Horror Movie Review: Alien – Covenant (2017)

There was a massive amount of excitement surrounding Alien: Covenant after the polarising Prometheus. Love it or hate, most can agree that Prometheus was a bit of a mess. It left way too many questions open regarding the history of the Xenomorph.

That it barely felt like an Alien movie didn’t exactly help matters either.

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Director Ridley Scott appeared to listen to the criticism of Prometheus as Alien: Covenant looked to delve deeply into the backstory of the Xenomorph. Going off the trailer it was a return to the horror present in the very first Alien movie.

Unfortunately, Alien: Covenant isn’t just a disappointing movie…it’s a terrible movie. A movie that answers questions in the most laughable way imaginable. A movie that ends up creating even more by time the credits roll.

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Who cares that a Xenomorph finally makes an appearance if the movie it’s in is such a draining & vapid experience. Alien: Covenant is filled with idiotic plot developments, idiotic characters with no stories & some hilariously bad CGI.

The movie opens on a boorish & lengthy conversation between Peter Weyland (Guy Pearce) & the newly created synthetic, David (Michael Fassbender). This scene is pre-Prometheus & sees the pair discussing humanity & the search for mankind’s creator. It goes on for absolutely ages & instantly highlights one of Alien: Covenant’s problems…talking about nothing.

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Years later the ship, Covenant is bound for a remote planet, Origae-6 with the plan being to colonise it. Aboard the ship are 2000 colonists & 1000 embryos as well as the crew who are currently in stasis. The ship is being run by the advanced computer, Mother & the synthetic Walter (Fassbender). Walter is modelled on David but with less ‘free will’.

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A sudden neutrino burst damages the ship forcing Walter to wake the crew up. Unfortunately, the captain (pointlessly played by James Franco) is killed. His pod malfunctions burning him alive & leaving Christopher Oram (Billy Crudup) in charge. His wife, Daniels (Katherine Waterson) is devastated but throws herself into making the repairs needed.

The rest of the crew get busy too but during a spacewalk, Tennessee Faris (Danny McBride) picks up a transmission from a nearby planet. The transmission appears to be from a human, a human singing a song. The planet in question seems to be habitable for human life, maybe more so then Origae-6.

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Captain Oram decides alongside the majority of the crew, to take a team down to the planet & investigate the signal. The only one who thinks it’s a bad idea is Daniels but she follows orders & goes along anyway.

The planet is a gorgeous landscape, not unlike earth & seems perfect for the Covenant crew. That is until they find a crashed engineer ship.

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Inside they find the signal was set by Elizabeth Shaw (Noomi Rapace) from Prometheus but the ship is empty. It’s during this expedition that two different members of the team are infected by spores. Shortly afterwards both have Neomorphs erupt from their bodies (very gory, very pleasing) & the ship the team came in is destroyed.

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Stranded & under attack from the Neomorphs the crew are suddenly rescued by an unknown man who leads them to the mass graveyard that was once an engineer city. Once inside their rescuer reveals himself to be David. He’s been living here since him & Shaw crashed landed on route to finding the engineer home world. She died in the crash according to David.

Unable to contact the Covenant, the crew are forced to stay with David who take a fatherly interest in Walter. Some are suspicious of his story though & when a Neomorph attacks killing more crew, Oram confronts David who agrees to show him his work.

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David reveals that he has been experimenting with the engineer ‘goo’ & has created face-huggers. With human beings now on the planet he can finally continue his work by infecting them. Oram is ‘face-hugged’ while stupidly staring into an egg & shortly afterwards a Xenomorph is born. David’s plan has worked, his ultimate weapon is born & the rest of the Covenant crew are now in a desperate fight to survive an enemy they know nothing about.

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Where do you start with this utter mess…?

That the classic Xenomorph is just a product of David’s experimentation is so unsatisfying. It removes any & all mystery from their backstory & beginnings. They’re nothing but the creation of a synthetic with a god complex. This might be the worst thing about Alien: Covenant.

It removes threat from a creature that is all about threat! What makes the entire story point worse though is that when this particular Xeno is born it emerges & visually looks exactly like an Alien but just way smaller. There is no progression here that is seen in the very first Alien movie, it’s just really small & then suddenly huge. That it raises its arms copying David’s actions is hilariously cheesy & I almost expected it to say ‘Dada’.

The final 20 odd minutes are the remaining crew fighting off the fully-grown Alien. This is the best part of the movie as it combines classic horror elements with that feeling of claustrophobia. The alien is still very dangerous even if it acts like a bit of an idiot. Unfortunately for all the gore & horror that this sequence has it also serves a horrible reminder of just how poorly written these characters are.

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No-one beyond Walter & David has development. There is no ‘getting to know the crew’ sequence, relationships aren’t fleshed out & it genuinely comes as surprise when the film reveals that most of the crew are married to each other. Why would you care about Daniel’s husband dying when he is literally in the movie for 10 seconds? Why would you care about the married crew members that are killed in the shower by the Xeno when they’ve barely had screen time?

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Throw in the awful decisions made by others, such as Oram holding David at gunpoint but then staring directly into an alien egg. What is with these characters here & in Prometheus just sticking their faces into things?

As pointed out above the only characters who get time to develop are Walter & David. They have a sort of father & son vibe thing going on. However, these scenes are so lengthy, so filled with filler dialogue & pointless moments that they are infuriating. The scene where David teaches Walter to play a flute will be the moment where most just throw their hands up & say, I’m done.

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The Neomorphs CGI looks terrible at times. For a film with this kind of budget & backing it is incredibly disappointing to see such awful effects. Even the Xeno doesn’t look right particularly in a scene where it crawls down a ladder.

Alien: Covenant does answer many of the questions that Prometheus asked. However, leaves a whole load more & once again creates plot holes for the earlier movies. It’s almost like those involved don’t care about the original franchise. They just want to tell this story about humanities origins but know fans want the Xeno. So they jam it in with little thought or care.

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I find it very difficult to say much positive about Covenant. Some of the actors do well with what they are given & the locations are visually stunning. The music feels very Alien with a mix of classic & modern ideas working well together. However, it’s just such an overall poor experience & a massive disappointment.

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  • Carl Fisher

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Alien: Covenant
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