I feel like I need to start this “Alien: Covenant” review with a disclaimer… the first three Alien movies are my favourite movies. I love them. I’ve seen them dozens of times. When I was a kid I read Alien comics, and read Alien novels. I bought Alien action figures. I’ve seen every movie since I was old enough on opening weekend (yes, even Resurrection). My first celebrity crush was Sigourney Weaver…
I am a full fledged Alien fanboy.
Still, when it was revealed during the filming of “Prometheus” that the series was going the studio favourite route of “Universe building” I got a bit worried. I mean, there have always been some interesting questions surrounding the movies, like “where did the ship with the eggs come from in the first movie” and “if all the aliens come from the Queen, then where did the Queen come from”. While these were always fun mysteries for super fans to pour over, I was never sure answering those questions would lead to anywhere satisfying. I thought inevitable studio interference could lead to ridiculous territory of 2007's “Aliens vs Predator Requiem” with new, wacky Alien types designed to sell action figures.
The saving grace of the franchise, though, has to be that the prequels are in the hands of Ridley Scott (the man who gave us the first “Alien” installment in 1979) who clearly has some deeply thought out plans for the future and enough clout with the studio to pull it off.
The themes of creations and creators that were toyed with in Prometheus, and brushed upon in its final act, come fully to a head in Alien: Covenant. These are some incredibly deep, thought provoking themes. Questions literally everyone has thought about. Are we created? If so, by whom? If we had creators and met them, would they be pleased with us? Would we be pleased with them? The fact that Ridley Scott has taken the series to such profound places is just amazing.
Almost any other series that boasted space marines, cool space vehicles, and untold possible variations of one the most popular movie monsters of all time would have been pilfered by the studio in an effort to sell toys and video games to kids. When they started talking about building the Universe on film I had nightmares about “super Queen Aliens” and “Colonial Marine action figures”. Instead Ridley Scott has returned it to being one of the most intelligent sci fi franchises around.
While a lot of critics were rightfully panning Prometheus for its crew of forgettable characters, and their down right stupid antics, I was still able to find a lot to love in some of the themes and characters introduced in Prometheus; namely everything to do with David the Android, played by Michael Fassbender, who thankfully is the only returning character in Covenant.
Luckily for me, and Alien fans in general, Covenant keeps the things that worked in Prometheus and replaces all the things that didn’t work with easily the best Alien action since 1986's “Aliens”. Instead of the stupid, bumbling crew of Prometheus, Covenant’s cast doesn’t feel entirely incompetent. They feel like actual, capable people. These aren’t just one dimensional characters created to die, and that attachment makes the action and the consequences feel real, especially toward the end of the movie. This movie is scary. This movie is action packed. And this movie continues to build out the Alien universe in an incredibly intelligent, mysterious, and thought provoking manner.
In the end I really felt like Alien: Covenant did everything it had to do to please every type of fan. If you’re like me, and you want more of the answers and themes that were begun in Prometheus; that’s there. But if you just want a purely scary movie with Aliens bursting out of people's bodies, well there’s plenty of that too... and unlike in Prometheus that aspect doesn’t just feel like an afterthought. Alien Covenant is rated 14A, which had me a bit worried, but in hind sight I’m honestly not sure how it avoided an R rating.
Oh, and don’t worry… unlike their much-criticized absence in Prometheus, this Alien movie actually does feature Aliens. There are face huggers, chest bursters and xenomorphs aplenty.
While Alien: Covenant never raises all the way to the horror classic heights of the first, or the full out action of the second, it does strike a pretty nice balance between the two and comes in as what I felt was the strongest entry in the franchise in 30 years.
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