Thursday, 18 May 2017

Alien: Covenant

There’s a scene in Ridley Scott’s latest film where a couple are making out in a shower unaware that the alien creature is closing in for the kill, and watching this scene I had a momentary flashback to those Alien knock-offs that New World put out in the early 80’s – Forbidden World or Galaxy of Terror, take your pick. I can’t recall with certainty if such a scene exists in either of those Roger Corman productions, but that feeling of deja-vu is indicative of the problem of Alien: Covenant – watching the film last night I couldn’t escape the sense that I’d walked this ground many times before. Perhaps it was the side-lining of Giger’s alien for Prometheus that prompted the screenwriters of Covenant to get the series back on track so to speak, and while the face-hugger and xenomorph return in all their slithering, salivating glory, the film is simply content to fall back on familiar plot lines and ideas from the earlier films – lest we think we’re not watching an Alien film this time round. In fact the first hour of the film is essentially a remake of the 1979 film - an awkward and disorientating deux ex machina in the opening reel has the Covenant crew finding their way to the derelict spacecraft, where the film plunges into similar territory mined, unlikely as it seems by David Fincher’s much maligned sequel, while the climax, shamelessly lifts Ripley’s rescue from the infernal processing station in Aliens. Even the power loader makes a cameo of sorts. Ultimately the film feels like a disposable greatest hits package, or at one point, greatest misses - the first appearance of Michael Fassbender’s mad scientist David, draped in a monastic cloak put in mind Vincent Ward’s rejected concept for Alien 3. Perhaps most disappointing though is how underwhelming the visuals are. I made a rare excursion to the cinema to see the film (I regretted not seeing Prometheus on as large a screen as possible) but there’s little touch of the epic that made the preceding film so enjoyable, flawed as it was. Apart from one large impressive Roger Dean-style vista, the landscapes are surprisingly non-descript. One final note – the film has a sting in the tail that sets up yet another sequel, but if you know your Star Trek The Next Generation, and the S1 ep Datalore, you’ll have figured it out long before the denouement is revealed...


  1. Hey Wes, long time no rant. Hope you're well and good to see Plutonium Shores still going :)

    I loved it for the very reason that you're decrying it lol. I've been commenting all over the internet for the last year that I wanted this to be a big budget GALAXY OF TERROR, and that's exactly what I got! Last year I wrote on my blog:

    "The thing is, my expectations for COVENANT are completely different to Scott's previous ALIEN prequel. Where I wanted that movie to be a masterpiece, I'm more than happy for this one to be a weird, gory, big budget GALAXY OF TERROR type B-movie. And judging by the trailer that just hit, as well as some of the awful rumours that are getting around about the script, that's exactly what we'll be getting. ALIEN: COVENANT looks like a very odd beast indeed, like the endless cycle of cheap ALIEN knockoffs has come full circle to the point where Sir Ridley has now made one himself. Expect this one to outdo RESURRECTION in terms of bizarro self-parody."

    Why did I like it so much? The gorgeous scenes in space; the engineer necropolis; David and Walter pompously quoting Byron and Shelley; the sheer Hammer Horror-ness of David's Frankenstein lair; the gore; the all-out mean-spirited nihilism of it all. For me it added up to B-movie space horror heaven. My fave Alien click since Aliens.

  2. Aylmer, lovely to hear from you. I must admit you have made a compelling argument - all those things you liked about it make me feel like giving it a second shot. And yet I still feel there was something very safe about the film, perhaps even cynical - I got the feeling that the producers were simply intent on giving fans exactly what they wanted. I don't even think the film progressed the saga in any significant way - if we were numbering the films and Prometheus was Part 5, I'd consider Covenant, Part 5.5, it felt that thin.