Perhaps you have heard the mixed reaction to Alien Covenant and are wondering if you should it? I would say yes…if you want to see some amazing acting by Michael Fassbender, if you appreciate movies filled with references to Romantic literature and art, or if you like quiet horror that leaves you with a sense of dread.
Ok, but why should a dedicated Alien fan see Alien Covenant? To answer that question, I need to talk a little about how I view Ridley Scott’s Prometheus. But before I do that, I will admit that you might be disappointed if you go in hoping to see the Alien xenomorph slowly stalk and kill a spaceship crew (like one did in Alien), or if you go in hoping to see a horde of xenomorphes use their hive mind intelligence to wipe out a unit of soldiers (like they did in Aliens).
I’m being a bit cheeky here, but I think many (most?) would agreed that Alien and Aliens are classics. How do you follow in the footsteps of a classic? I think the makers of Aliens were very shrewd. They shifted genres from a Gothic horror story set in space, to an action-packed war picture. And in doing so, they made another sci-fi classic.
So in 2017 what is Scott to do? He was wise and created something new. This something new (which started with Prometheus in 2012) is answering some questions prompted by the first installment of the franchise. Namely, where did the crashed alien ship come from? Why was it carrying its very deadly cargo? And how exactly did the Company know that the crew of the Nostromo would find the xenomorph on the planetoid LV-426? For the dedicated Alien fan, the answers to these questions can be glimpsed in Prometheus and Alien Covenant and thus are required viewing.
I admit that I loved Prometheus. It bravely addresses big philosophical issues, questions male-dominated science claiming control of creation, and, as in other Alien films, it shows the male body being violated. If a horror movie should make its viewer uncomfortable, I’d argue Prometheus succeeds based on the above alone.
However, since the eponymous Alien of the franchise did not appear in Prometheus it is fair to ask what does the movie have do with the franchise. The short answer is we meet the species (the Engineers) that piloted the crashed ship that Dallas, Kane, and Lambert explore (and see one of their ships in flight). At the end of Prometheus, Elizabeth Shaw and the android David head to the Engineers’ home planet. In Covenant, we find out what happened to Shaw and David.
We are still a ways always from the Nostromo landing on LV-426. But Covenant takes several large and shocking steps closer. The picture is being filled in. The pieces of the puzzle are starting to fall into place. But while Covenant answers some questions, it raises more which I think is a good thing. I look forward to seeing what the next steps looks like.
One final note. We find out the fate of Elizabeth Shaw, and if I have one criticism of the movie it is that a viewer could miss the revelation as it passes so quickly. So, if I’ve convinced you to see Covenant, watch that last act carefully – it is densely packed.