Review: Intriguing how Alien: Covenant opens with a birth, a genesis, in a majestic all-white background contrasts with the franchise’ primal return to its origin. That birth accompanied by Wagner’s Entry of The Gods Into Valhalla is designed to bridge over two worlds – the stark, horror space of Ridley Scott’s Alien (1979) and the odd, philosophy-heavy world of Prometheus (2012) – and continue the cycle. Of gods and men, of gods and monsters, this bleak covenant is more a continuation than a return.
For the flight of Covenant, Mr. Scott amalgamates small dose of Alien’s infernal, frigid space horror with larger dose of Prometheus’ dialogue-laden, existentialism wisdom unevenly, but perfectly, to ignite nostalgia, while at the same time, connect dots.
The covenant in Covenant starts in Covenant, a colony ship en route to Origae-6. As the crews (now a group of couples, not prisoners, not mercs) received a rogue transmission from nearby constellation, they set to investigate a promising, life-supporting planetoid. Only recently-widowed Daniels (Katherine Waterston) smells the reeks of hazard from the unknown planet. Traumatized and tempted at the same time, the crews still land after all.
Unbeknownst to them, the planet conceals a secret. Whether it is the titular terror or usual terror is best kept as a secret; but, one thing for sure, those couples are saved by David (Michael Fassbender), a survivor of the tragic Prometheus. Bad news, good news, who knows?
When you’ve watched Alien saga, you’ll quickly figure the answer out: there’s no good news in this franchise. Even gods’ invitation in Prometheus means catastrophe and distress call in Alien cryptically says ‘death’. Good news is only meant for fans of this space-horror series. Covenant brings along favorite paraphernalia from the old decades: from MOTHER, quarantine fuss, Ovomorphs, Facehuggers, Chestbuster, to the fan-revered Xenomorphs. Mr. Scott juxtaposes and combines those “retro-kits” with relatively recent merchandise – from the black liquid to the very own Engineers.
Bearing the Alien title, Covenant isn’t a shy type (like Prometheus); when it’s intense, it’s aggressively intense and when it needs to kill, it kills violently and gorily. Intense deaths and cold-blooded kills (while actually acid-blooded ones) are guaranteed. However, Mr. Scott’s penchant to craft a calm, suspenseful terror like he did in Alien is weighed down by the urgency to catch up with Prometheus’ spiritual narrative. The shift between tones sometimes collapses in the process, creating a clumsy narration. Yet, when it has found the grip again, Covenant is strongly convincing.
On a different light, the femme fatale nature of the series is toned down; Waterston’s Daniels isn’t apparently an incarnation of Ellen Ripley or Elizabeth Shaw. As a substitution, a sexually ambiguous being s – not the aliens, but David and Walter (also Fassbender) – steal the spotlight. It’s difficult to root to other character but those two droids, especially when their interaction reflects Alien implicit discussion of sexuality (this time they profoundly discuss ‘creation’ as a product of sexuality).
In the end, Alien: Covenant has convincingly become a bleak amalgam of Alien’s horror and Prometheus’ spirituality. Mr. Scott knows the dose to create a bridge and a door to those new in the world of Alien. Undoubtedly, it’s more Prometheus than Alien, although the terror is Alien-sized. It all goes to show us that that whatever universe this saga in is a perfect cycle. We only need to look forward for the next phase to complete the cycle.
Alien: Covenant (2017)