With the sixth entry in the “Alien” storyline, and with so many films depending on the same pillars of space sci-fi being introduced in great succession, it becomes necessary for a film reviewer to judge the effort invested in all the elements of the story being told in isolation from how effective they were in achieving their objectives.
Apart from a few existential questions, as far as the “Alien” universe is concerned, remaining unanswered, I have no significant hard feelings towards Alien: Covenant, neither as a standalone feature, nor the way it fits into the bigger saga. In fact, I do admit that it’s a superior film to its successor in the prequel trilogy, and this statement comes from somebody who thought “Prometheus” was a very good film.
This edition takes place 10 years after the events of “Prometheus” with the colonizing space ship “Covenant” heading towards planet Origea-6 with 15 crew members, 2000 colonists, in stasis, and 1000 embryos on board. Members of the crew receive a human signal from a nearby planet that appears to be well suited for human life. The ship heads over and several members descend to study the conditions of the planet. It doesn’t take long for a few of those members to become infected with the virus that transforms them into hosts for neomorphs.
What happens next is all but unusual, monsters burst out killing their hosts and our crew members become potential preys to the menacing monsters in their various stages of evolution. The colonizing mission quickly becomes a fight for life with one striking question forming the unique arc of this story; who sent the signal that brought them to the hostile planet?
Alien: Covenant is rich on every single ingredient that you would’ve expected. The story is interesting and offers satisfying depth, especially biologically in explaining the origin of the xenomorphs and all their derivatives. A smart plot is in place with with a decent effort for a twist. The shocking horror and gruesome violence are well timed, properly portioned and extremely well executed. The visual experience is exactly what you would expect in a Ridley Scott sci-fi. I really don’t have a single idea that, in my mind, could’ve made the film better. However, I don’t think that any effort in “Covenant” was as effective as it should’ve been.
The undeserved heat that “Prometheus” received seems to have discouraged the urge for taking risks on this film. Our micro, and macro, stories progress skillfully but we don’t see any signs of trying something new. Even the frowned upon “Engineers” have been benched on this episode to make way for Xenomorphs, Neomorphs and all other sorts of “Alien” monsters that I’m no expert in. A decision responsible for the biggest question that remains unanswered by the end of “Alien: Covenant”.
With everything in the mix feeling too familiar, I don’t believe I’ve ever been that relaxed watching a film in the franchise, especially with that much excellent horror in place. The same applies for the visual experience, the spaceship, the hibernation pods, all the gadgets and technologies, they’re all so well designed and presented but it’s becoming sort of an overdose both inside and outside the Alien universe. Prometheus, Interstellar, Life, Passengers and, arguably Gravity as well as The Martian; so many great concepts and impressive products of innovation and creativity within the space of only 5 years, making it impossible for to appreciate any additional contributions in the same domain without a proper break.
This is not to say that my reception for “Alien: Covenant” was in any way negative. On the contrary; again, it is a superior film to its predecessor and, maybe, with different circumstances boosting its influence and effectiveness it would’ve reached the highest spot in the “Alien” pyramid.