by Paislee House, Film Critic
After a 15-year hiatus, Ridley Scott decided to revamp his “Alien” franchise with a new set of films. This year’s “Alien: Covenant” is the second installment in a trilogy of prequels. With all of its faults, “Alien: Covenant” is another solid entry into an already strong franchise.
In the sixth installment of the “Alien” franchise, the series delves deeper into its own creation myth. A multitude of questions were cracked open in 2012’s “Prometheus,” so audiences will be pleased to see more explanation than speculation in “Alien: Covenant.” Though many questions are answered throughout “Covenant,” the most interesting aspect of the story is the exploration of David, his “brother” Walter, and what it means to be a creator.
Both David and Walter are played by Michael Fassbender, who gives a masterful performance as both a dutiful synthetic and an emotionally wrought one. Even with its inquiries into such complex issues like religious faith and the origin of life, “Covenant” suffers from dull, unoriginal dialogue. It seems that predictable, cheesy dialogue has become a mainstay in the sci-fi genre — this year’s “Life” is a good example. This trend is unfortunate given that the film’s themes of creation and colonization could benefit from more time allotted for discussion and examination, but explosions are somehow more interesting than thematic exploration. However, “Covenant” manages to find its footing in the midst of its muddy writing halfway through the film thanks to the Walter-David storyline.
Though the series has always contained action, the action excels when it is subdued and claustrophobic as opposed to exaggerated and loud. For the most part, “Covenant” relies on cramped images and disorienting camera movements to portray terror and panic, but the action sequences that do rely on grandiose imagery and effects come off as ridiculous and do little to advance the plot of the film. In spite of this setback, the film is wonderfully frightening. With “Covenant” being the sixth installment of the franchise, a familiar formula has become well-known to fans: there is always a strong female character; there is always a spaceship with a cool name, and something always erupts out of at least one character’s body. “Covenant” has no shortage of these elements, and the movie hits the horror notes exceedingly well, specifically those of body horror.
The worst directorial decision in the film is the decision to include two short sequences where we see things from the Xenomorph’s perspective. These moments are brief but even so it is hard to understand why they exist. Sure, the idea of seeing things from the Xenomorph’s point of view sounds cool, but the effort is ultimately futile and unbelievable even for a science-fiction film. If these moments do anything at all for the film, they are only negative. The shots merely belittle the intensity of the moments they exist in.
At its best “Alien: Covenant” is a meditation on creation myths, faith and the innate human instinct to survive. Sprinkle in some truly horrifying moments and intense action sequences and you’ve got a quintessential “Alien” film that will entertain all audiences.