Released in 2017 Alien Covenant is the sequel to 2012’s Prometheus and is the second film in the new Alien Prequel series. Michael Fassbender returns to reprise the role of David from Prometheus and also takes on the dual role of another synthetic named Walter, he is the only cast member from the previous film to return. Ridley Scott is once again in the director’s chair. Amongst the new cast are Katherine Waterston, Billy Crudup, Danny McBride, Carmen Ejogo and Demián Bichir.
After the abomination that was Prometheus it was pretty safe to say that Ridley Scott seemed to be trying to kill the franchise that he started with the masterpiece that was Alien, personally I was starting to think that as a director Scott just didn’t have it anymore, and Hollywood was still giving him money out of pity more than anything else. Then along came The Martian which was well acted, well written and well directed…yep Ridley Scott was sitting in the director’s chair…so he does still have it. He can still direct and direct well. So, perhaps Prometheus was just a misstep, and maybe Alien Covenant will be another return to his former glory…well that’s what I thought before I saw the film…
I am now very angry…
I am going to drop a spoiler warning immediately after I give you the usual quick rundown of what is happening, because yeah, pretty much everything in this review if going to be a spoiler…but before we get to that bit…let’s pretend this isn’t another piece of utter horseshit and allow me to tell you what is happening…
Sooooo…the film opens with an newly created synthetic being activated by Peter Weyland who asks what the synthetic wishes to be called. Choosing the name David after looking at a replica of Michelangelo’s David, the synthetic asks what his purpose is, and Weyland replies that one day they will search for mankind’s creators together.
Years later in 2104, humanity’s first colony ship Covenant on its way to the remote planet Origae-6, the ship has a compliment of 2000 colonists in suspended animation, with a thousand embryos also onboard. The crew is made up of 15 crew members, one of which is a synthetic named Walter who looks like the earlier David-model and he monitors the ship’s systems whilst the rest of the crew are in hyper-sleep. A sudden neutrino burst damages the ship whilst its solar sails are deployed which kills several of the colonists as well as the crew’s captain who is trapped inside his stasis pod and burns to death before the rest of the crew can rescue him. Whilst repairing the ship and mourning the loss of the captain, the crew pick up a transmission coming from a nearby planet. Oram, the new captain, decides that they should check the planet out as it is seven years closer their location than Origae-6, seems perfectly habitable for humans and after the captain was burned to death inside his pod none of them want to go back into hyper-sleep.
They head to the planet and the majority of the crew head down through an ion-storm to the surface. Once they arrive they start to track the signal they detected. Two of the team, Ledward and Karina, separate from the rest of the group to investigate the local flora after they discover wheat growing on the surface. None of them can understand how an Earth-plant ended up on the surface of an unexplored planet. The rest of the team head towards the signal where they discover an Engineer ship with the dog tags of E. Shaw onboard, one of the crew of the lost ship Prometheus that disappeared 10 years before the Covenant mission.
Soon afterwards two crew members, Ledward and another named Hallett are infected by alien spores and rapidly start becoming very sick. Ledward is helped back to the landing craft but soon afterwards a Neomorph…which looks like this…(when it grows to maturity)...
...Erupts from his back, killing him and mauling another crew member to death. The lander’s pilot, Maggie, panics as she attempts to kill the creature and accidently blows up the lander just as the other team with the very sick Hallett arrive. Unable to save him, a second Neomorph erupts from his throat, killing him and attacking the rest of the crew. The creature is chased away after a robed figure arrives, fires a flare into the sky and scares the neomorph away. He tells the crew to follow him, which they do, and he takes them back to the ruins of a city where he introduces himself as David, the last survivor of the Prometheus mission, and offers the survivors sanctuary.
Meanwhile onboard the Covenant the three remaining crew members, including Maggie’s husband Tennessee desperately try to regain communications with the people on the surface of the planet but are unable to thanks to the ion-storm
David informs the survivors that the ship he and Elizabeth Shaw travelled to the planet on crashed on arrival, Shaw perished in the crash and David has been living on the planet alone ever since. The creatures that emerged from Ledward and Hallett was the result of a pathogen that was released onto the surface when the ship crashed.
He assures them that they are perfectly safe with him whilst they try to re-establish communications, the crew have their suspicions of David and ask Walter to determine what he has been doing in the ten years he has been on the planet. Unfortunately, as the crew discover the devil make’s work for idle hands…
Right, without further ado…let me drop this and let’s get cracking…
Let me say this straight away…David is now the bad guy…so the weirdly creepy synthetic from Prometheus has developed a full on God-complex and wants to destroy basically everyone who isn’t him. Why??? I’ll tell you in a bit…it’ll take some explanation so let me talk about a few other things before we get to him.
First let me say that this is the set-up, we have a colony ship that is heading to a perfectly safe and habitable world when the captain decides to navigate to an unexplored planet which might be Earth-like because basically none of them want to get back into the hyper-sleep chambers because the captain was trapped in one when the ship was damaged by the neutrino burst. So abandoning a planet that has presumably been checked and rechecked by very clever people on Earth regarding its suitability the new captain decides to redirect the whole ship to take a look, and not surprisingly almost immediately after they land the shit hits the fan with two crew members being infected by the same black-stuff that mutated the crew members of the Prometheus. So, the crew have been on the planet for a matter of minutes before they start to get in trouble which makes you wonder why they didn’t get back in their landing craft get off the planet and head to Origea-6 which they knew would be suitable, because it is where they were heading in the first place.
The two creatures that are birthed from the unfortunate humans infected look nothing like the creatures we saw in Prometheus, and whilst they look a little like the Xenomorphs we all know and love, as you can see from the picture above they look like albino versions of them that don’t get much to eat.
Now the method by which the lander is destroyed is perhaps the one of the most ridiculous things I have ever seen that was supposed to be taken seriously. So, Ledward is obviously in a lot of trouble, he is coughing up blood, he is sweating and he looks on death’s door, once he arrives at the lander being assisted by Karine (Oram’s wife) Maggie locks them both in the medical bay despite Karine begging to be let out. Blood pours over the floor as the neomorph bursts from his body, Karine slips on the blood as she tries to help him and is mauled to death by the alien which is about the size of a cocker-spaniel at the time. Maggie, having run off to get a gun, returns to medical bay, opens the door and slips on the same pool of blood that Karine did and fires the gun into the air. She then runs off with the neomorph in pursuit and whilst attempting to shoot it, manages to hit some fuel tanks, and…wah, wah, wah…the whole lander explodes stranding everyone on the surface. The whole sequence made me laugh out loud because the only thing missing was comic sound effects as not one, but two, crew members slipped on the same pool of blood and ended up flat on their arses…so Maggie from Alien Covenant gets the prize for officially the worst attempted rescue in the history of cinema…because not only does she lock Karina in with Ledward for basically no reason as there was plenty of time for her to escape before the neomorph emerged. But also, when she did come back with a gun, she managed to fall on her arse, and then blow herself up…so yep…how were the recruits for this colonisation mission chosen?? Were they just picked from a line up of retards at the nearest institution to the landing site 10 minutes before Covenant took off???
So, why is David the bad guy now???
Well, he believes himself to be a superior form of life…so yeah…Alien Covenant is playing that old chestnut. So you can add David to the likes of the Daleks from Doctor Who, The Machines from The Matrix films, Anubis from Stargate SG-1 and every other Saturday morning cartoon villain that wants to wipe out all life in the galaxy so they can create a superior race in the wake of all other life-forms’ demise.
Plus whilst we’re on the subject of David, we learn during the film that when the ship he and Shaw were on arrived at the planet it was populated by Engineers whom David unceremoniously kills by dumping the pathogen in the ship’s storage on them. He has his head back on his body, so presumably Shaw stitches his head back on, and he is able to function as easily as he did before he was decapitated. Shaw is nowhere to be seen and David murders her at some point after they arrive and dissects her. Not a 100% sure why he did that really, but he does, and yet seems to mourn her loss…er…maybe you shouldn’t have murdered her then if you were going to miss her. Obviously sticking his head back on was a bit of an error on Shaw’s part. Now whilst he has been alone on the planet he has been studying the pathogen in greater detail and started conducting his own experiments to create his own forms of the creatures. He has successfully created the eggs that we are familiar with along with the face-huggers that we know from the rest of the series. The only flaw in his design is that the face-huggers need well, a face-to-hug in order to impregnate a human, to create David’s ultimate life form. Isn’t that a little bit of a design flaw?? It’d be like me saying that I have discovered a means of creating gold I just need a rare mineral that doesn’t exist before I can start production.
I feel I should remind you that the Covenant wasn’t sent to investigate the signal, they just happened, happened to pick it up during an accident so how was David planning on luring people to the planet to incubate his creation if no-one knew he was there and had absolutely no reason to go there in the first place??
I don’t understand what his overall plan was…plus they made a big thing about wheat being on the planet’s surface and ask who planted it. But this question is never answered. Did David plant it?? If he did why is it so far from his base of operations?? Was he bored one day in between dissecting the only human that cared for him and making his ultimate life-form so he wandered a few miles and planted some wheat…again…why????
We see people being attacked by face-huggers and the captain becomes David’s first victim to be face-hugged, and is unconscious for a matter of minutes before waking up, and having a chat with David before the xenomorph emerges from him. So unlike Kane who was unconscious for hours and the xenomorph incubated for around 24 hours before it burst out, the one in this film is alive and kicking out of its host before anyone has even noticed the captain is missing. The second impregnation is even shorter, the face-hugger leaps onto a guy’s face, is almost immediately cut off, but in the second or two it was on the guy it has managed to blow its load down his throat and impregnate him. So in a matter of seconds a guy is face-hugged and impregnated, only this time, the xenomorph in him takes hours to emerge instead of minutes. So when it is convenient to the plot the xenomorph comes out in minutes and when it is better for it to hang around inside the guy for a bit longer, that is what happens. As the face-hugger is cut off, some of its acid blood gets on the guy’s face, and the stuff that can eat through the hull of a spaceship is halted from eating through his head when someone sticks a plaster on it. Why didn’t anyone try that in any of the other films?? A simple plaster on the hull of the Nostromo would have prevented the acid dissolving it, or if the cells of the xenomorphs in Alien Resurrection had been lined with plasters then the xenomorphs wouldn’t have been able to escape their confinement…I have a space ship and in the interests of science I flew into orbit, poured some molecular acid on the floor and tried to stop a hull breach by sticking a plaster over it. I can definitely verify that if something is dissolving through the hull sticking a plaster will do absolutely nothing, and now there is a hole in my ship which Abbie is in the process of complaining about and, noticeably, not fixing.
You may have also noticed in the previous paragraph that I said that the second face-hugger is “almost immediately cut off”, cast your mind back to Alien in which Dallas and Ash tried to surgically remove the creature from Kane but were unable to because of the face-hugger’s acidic blood, or a moment in Aliens when Bishop finds a report which stated that one of the colonists on LV-426 had a face-hugger on him and the doctors killed him removing it. So, a man in Aliens died when the face-hugger was removed before implantation and yet in Alien Covenant a man has it on him for a few seconds, during which time he is impregnated, and one of his crew mates grabs a simple combat knife and is easily able to cut the face-hugger off without an problem.
The worst rescue in history wasn’t the only thing that made me laugh out loud during my viewing of the film…no, it is during the scene in which the chest-burster emerges from the captain. David is sitting nearby waiting for the creature to emerge so he can…I dunno…bond with it I think…and when it does the creature looks around and David lifts his hands up only for the creature to imitate him. The scene made me laugh because I was really hoping that the alien would look up at David, raise its hands and say “I am Groot” in Baby Groot’s voice…sadly it doesn’t. After I thought that it made me realise how un-invested I was in the film because I had imagined a chest-buster saying the words “I am Groot”.
Quick point, why was James Franco cast as the original captain of the mission??? I like James Franco, I think he is a good actor, but why cast him if he will only appear in a very brief video his wife watches after his death because he is burned to death in the first few minutes of the film. I don’t see the point of casting someone so obviously recognisable if he is going to be unceremoniously killed before he gets any actual screen time.
I am honestly getting tired of doing nothing but picking holes in this film, but unfortunately there is more to tear apart, and one of the main ones is Walter and David. Ask yourself, we have two synthetics that look identical, and can only be differentiated by their accents, David speaks with a British accent (well obviously because he is the bad guy) and Walter speaks with an American accent. Now, ask yourself, we have a good guy and a bad guy, both look identical to one another…can you see where I am going with this??
Yes, in addition to David being nothing more than a clichéd bad guy who wants to wipe out humanity and replace them with his Xenomorphs, we also have the good-guy-bad-guy switch-a-roo. During a fight between David and Walter later in the film Walter is poised to kill David, when he is given the choice of “Serving in Heaven or Reigning in Hell”, at which time we cut to the survivor crew members escaping. “Walter” appears and escapes with them back to the Covenant which means we are expected to believe that, again, in the matter of a couple of minutes, David somehow overpowers Walter despite being at his mercy, changes into his clothes, cuts his hand off (Walter’s hand gets bitten off by a Neomorph) cuts his face to mimic the wounds Walter had (which is pointless because the wounds Walter sustains happens when the rest of the crew didn’t see them so David cuts his face to fool the audience) and races to be evacuated before anyone can twig what has happened. Is Walter alive?? Who knows, maybe he is and he’s going to spend 10 years on a planet pissing about with a pathogen to create a new form of life that can only exist when there are humans around to incubate them.
By the way…remember this guy???
This is the Deacon and it was created at the end of Prometheus when the…hang on…let me get this right…when David infects Shaw’s lover with the pathogen so he mutates, before he is killed he has sex with Shaw, leading to her being impregnated by a weird squid-like creature, which is later removed by caesarean section, that then grows to full size, and then attacks and impregnates an Engineer that was trying to kill Shaw…now guess what happens to him??
Well all we can do is guess because we never see him again, the events of Covenant takes place on a different planet so the ending of Prometheus was even more pointless because the creature created is somewhere else entirely and has nothing to do with anything in this film.
Is there anything good in this film, at all???
Yes there is, Michael Fassbender is superb as both the soft-spoken but obviously insane David and the more robot-like Walter. David was deemed too human so later models were given less free will and are driven by their duty rather than being able to think freely for themselves. This works because we see other versions of synthetics through the Alien films which almost show the bugs being worked out as Weyland developed the synthetic line which began with David. The rest of the cast are decent enough but unfortunately they basically exist to get killed and I have hardly bothered using their names in this review because they are pretty forgetful.
The film spends most of its time wallowing in the shit left over from Prometheus when the crew are on the planet, when the survivors return to the Covenant we do get some classic alien action on the ship itself. The xenomorph emerges and starts to terrorize the survivors leading to the remaining crew banding together as they attempt to kill it before they resume their journey to Origae-6. Sadly this sequence is not without its problems as the crew are easily able to track the creature using the ship’s internal sensors (which admittedly were damaged on the Nostromo) and are easily able to lure it into a cargo hold to be blasted out into space. Plus for the first time we get “Xeno-Vision” in which we see what an alien sees which is basically the same as a human’s eyes except with loads of floaters in its central vision. I always thought the xenomorphs used sound, or echo location, or some other sense to track down other creatures in their vicinity but apparently no, somewhere inside their skull is a pair of eyes.
Honestly I didn’t hate this film, it was just disappointing, once again the trailers wrote cheques the film couldn’t cash. Pretty much everything we saw of the xenomorphs in the film was what we saw in the trailers, killing it was ridiculously easily, and the twist that “Walter” was really David couldn’t have been telegraphed more obviously if there had been a sign saying “Walter is really David…shhhh…that’s the twist ending”. It is better than Prometheus but then having one of your testicles removed is better than Prometheus so that is not exactly an endorsement. My Thumb is squarely Down and I think I’m going to stop giving Ridley Scott the benefit of the doubt when it comes to the next Alien film in this prequel trilogy, I’m not getting suckered in, I’ll expect it to be shit so hopefully when it is the bar will have been set so low I might actually be able to enjoy it.
4/10 – Set your sights as low as you possibly can (but still slightly above Prometheus) and you might get something from this film. As for me, yeah Michael Fassbender is good in it, but he can’t save what is basically a jumbled mess of story threads, unfamiliar and generally pretty retarded characters plus a villain that we have seen time and time and time again.