Alien: Covenant | Movie Review

Spoilers will commence after the full review so you can read the majority of it and see the grade without getting bombarded with spoilerific stuff!

Alien: Covenant is the first movie from the Alien franchise that I’ve had the opportunity to see. Thus I can only review Alien: Covenant as a stand alone movie. I can’t compare it to other movies in the franchise or comment on how well it fits within the already established canon.

Alien: Covenant follows a small group of crew members on board the Covenant, a space ship making a 7-year long trip to a planet known as Origae-6. The goal of this trip? To colonise the distant planet with the 2000 crew members and the 1000 embryos on board.

The crew members of the Covenant were woken up from hyper sleep early so that they could repair the ship after it was damaged by a spontaneous neutrino burst. During this emergency wake up, the captain and several colonists were killed. Daniels, a member of the crew and Captain Branson’s wife was hit hardest by his death. The second in command, Oram takes up the role of Captain. The crew receive a mysterious radio communication from a nearby planet after being woken up from their hyper sleep. This nearby planet seems just as habitable as Origae-6. Captain Oram decides that the best course of action is to investigate it. Worst decision ever- actually scratch that, the captain makes another decision later that is markedly more asinine.

Alien: Covenant wants to have an ensemble cast however, not many of the characters receive the attention or introductions that they should have for this to work. Daniels, Oram, Tennessee David and Walter are the only characters that get any sort of development and they still don’t feel as fleshed out as they could have been. There were quite a few characters to cover, so some of them were bound to get pushed aside. Saying that, the opening and first half of the movie was long, slow and uneventful. It stands to reason that some of that time could have been used to better introduce some of the other characters. Instead we get a drawn out scene with David (a synthetic) and his creator Mr. Weyland. Though important for set up, this scene could have been a little shorter.

Daniels and Walter, who I would argue are the focus of the movie do get decent introductions and later some good character development scenes. These two also have some really touching moments together. All of this is soured by the ending of the movie, but I’ll go into that more after the spoiler warning.

One of the more bizarre aspects of the movie was that the crew was completely comprised of married couples. Admittedly this is more of a nit pick, but I feel the need to address it anyway. This may have been the writers trying to make viewers automatically relate to or care about the crew, without having to develop them as much. While I understand that it’s hard to make the viewers care about every member of an ensemble cast, it felt a little cheap. My guess is that the writers expected people to be all “aw, they’re married and they love each other how cute oh- and now their loved ones are dying horrible bloody deaths right before their eyes, so sad!” It could have been sad if we had gotten to know any of these characters, but that sadly isn’t the case for the majority of them.

One can only assume that the aforementioned drawn out beginning of the movie was to build suspense. The only problem with that is that it yielded poor results. The build up would tried to make you to believe there would be a horrifying or at least thrilling pay off. Unfortunately, that was not the case. This was chiefly because the alien was not scary. Nothing about it was left ambiguous which took away from what the alien could and very well should have been; an unknown and utterly terrifying killing machine.

Not technically a horror film, Alien Covenant is classified as a sci-fi thriller along with the other movies. Regardless of the fact that this was not technically a horror movie, there was an expectation that the alien would provide some good scares. Yes, there was an in movie reason as to why the first few aliens we saw were not as intimidating as the last few, but even the ones seen near the end never truly felt like a threat. This would be more of a problem if the alien were the sole antagonist of the movie.

One way to describe Alien: Covenant is predictable. It’s important to note that predictable doesn’t automatically equal bad, especially since most movies have elements that we have all seen before; it’s nearly impossible to avoid at this point. If Alien: Covenant  provided more engagement and thrills, then the predictable moments might not have felt so obvious. Alien: Covenant failed to do that. This was due in no small part to how slow the movie was. Even when things began to pick up midway through, things still went along at a leisurely pace. This made the predictable scenes stand out. If the pacing had just been a little faster this problem might have been solved, for the most part. There were still some moments that even with a faster pace would likely have been obvious to anyone watching.

When the action scenes rolled around things did pick up speed, unfortunately in addition to speeding things up they also dimmed the lights and shook the camera. Shaky cam wasn’t used for every action sequence, but when it was utilised it was downright nauseating. There was a moment near the beginning of the movie when some of the crew members were attempting to land on the planet that had atrocious shaky cam. This scene was so bad that I personally found it almost unwatchable. All of this was made even worse by the fact that the last third of the movie kicked into over drive, as if the studio wanted to get it over with as fast as possible. It would not surprise me if most people watching felt that way too, after all it was a long movie.

Despite all of those complaints, there were some good things in Alien: Covenant. For one the Aliens near the end of the movie looked pretty good, and the gore while present, was not over stated. A few of the action sequences were thrilling and well deserved too.

Though many of the crew members get pushed to the side, a few characters such as Tennessee and Captain Oram do stand out from the rest, which is likely due to how the actors portrayed them. In fact the majority of the cast did a great job in terms of acting, however there were two stand out performances among them; Katherine Waterston and Michael Fassbender.

Katherine Waterston gave a wonderful performance as Daniels; a woman who was struggling to over come grief while attempting to navigate a precarious and unfamiliar situation. It’s no fault of Katherine’s acting that her character felt a tad bit flat. Yes, Daniels is one of the more interesting characters, but its hard not to notice that she is also remarkably unflawed.

Michael Fassbender portrayed Walter, a synthetic from the Covenant ship and David, an older model synthetic who appeared to be the sole survivor of the Prometheus mission. Fassbender is excellent in both these roles. His portrayal of the two different synthetics was by far the best part of the movie. Though some of the scenes between Walter and David were too long and a tad overstated, they served to highlight the key differences in their programmed personalities and logic. Up until the very end Walter was a central character alongside Daniels. Even if the writing hadn’t dictated that Walter was an important character, Fassbender’s acting would have.

Alien: Covenant was an okay movie. Though it was good on a technical level, the writing and structure seemed to lack a certain energy that would have made it far more memorable. More than anything the predictable nature of the plot is what really held this movie back.  Overall Alien: Covenant get’s a C.

Have you seen the other Alien movies? What did you think about Alien: Covenant? Let me know in the comments below!

spoilerwarning

Spoiler time!

Captain Oram’s death was so incredibly predictable and frustrating. The writing here seriously failed on so many counts. Yes, Oram was an insecure character which lead to him being a bit of a push over, but he was insecure because he cared far too much what his subordinates thought of him. David was not an original member of Oram’s crew, and he’d already proven himself to be suspicious, so Oram had no reason to try and placate or trust him. He was also alone with David, so it’s not like he was trying to be civil or trusting for the sake of his crew. Oram had no reason to do as David instructed. Yet he still walked over and examined the alien egg, which promptly released a face hugger that attached itself firmly to his face. Dumbest decision ever.

The worst part of the movie came near the end. Walter saves Daniels from an attack by David. This causes a fight between the two synthetics. While Daniels escapes, David and Walter’s fight escalates. Even with all it’s shakiness and dark lighting, this fight would have been a highlight of the movie if we’d gotten to see the rest of it. The reason we don’t? Well that’s because David wins the fight, takes Walter’s clothes and cuts off one of his arms so that he can masquerade as Walter to get aboard the Covenant. All of this is so he can sabotage the entire colonisation mission. It was obvious from the moment the movie cut away from the two synthetics mid fight what was happening. It was also pretty obvious how Daniels would come to find out that it was actually David aboard the Covenant and not Walter. Daniels mentions in a conversation with Walter at the beginning of the movie that when she and her husband had come on this mission, their goal was to build a cottage on a lake when they arrived at Orgiae-6. This gets brought up a second time when Walter comments that the planet the radio transmission was from seemed to be a good place to build a cottage (this was before the whole alien thing became apparent). A decent amount of importance was put on this, so it was obvious Daniels would bring it up again near the very end of the movie. However, David knew nothing of this, which is what tipped Daniels off. Before Daniels could do anything, she was put into hyper sleep by David.

All of that could have made for a decent twist ending, except for the fact that there was no other indication aside from the aforementioned cut away from the two synths mid fight that would lead you to believe that it was in fact David and not Walter on the ship. When David is alone in the control room watching Daniels and Tennessee eject the alien from the ships airlock, he reacts as though he is relieved when Daniels survives and successfully rids the ship of the alien. This makes no sense. No one else was around so he had no reason to pretend, which makes this moment purposely misleading for the viewers. That is not how you write a good twist. And if David is honesty relieved that begs the question, why? Whether Daniels survives or not and whether the alien remains on the ship or not he accomplishes his end goal, which is presumably to destroy the colony with the alien species. David even took two alien embryos aboard the ship! Yes, after putting Daniels and Tennessee into hyper sleep, David regurgitates and places two alien embryos in to the cold storage with the human ones. So either way, whatever the outcome of the final confrontation between Daniels and the alien, he had a back up plan. To add insult to injury, David records a log as Walter stating that Daniels and Tennessee were the only survivors of the neutrino blast that happened at the beginning of the movie as though to cover up the events that just took place. Why?! After Daniels realizes he is not Walter, David just lets her live, knowing that she will likely out him the moment she wakes up on Origae-6. He clearly doesn’t want anyone to know about the aliens right away, hence recording the log, so why keep her alive? That completely defeats the purpose of recording the log, unless he planned to kill Daniels upon arriving at Origae-6, but then why not kill her right then and there?

And last but not least, not getting to see Walter’s death felt like an insult. Throughout the whole movie he had been a very integral character, yet he’s simply brushed aside at the end in favour of a cheap twist.

Alien: Covenant, while not a bad movie definitely could have used a better ending.

 

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