3 out of 5
After a random accident causes damage to the ship, handy android Walter (Fassbender) is forced to wake the sleeping crew from stasis to save the two thousand or so colonists on board. Discovering a distress call from a nearby planet, the newly appointed Captain Oram (Crudup), decides to investigate in hopes of solving the mystery and, of course, things go ever so slightly wrong…
Reaction to Scott’s return to the franchise with ‘Prometheus’ was certainly mixed, fans of the original ‘Alien’ were disappointed by the lack of, well, Alien, and wanted more of the horror and suspense of previous instalments, while others enjoyed the themes and mysteries the film presented; Who created us? Why do they want to destroy us? Where did the xenomorph’s come from? ‘Covenant’ lands firmly in the middle and attempts to satisfy both sets of fans, however the result can be jarring at times.
Firstly, the overwhelming positive of the film is undeniably the visuals. Scott has created a stunning world which is as beautiful and grand as it is gruesome and claustrophobic. Every shot is put together with a care and eye for detail which has punctuated the directors career and at times will leave you open mouthed in appreciation as well as covering your eyes in disgust at the gore. The only slight issue is the CGI with some of the creatures in the film, mostly great but there are moments where it is very apparent that they are not really there and does take you out of the moment, even if just for a second.
The performances are also great although the two stand outs, by far, are Fassbender and Danny McBride, the latter of which has previously been known for his comedic roles, who show so many layers and subtlety that everyone else cannot compete. The support from Billy Crudup also deserves praise but sadly our new heroine, Katherine Waterson, fails to live up to the leading ladies the franchise has seen before. Although in fairness her character isn’t especially engaging, and therein lies one of the films flaws.
Aside from the characters of Walter and the films main antagonist (who should remain nameless to avoid spoilers) no one else really has much development or real story arc. The sudden transformation of Daniels (Waterson) is a little hard to swallow and not many of the other characters leave any sort of impression, this robs the viewer of much attachment so that when the inevitable happens it’s hard to care.
As mentioned at the outset the film is a bit jarring. Half direct continuation of ‘Prometheus’ and half space horror the sudden changes in tone, from claustrophobic body horror to meditative discussions on the meaning of life, seem awkwardly thrown together. This becomes particularly apparent toward the beginning of the third act, where several set pieces seem like they were lifted from a different film and thrown in to provide excitement. Also, there is a last-minute twist that most people will see coming a mile away which does rob the climax of a bit of tension.
When the film works well it works beautifully and there is enough to satisfy fans of the franchise but overall it can be a little uneven. The visuals and performances, however, do set this apart from most sci-fi horrors and certainly above most other installments of the franchise.