One of the sad situations re: not having CinemAddicts every week is not getting the chance to praise movies like Alien: Covenant while Anderson amiably scoffs at my viewpoint. The movie was #1 at the box office but made just $36 million. Here’s my spoiler-free take on why Alien: Covenant is worth the price of admission (CinemAddicts listeners – I’m giving this movie four and a half stars!).
1. It’s Masterfully Directed By Ridley Scott
Ridley Scott is 79 and he’s still making great films like Alien: Covenant! Throughout his career Scott has directed The Duelists (his woefully underrated debut), Alien, Blade Runner, Kingdom of Heaven (the director’s cut is a masterpiece imo), Gladiator, Matchstick Men (I’m never leaving Nicolas Cage out of the equation!), The Counselor and, most recently, The Martian.
Being a 45-year-old full time manny and struggling podcaster, I simply admire Scott’s cinematic achievements. Though he’s been described as one of film’s most talented visualists for decades, he doesn’t get enough credit as a storyteller. Alien: Covenant is a nearly seamless blend of Scott’s nail-biting, B-movie aesthetic of Alien and the high minded themes of Prometheus.
My only complain about Alien: Covenant was, on an action level, it didn’t grip me as much as the most popular installments of the franchise (Alien and James Cameron’s Aliens). But credit goes to Scott for building an entirely deeper universe with the Alien franchise, and I’m just glad the franchise introduced millions to the synthetic better known as . . .
2. Michael Fassbender Knows His Way Around Synthetics!
I don’t know if you can call David (Michael Fassbender), the anti-hero of Prometheus, an “android” or even a “robot.” Since I’m not the most knowledgeable sci-fi enthusiast on the block – I’m just call him by the franchise’s given term of “synthetic.”
With Alien: Covenant, you get Fassbender returning as David and also playing a duty bound synthetic named Walter. While David is a synthetic who’s developed human qualities, Walter is an “upgrade” over David, and his sole purpose is to serve the crew of a colony ship (Walter does form a strong bond with Daniels, played by Katherine Waterston – and it’s this relationship which makes us wonder if Walter will ever become as “human” as David).
Though much of Alien: Covenant’s appeal will be to check out the Xenomorphs in action, many moviegoers may appreciate David’s personal journey as a synthetic. While everyone in the Alien universe is playing checkers, David’s going beast mode in chess. He and Ripley are my favorite characters from the Alien films, and if you love David as much as I do, there’s a ton of him in the flick.
3. The Alien: Covenant Ensemble Is Nondescript, Which Is Great
Even at two hours and three minutes, Alien: Covenant spends a sliver of time on the character’s backstories. You’ve probably seen most of the actors (Demian Bichir, Carmen Ejogo, Billy Crudup, Amy Seimetz) doing higher profile stuff in previous movies, but here they’re the proverbial lambs to the slaughter. The biggest screen time, crew wise, goes to Katherine Waterston and Danny McBride’s (he’s very good in this film as well) characters. The real stars of Alien: Covenant are the synthetics and the Xenomorphs. And that’s the way it should be!
Credit also goes to Scott for not turning Daniels (Waterston) into another Ripley knock-off. Though Daniels is as brave as they come, she’s not a rehash of the iconic heroine from yesteryear. And again, the star of both Prometheus and Alien: Covenant is Michael Fassbender, which brings us back to one of Scott’s most disagreed upon movies . . .
4. Alien: Covenant Absolutely Fleshes Out The Prometheus Narrative
When it was released in 2012, movie fans complained about the convoluted story of Prometheus. Who the f**k are the engineers and what do they have to do with humanity? Where does David’s (Fassbender) true loyalties lie and what is his fascination with the Xenomorphs? Last but not least – what the heck was Charlize Theron doing in this film?
I actually liked the ideas that were explored in Prometheus and wasn’t frustrated that I didn’t have all of my questions answered upon my first (and only) viewing of the film. Though some are pissed off that a ton of those questions are answered in Alien: Covenant, I really loved that Scott covered a ton of ground with the film. By the end, you’ll have a few more questions swirling in your head, but thankfully all those Prometheus thought bubbles can now be popped!
It’s highly recommended that you see Prometheus before Alien Covenant!! Though it can be appreciated as a standalone story (it takes place 10 years after Prometheus), you won’t get the full scope of Ridley Scott’s thematic/storytelling ambitions if you didn’t catch the first one!! If you don’t see Prometheus before Alien: Covenant, a good enough primer is The Crossing video which features the brief return of Elizabeth Shaw (Noomi Rapace).
Alien: Covenant Is Epic Storytelling About Creators And Creation
Peter Weyland (Guy Pearce), looking much more healthier than he did in Prometheus, has his creation David playing a Richard Wagner piece on piano. Though David complies and understands Weyland is his “father,” he pointedly remarks that Weyland will eventually die while he will live on.
The opening minutes of Alien: Covenant sets in motion a story about what one will do for the sake of creation and life. Do we proceed in life duty bound like Walter or are we inextricably linked to our own religious faith like Oram (Billy Crudup)? Or, maybe we simply have a God complex like David?
One of the many beauties behind Alien: Covenant is its assertion that, no matter what side of the fence you’re on, humanity is not the king or queen of the universe. As much as Ozymandias is a poem that fits David’s own motivations, Shelley’s poem also turns a mirror to us, reminding us that time remains unbeaten.
But throw all that high-fallutin ideas out the window and you’ll still have a healthy amount of gore and violence to make Alien: Covenant a worthy watch. I’m absolutely gobsmacked that the film made just $36 million in its opening weekend – hopefully this doesn’t stop 20th Century Fox from making another Alien flick! There’s still an interesting story to cover before he get into the original Alien timeline!
Have you seen Alien: Covenant? Feel free to share your thoughts below!!