Alien Covenant

Alien Covenant

Ridley Scott’s Alien Covenant is the film Prometheus should have been or wanted to. Covenant is a worthy addition to the Alien franchise and a true and legitimate prequel to it, rendering its predecessor redundant, even obsolete.

Set a decade after the events in Prometheus, the story follows the crew of the Covenant, a ship on a colonisation mission carrying human embryos and a few thousand colonists in deep cryosleep for the long journey to a faraway destination. When the ship receives a signal from a nearby planet, driven by curiosity and the resemblance of this planet to Earth, the small number of crew onboard decide to make a detour and explore it (nevermind asking why this planet wasn’t their original destination, to begin with). Of course, this turns out to be a very, very bad idea, because the planet happens to be where the survivors from the events of Prometheus crash-landed. It isn’t long before the landing party is infected and, if you know your movie history well, lots of gruesome chestbusting ensues.

A common trait amongst the best sci-fi is their ability to take the concept of the Alien ‘Other’ and connect it or fuse it with the elusive concept of the divine ‘Other’. Many films have attempted this but very few, like the exceptional Arrival, have actually accomplished it. One of Prometheus’ great failings (among many others) was that it aimed purely at achieving this with a lumbering philosophy. Covenant remedies all of this by being more balanced – there are some thematic, almost literal explorations of the fallible concept of ‘God syndrome’ but the film isn’t contend with being only about this. It is, at its core, unashamedly, a slasher film. While this isn’t too much of a departure from the 1979 original, times have changed and the films plotting and structure feels, primarily in its third act, like its been lazily rehashed from its own DNA. It not only rips off parts from the original but also the James Cameron sequel that Scott didn’t direct. It also doesn’t help with credibility when some of the crew take irrational decisions (let’s fly into a storm!) or do the kind of silly things when confronted with danger that makes you facepalm while viewing, but this is easily compensated by the frenzied thrills, which are at the service of the storytelling.

The original Alien films were never about the search for anything profound or particularly theological. At their most primal level, they were essentially about human instinct and survival in the face of insurmountable adversity. This changed when Prometheus came out, which combined lofty aspirations with murky storytelling and a cornball, heavy-handed approach. It is thus a great relief to see Scott back in his element, working within his preferred comfort zone of space, sci-fi and thrills and exercising complete control over the fully realised production designs. The cast is functional with the exception of Michael Fassbender, who is a complete standout, balancing eerie curiosity with a devilish intent to become the film’s most enigmatic character. In many ways his android David/Walter isn’t just at the heart of Covenant’s thematic drive, he also becomes the very series’ reason for existence. On the whole, Covenant rights the wrongs of the previous film and becomes a cinematic second attempt at an Aliens origin story. The formula it applies is simple and effective – strip away the pretend intellectualism and leave a visceral, raw monster film. It works!

Rating: ★★★½☆

About Faizan Rashid

A veteran Dubai based film critic, Faizan has been reviewing movies for nearly a decade. His work has been published in local newspapers such as 7days and on prestigious online websites such as MSN Arabia and