Alien: Covenant, the sixth film in the Alien franchise and the second of three prequels that lead up to the first Alien film, excellently brings the signature science fiction monster movie back to the big screen. Set years after Prometheus, we join the crew of the colony ship “Covenant” on its trip to a distant world. Unfortunately, an accident wakes the crew prematurely and they receive a distress signal that leads them to a planet that might be even better for colonization. The one small problem, of course, is that the planet serves as a home to some particularly nasty aliens.
Before you can say the words “dangerous xenomorph,” chests are exploding, androids are doing shady things, and more mysteries regarding the xenomorph mythos are revealed as the crew of the Covenant find themselves fighting for their lives. In particular, Michael Fassbender does an excellent job in his dual role, and Danny McBride surprises us by bringing some blue collar ethos that throws back to the original movie’s working class vibe. Even James Franco’s brief appearance has some resonance.
If you’ve never seen an Alien movie, then no doubt you’ll be blown away. But for those of us who have been with the franchise from the beginning, you’ll see parallels between Alien: Covenant and Star Wars: The Force Awakens in that the creative teams seemed determined to present more of what worked in the previous incarnations instead of going in a new direction like, say, Alien: Resurrection or Prometheus.
Considering the early rumors indicating that the monster component was going to be jettisoned entirely, it’s a relief that common sense prevailed. After all, no matter how interesting the “Engineers” featured in Prometheus might be, the franchise has never been an exploration of the origin of the species, but rather what happens when mankind comes face-to-facehugger with the unknown. So it seems only right that Ridley Scott’s return to the franchise sets the “ship” back on its proper course with a tight script from John Logan, whose time on Penny Dreadful clearly honed his horror chops.
Covenant also features crisp special effects, visually beautiful sets, multiple types of xenomorphs, questionable androids, and the claustrophobic terror of being trapped in the dark. And while we’ve seen all of this in the previous movies, Covenant presents a very well executed compilation of all the elements that made its predecessors so fun and scary. It’s like an old song you love that’s been re-done and remixed, hitting all the same high notes.
Overall Alien: Covenant is a vast improvement over Prometheus that both newcomers and old fans will enjoy. I give it a B+.
Running time: 123 minutes