Alien: Covenant answers a few important questions in the Alien universe, most importantly expanding on the origins of the Xenomorph. Ridley Scott’s second film in his trilogy of Alien prequels feels a lot more like the original entries of the franchise – a welcome change of pace that will satisfy fans who weren’t happy with the lack of gore and action in Prometheus. I was particularly stoked to see the return of the facehugger and classic, yet updated Xenomorph Drone in Covenant.
However, strategic touches of nostalgia aren’t enough to mask the film’s flaws. Covenant somehow has too much story and not enough. It’s wildly ambitious in its quest to explore theology, philosophy and the meaning of life. This is a horror franchise that built its success on bursting chests and acid spit, after all. For example, the newly instated captain, played by Billy Crudup, supposedly struggles with competing forces of faith and science. Early in the film Crudup’s character reveals that he’s faced doubts about his ability to lead a crew due to his ‘faith’. Later on, he briefly explains an encounter with “the devil” as a young boy. All of this could’ve been an interesting story arc, but it was never fully realized or explained. It just suddenly ends.
Still, there are obvious and effective ties to religion vs. science, particularly the theme of creation, both in the film’s title and in its plot. Indeed, the film’s opening scene (which takes place before the events in Prometheus) depicts David’s self-realization and understanding of creation. He tells his creator that he fully understands that he will live and his creator will die. And if that’s not enough, just count the number of allusions to Milton’s Paradise Lost. David literally says “it’s better to reign in Hell than to serve in Heaven”.
I also can’t get over the homoeroticism between David and Walter – both played brilliantly by Michael Fassbender. I found myself giggling when David was teaching Walter to play the flute and said “I’ll do the fingering”. Real mature, I know. Honestly though, Fassbender steals the entire damn movie in my book.
Let’s talk about the Neomorphs. Insanely cool and scary looking. Bloodthirsty and very Velociraptor-like. Yet all I saw in their brief screen time was that they were easily enchanted by robots. I guess because David is the creator. Still, I really needed more information on the Neomorphs and wanted to see the extent of their carnage. I also wanted to know more about the demise of Shaw from Prometheus. There were certainly enough clues, but I would’ve loved a flashback or something. Also wanted to know what came from Shaw’s belly – was it a neomorph or is that how David made the first Xenomorph?
There are a lot of things I liked about Alien: Covenant. I loved the Daniels character. What a badass chick. Super reminiscent of young Ripley. The end scene when Tennessee (Danny McBride) and Daniels are fighting the big bad Xenomorph is visually very similar to the end of Aliens. I almost thought that Daniels was going to get into a Caterpillar P-5000 work loader. I liked that David is decidedly evil. I couldn’t really tell in Prometheus if he was good or bad. Maybe that was the point. The Xenomorph at the end is really cool. It looks like the O.G. baddies but slightly different. Perhaps CGI had to do with that. It’s good CGI though, and I am a staunch believer in creature effects.
The end of Covenant sets up the next sequel nicely. Overall, I just felt that Covenant tried to do too much. It should’ve focused on one or the other: either go all the way with the grand “meaning of life” theme or amp up the B-plot of the crew trying to colonize a new planet. They felt like completely separate stories. Don’t get me wrong though, I didn’t leave the theater unsatisfied. And trust me, I will be paying money to see the next installment in theaters.