After the beautiful but unsatisfying Prometheus, director Ridley Scott serves up a new company of victims for the Alien he unleashed upon the universe back in 1979.
After an accident wakes the crew of the colony ship Covenant from hibernation, they discover a mysterious signal featuring a blurry, but clearly human form, from a region of space where no humans should be. Investigating, they find a planet that appears even more suitable for colonization than their original destination. Led by Oram (Crudup) and Daniels (Katherine Waterson) they explore the planet only to find a lot more than they bargained for, including new, horrifying evolutions of the Xenomorph's lifecycle and clues to the fates of the survivors of the Prometheus; Dr Elizabeth Shaw (Noomi Rapace) and the severed head of the synthetic David (Michael Fassbender).
As you would expected, Scott expertly reveals the horrors that await the Covenant crew with practiced skill, ratcheting up the tension as the audience knows full well the nightmares in wait for the crew. That's not to say that they are helpless, or at least not as helpless as a the crew of the Prometheus ended up. There's a lot less maddeningly stupid decisions made this time around, making the group a lot more relatable and likeable. For the most part, the group (all couples) are well sketched too, with more time obviously being spent with those who last the longest (we won't say who). One of the nicest surprises is Danny McBride's solid performance in a serious role as the Covenant's pilot. Waterson makes for an engaging heroine, proactive but in a different enough way from Ripley. Fassbender delights as the android Walter, with a different accent and demeanor from David, and forms the core of the movie. Without going into spoilers we can say that he gets to stretch himself quite a bit acting wise.
The technology and vistas presented by Scott are fantastic, the crew are a way more likeable bunch than the dysfunctional dimwits of the Prometheus, and the film avoids most of the mistakes of the previous movie but when all is said and done Covenant is almost, but not quite as unsatisfying as Prometheus but for entirely different reasons. While he explores the origins of the Xenomorphs as we know them, their creation is linked to humanity in a way that removes some of their mystery. It also avoids answering, many of the lingering questions from Prometheus. Who were the engineers? Why did they create, and then want to wipe out, humanity? What was the original purpose of the black goo? There's plenty of material to theorise about but details remain infuriatingly absent.
Covenant is a tense, and sometimes delightfully gross, sci-fi thriller that has a great look, a solid cast, and for the most part addresses the mistakes of Prometheus. Somehow though, it doesn't quite add up to more than the sum of its parts. Of all the philosophical questions posed by the film, the biggest one you may be left with is "Was that it?".
ALIEN COVENANT / CERT: 15 / DIRECTOR: RIDLEY SCOTT / SCREENPLAY: JOHN LOGAN,DANTE HARPER / STARRING: MICHAEL FASSBENDER, KATHERINE WATERSTON, BILLY CRUDUP, DANNY MCBRIDE, DEMIÁN BICHIR, CARMEN EJOGO, JUSSIE SMOLLETT / RELEASE DATE: MAY 12TH
EXPECTED: 8 out of 10