As a firm believer in extraterrestrial life, I am of a mind that any lifeform outside of Earth is smarter than us. When a planet's dominant species falls to infighting instead of solving bigger problems like how to get Netflix subscriptions to a worldwide audience, even you would pass up the opportunity to communicate with such a primitive race.
The little green men in the Alien franchise never bothered to interact with mankind. Rather, their home worlds were rudely trespassed on by humans for a variety of reasons. Exploration, contact... none of which were good enough excuses to act like uninvited guests to the most out-of-this-world party there is.
It comes as no surprise then when the aliens communicate with the astronauts via the universal language of murder.
The sixth film in this head-humping series, Alien: Covenant is the sequel to the prequel to Ridley Scott's main
movies. After Prometheus' aliens were
nothing more than big, bald Smurfs that looked like Watchmen's Doctor
Manhattan, its successor finally does away with all the cryptic nonsense and
gives viewers some answers.
Taking place 10 years after the events of the previous film, Alien: Covenant follows the story of yet another spacefaring group as we wait for their inevitable demise at the jaws of the most gothic monsters anyone has ever seen.
This time, the crew of the Covenant is on a mission to colonize a distant planet located far away from any people-eating creatures. But when a sudden radiation storm causes them to wake up seven years too early, they decide to settle down on a nearby hospitable world to determine whether or not they need to look any further for a home. It turns out they don't; as the locals will devoid them of any chance to keep their organs inside their bodies.
Almost every science-fiction horror film ever known has a really bad case of "poor protagonist syndrome", where most of the characters are one-dimensional and die faster than a bat at an Ozzy Osbourne concert. This movie is no exception. Barring the special case of David (one of Michael Fassbender's characters who is more British than afternoon tea), almost everyone is expendable and boils down to a generic stereotype.
There's the reluctant captain, the red-blooded soldier, the smart-mouthed pilot... even Daniels, who is likened to the original movies' protagonist Ellen Ripley, is there to fill out a role that harkens back to the 1979 classic.
These similarities to the first Alien
movie aren't a complete disadvantage. Whereas Aliens and the other sequels focused more on action sequences and
treated the aliens as traditional machine gun fodder, the original was slower
and built up the suspense before making grown men scream and realize that their
voice suddenly went up four octaves.
This is what the film does really well.
Even though the franchise has been around for 38 years, Alien: Covenant uses this predictability to its advantage by making audiences wait before opening its big bag of nope. When one of the crew approaches a hatching Xenomorph egg, you already know that the residing facehugger will soon find a cozy home on the crewmember's face.
The scares themselves aren't the movie's selling point, but rather everything that builds up to the bladder-releasing moments. From the rapidly increasing tempo of the music to the in-your-face camera angles of a Neomorph cutting a way out of its host, this Alien movie knows why you came to watch it but will tease you nonetheless to the very last second (just like your high school crush).
So is there anything unique that this installment provides?
That depends on what you're looking for.
If you want new ways in which the aliens scare, murder, and play with
their food, you may be a tad disappointed. Apart from the aforementioned
Neomorphs and the manner in which they implant themselves within their hosts
through airborne spores (which is shown in microscopic detail), there are
almost no scares that add anything new to the horror genre.
On the other hand, if you are into the lore of the series and the origins of this iconic predator with an oversized shower cap for a head, then Alien: Covenant sheds light on everything Prometheus left in the dark. Questions such as the fate of David, Elizabeth Shaw, and the precursor home world are answered without leaving lose threads.
But despite being one of the movie's strengths, this is also its biggest weakness.
If you haven't watched Prometheus or any other Alien film, then this title proves as a poor entry point to the series. It makes numerous references to its predecessors that certain plot points will go over a newbie's head like a misaimed Xenomorph spitball. This doesn't diminish the overall scare factor, but if you want to understand the latter half of the story, then you better devote some time to seeing the first poorly-named chronological title in this franchise.
Aside from this, certain portions tend to drag on longer than they are
The intro sequence is a prime example because instead of dropping the crew down on the hostile planet within the first 15 minutes, viewers are made to care about the immediate deaths of characters they don't even know. This may have worked if people like James Franco (I don't even recall his character's name) established themselves as integral members of the Covenant, but in killing them off literally two minutes after they are introduced, the scenes that follow are about as heavy as a Teletubby's emotional baggage.
Even with the lackluster characters and required knowledge of the franchise, Alien: Covenant is nevertheless a worthy entry to the anti-living being series of movies that Ridley Scott started all those years ago. Though it does clear up a lot of answers that previous movies brought up, it also makes good leeway for the inevitable sequel that will sprout from its pregnant womb.
Oh. Were you hoping for a picture of an alien? My bad. I was keeping you