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In all Alien movies, a hapless crew—civilians/scientists/miners, backed by a corrupt corporation—encounter one planet or another and voila, become the breeding vessels for our favorite xenomorph varieties.
Enter Covenant, offering typical Alien fare with a minimal splash of Prometheus, certainly not enough answers to satisfy those of us who enjoyed the former film. Prior to Covenant’s release, an Online short promo explained the immediate aftermath from Prometheus, filling in some blanks that were not explained in Covenant, yet necessary to understand the jump between films.
I won’t reveal any spoilers but to say that if you just want an Alien film, this one does not disappoint. In Covenant, bound for a planet on the far end of the galaxy deemed hospitable and ready for them to colonize, the crew of the vessel of the same name (Katherine Waterston, Billy Crudup) is awakened early only to be diverted to another world, one broadcasting a song delivered by the long-missing Dr. Elizabeth Shaw (Noomi Rapace) from the last film. They interpret this as an emergency call. This crew includes an updated David synthetic named Walter (Michael Fassbender in both roles), identical sans the complicated emotionalism, different hairstyle and speech patterns.
Needless to say that this world is quickly revealed to be a very dark place, the remains of an Engineer home-world, and a sinister tale of what happened to Dr. Shaw and David. And, of course, hostile aliens, neomorphs, force the crew into a struggle for their lives.
If you’ve watched any Alien films before, you know how this one ends, albeit with a sinister twist. When Ridley Scott released the last movie in the Alien franchise: Prometheus, it seemed as though I was in the minority who found the film to be meaningful and thought-provoking with its allusions to religion, our creators, the Engineers, who had come to seed life on Earth, only later to attempt to choose to destroy it.
They had set up a biological agent on a barren world, keeping the pathogen from their own home world, and, readied to launch to our planet and finish us off, instead fell victim to their own creation. Without recounting the whole tale, the Internet was abuzz with the religious symbology of their change of heart resulting from the crucifixion of their emissary back a few thousand years. Google “Prometheus meanings” for more information.
With many familiar elements from the original Alien movie, as well as the vastly improved technological element of filmmaking, there are no dull moments. If you came to find answers left over from Prometheus, there are few to be found and, in the discovery, some disappointments how the story evolved.
The original Alien, way back a few decades, before the end of the last century, was shocking, gritty and raw, exposing audiences to the scariest of all things, emerging from the chest of its host, amidst a torrent of blood and guts and screams. Audiences tend to lose the shock value quickly, and following Aliens, Alien 3, Alien Resurrection, aside from the Alien v Predator offshoot, we’ve become numb to the chest bursting, metallic acid-drool of the creatures. Like many horror films, these scares simply replace people and location settings, film to film, until audiences just stop caring.
In the Alien franchise, despite a universe of accessibility and an abundance of technology, the storylines always fall back to greed, whether by profit, in the attempted exploitation and weaponization of the creatures, as in the earlier films, or the foolish attempt of Peter Weyland (Guy Pearce), to gain immortality from the Engineers. I believe Covenant failed to live up to the scope offered by Prometheus and settled instead, into a more comfortable and familiar zone. But that seems to be what audiences want, in which case there will be no disappointments. That and the remaining four films Ridley Scott promised before his tale returns to the original Alien.
Directed by Ridley Scott
Writers: Dan O’Bannon, Ronald Shusett
Starring: Michael Fassbender, Katherine Waterston, Billy Crudup
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