HERE BE SPOILERS!!…(you have been warned)

I saw Alien: Covenant this week and I thought it was great. But… it’s not without its issues.

Prometheus was a film that was very unlike all the other Alien movies, and that threw a lot of people. I enjoyed the grand story aspect of Prometheus but I didn’t enjoy some of the character scripting and acting. Idris Elba, Charlize Theron and Michael Fassbender were all great though. But having rewatched Prometheus again last weekend those issues weren’t as big for me this time and I enjoyed the film even more.

Alien: Covenant is a very different film though. It’s much more aligned with the original Alien movies, in terms of the action and plot. It certainly doesn’t answer all the questions from Prometheus and in fact it leaves us with even more questions at the end of it.

Alien: Covenant

This movie really is mostly about Michael Fassbender. It’s more about him than the aliens. And that’s both a good thing and a bad thing. It’s good because Fassbender is incredible in this/these role(s). It’s hard to take your eyes off him when he’s on screen. His portrayal of David is great and his ability to also play a slightly less human version, Walter, is extremely impressive. He separates the characters out not only by accent but by facial nuances and body language. But moreover, I love the depiction of the AI David as an artificial lifeform. I would almost like to see this as a separate anthology movie in the Alien universe that just focusses on AI. It stands up there with Ex Machina in looking into the AI psyche. And it’s all very subtle in places, but it’s rather chilling how David progressively develops more distain for the human race that created him, and becomes fixated on creating things himself. It certainly is a fascinating subject. Synthetic AIs have always played a big part in Alien movies but they’re really elevating their role here. But Fassbender’s characters having such a big part also brings the negative aspect in my mind which is that it appears that David in some ways created the Xenomorph race as we know it. Not totally from scratch, as it was the Engineers of course that developed the pathogen which in turn became the Deacon at the end of Prometheus, which was a form of Xenomorph, but it was David in this film that experimented with the biology of the pathogen and developed the eggs and the facehuggers which lead to the Xenomorphs that we know. That’s my understanding of it anyway, after one viewing. Part of me feels that this just makes the universe that bit smaller when we now go back and watch Alien. Rather than the crew of the Nostromo just stumbling across an unknown Alien species deep in space it appears it might actually be a creature that was developed by an android created by humans. That might not be totally the way it unfolds but it feels like that is likely. Perhaps it will turn out to be quite a cool thing after we see how the story develops though. I’ll remain open minded. We also can’t deny the part played by the Engineers of course but that’s one of the other problems about this movie. There is hardly anything about the Engineers at all. We don’t even know if the people in the city who David kills with the pathogen drop are in fact totally the same species of Engineers as the space jockey or not. They do look slightly different. And we don’t know exactly why David chose to kill them all without any sort of interaction at all. And also why did the pathogen drop just seem to turn the Engineers to stone and not make them spawn aliens? That part all happens extremely quickly and is just glossed over. I just felt that this movie needed a bit more explained about who the Engineers were. But who knows, perhaps we will learn more about them in the next movie, although I wonder if that’s perhaps unlikely as the next movie is about going to the planet were the colonising was meant to take place.

Alien: Covenant

One other issue I had with the film was just that the last 20mins felt slightly flat. It wasn’t quite scary enough and the main female character wasn’t quite scared enough in my opinion. When they spot a Xenomorph on the hull of the ship as they are taking off she just jumps outside with a cable and a gun to get it off without a moment’s hesitation and that just seemed slightly reckless and too brave. And then in the final sequence in the terraforming bay she traps the alien in the truck cab in a very relaxed way and even talks to it. Again it just felt a bit too easy or light-hearted or something. Some of these bits were slightly predictable and not quite suspenseful enough.

One thing that was slightly unclear to me at the time of watching was I wasn’t sure how the last Xenomorph actually appeared on the ship. The crew think they are all finally safe but then MU-TH-UR detects a lifeform, and they find that an alien has come out of Sergeant Lope. I didn’t realise at the time how he became a host to an alien. I did remember later that he had had a facehugger on him for a few seconds in the basement on the planet and I guess it must have implanted the embryo into him then. I assume we were supposed to forget about this as the facehugger wasn’t on for long. But the whole discovery of the alien on the ship at the end just seemed slightly anti-climatic. And also I wasn’t quite sure how the guy managed to get the facehugger of Lope anyway. It seemed to come off a bit easy. I guess he just cut it enough to take it off and obviously that acid then went onto Lope’s cheek.

And the big ‘twist’ of course was that Daniels realised, just as she was going into cryo sleep, that Walter was actually David in disguise. I would have loved for this to have been a big shock but sadly it was just hinted at too many times after ‘Walter’ came back out of the building to join them in their escape. There were too many closeups hinting at half smiles etc which made us fall into a ‘is he/isn’t he’ dilemma, and rather than being a big shock reveal at the end it was just a ‘oh yeh, he is, of course’. That was a real shame I thought. It would have been much better if they had made the twist less obvious. At the time I also though it was highly impressive just how quickly David chopped off his own arm, changed clothes and even changed his hair, but in retrospect I assume he did some kind of a mind dump transfer into Walter’s body.

One other slight disappointment I had was from one of the movie posters that showed a next of Xenomorphs lying together with at least one human enveloped amongst them. See below. I believe we have had things like this in Alien, Aliens, and Alien Resurrection? I particularly remember the one in Alien where Dallas is saying “Kill me”. I find that stuff really shocking to look at when done right. And I was hoping there would be something like that in this film with a big nest of Aliens and humans sacrificed amongst them. But there was nothing, so I’m not quite sure what that poster was meant to represent. I’m hoping the next film will have something like this as it’s likely that David is going to infect all of the colonists with facehuggers and develop a nest of Aliens.

Alien: Covenant poster

I thought the acting was all great. No problems there at all. I thought Katherine Waterston was extremely good as Daniels. Billy Crudup and Danny McBride were both great too. And I’ve already mentioned how fantastic Michael Fassbender was, and I loved his interaction with Guy Pearce. That ‘fingering’ line, during the flute scene, was a bit unnecessary though. Or perhaps we all just have a dirty mind.

The whole direction and cinematography was fantastic too. This is a very beautiful and cool movie. If the last 20 mins had been more suspenseful I would have absolutely loved all of this film. And other small bits like Walter’s twist being more of a shock, but would have made it better too, as I’ve already mentioned. But I still really thoroughly enjoyed this film and thought it was beautifully shot. I’m glad we’re getting another one though as we need more overall story development and some questions answered.

Very interested to see what Ridley Scott does with the next one. I do believe it is a franchise that really has been re-energised.