(Submitted by Mr. Andrew Phibes…Thanks, Kinky Ho-bo! ;)xoxo)
“Here at least we shall be free; the Almighty hath not built. Here for his envy, will not drive us hence: Here we may reign secure, and in my choice to reign is worth ambition though in Hell: Better to reign in Hell, than serve in Heaven.”
-John Milton, Paradise Lost
“I’ll do the fingering.”
–David, Alien: Covenant
Alien: Covenant is a strange beast. It’s both a sequel to 2012’s Prometheus and an apology for it. Director Ridley Scott still seems to be interested in the ideas and conceits explored in that film, but also wants to satisfy the fans who were vocal in their burning hatred for it. As a result, Alien: Covenant is a hybrid of Prometheus and the original Alien: a monster mash of high-minded concepts and ghost train theatrics. If you were hoping to see the return of Prometheus‘ Shaw (Noomi Rapace) or more of the Engineers (the extraterrestrial creators of mankind) in this film, I’m afraid you’ll be sorely disappointed. However, if you’re hungry for atmospherics, gore, nostalgia, and tons of monsters, this is the film for you.
Set a decade after Prometheus, Alien: Covenant concerns the crew of the colony ship Covenant and their discovery of what appears to be an uncharted paradise. It’s revealed that the planet is inhabited by hostile creatures and… well, you know the drill. The film more-or-less plays out the way you’d imagine, though that’s hardly a bad thing. What we have here is essentially a “Greatest Hits” of the Alien franchise. Eggs are hatched, distress signals are answered, creatures burst from stomachs, and faces are hugged. The film does nothing new with the series, but it’s a highly enjoyable return to basics. In that regard, it’s the Star Wars: The Force Awakens of the the Alien series.
Like Star Wars: The Force Awakens, Alien: Covenant is a soft reboot masquerading as a sequel. Prometheus is essentially jettisoned in favor of a more familiar bit of sci-fi terror. Unfortunately, that means that most of the characters/creatures left alive at the end of Prometheus are disposed of. Elizabeth Shaw (Noomi Rapace) is given a, um, less-than-happy ending, which I thought was pretty lame. After building the character up and setting up further adventures for her at the end of the previous film, Alien: Covenant gives Shaw the ol’ “Newt/Hicks” treatment. I personally believe that Dr. Shaw deserved a better send-off, but I suppose the studio wanted to distance themselves from Prometheus as much as possible. In fact, the only element from that film that is used to a significant degree in this film is also the one element that was universally praised: Michael Fassbender.
Michael Fassbender does double duty as the diabolical David and Walter, the unfortunate android aboard the Covenant. Mr. Fassbender is brilliant in both roles, imbuing both machines with their own distinctive identity. However, it’s David who steals the show and makes this film fantastic. David is delightfully, cartoonishly evil. He’s Michael Gough, Vincent Price, John Carradine, and a cobra fused into an unimaginably hammy chimera of urbane villainy. It truly is a shame they didn’t give him a cape and a mustache to twirl.
There’s also a weird, sexual tension between the two Fassbenders, starting with what is likely the most erotic cinematic flute lesson. The sequence does bring to mind a lot of the weird poetry Prometheus had going for it, and it is probably the most fascinating scene in the picture. At this point, the film takes turns to what could almost be described as “Fassbender porn.” And the internet has already picked up on this. Alien: Covenant isn’t even a week old, yet there’s a disturbing amount of Fassbender X Fassbender fan art. If you think I’m not going to include any of it here, you are deeply mistaken.
While the film generally plays out like a classical monster movie, some of the heavy ideas and literary references of Prometheus do pop up. Questions about the nature of creation are brought up and religious symbolism is scattered throughout. Percy Shelley. Lord Byron, and John Milton are quoted in thematically appropriate ways and Wagner’s Entry of the Gods into Valhalla plays at the end. It’s a little on-the-nose, but it’s all intriguing for what is primarily straightforward creature feature.
As for the rest the rest of the film, it’s loaded with great sci-fi gore, but nothing as intense as Alien‘s dinner scene or the surgery sequence in Prometheus. Katherine Waterston is a fine heroine, but she’s less compelling than the two before her. Is it, as one reviewer put its, a “masterpiece of fear?” No, but it’s an entertaining slice of Alien terror. I wish they had stuck to Prometheus more, but it’s loads of fun. Alien: Covenant is mostly awesome… mostly.