d probably give it a lower score of three knives. It had a lot of flaws, and I just don’t remember it all that fondly. ALIEN: COVENANT is also a good film, but not a great one. The aliens just aren’t that scary anymore. Ridley Scott is still a more-than-capable director, and there are a lot of bits of information, especially about android David, that are important. But despite the huge budgets and elaborate effects, I still liked the original, and more clunky ALIEN a lot more. It’s also funny that the science in these prequels is much more advanced and impressive, but that’s what happens when prequels have a lot more money, and more advanced effects, than the original film.
The end of COVENANT was also very predictable. I saw it coming a mile away, and you probably will, too.
I’m going to give ALIEN: COVENANT three knives out of five (comparable to what I’d give PROMETHEUS now, as well: the two films have different strengths and weaknesses). Both of them are good movies, but they’re not as exciting as they should be.
Either way, it’s worth seeing COVENANT in a theater. Just don’t expect to be blown away by it.
My biggest regret is that, by making these prequels to ALIEN, Ridley Scott pretty much killed off the possibility of our ever seeing Neil Blomkamp’s (director of DISTRICT 9, 2009) supposedly terrific script for a sequel that would have occurred directly after the events of James Cameron’s ALIENS (1986). And I can’t help but wonder if his story would have been more exciting than the prequels that Scott has given us so far.
Well, that’s it for me.
(The sliding doors of the pilot room open, and the baby ALIEN scurries across the floor.
LS: There you are! That was very naughty to kill Michael like that. And what were you up to out there? I sure hope you didn’t hurt any of the sleeping colonists!
(ALIEN stares up at him)
LS: Awww, here. Have part of my sandwich (tosses it to the floor, where the ALIEN gobbles it up).
LS: I think I have a new pet! Well, until next time, this is the U.S.S. Cinema Knife Fight signing off. I’m sure when we return, Michael will be his old self again.
© Copyright 2017 by L.L. Soares
LL Soares gives ALIEN: COVENANT ~three knives.