Prometheus is a polarizing film, with many of its naysayers complaining that it isn’t “Alien enough.” So when the trailer dropped for its sequel, Alien: Covenant, fans rejoiced. It felt like a return to form for the franchise and director Ridley Scott. It felt gritty, claustrophobic, and – most importantly – scary. But trailers can be misleading. Does the film actually live up to franchise progenitor?
Right off the bat, Covenant gives off a distinct Alien vibe. The opening title sequence is a callback to how the original title appeared onscreen, piece by piece. Other films in the franchise have done this previously, but it’s still nice to see. It’s a good way to set the tone and show the audience what kind of experience they’re in for. On top of this, the opening score harkens back to 1979 as well. Composer Jed Kurzel manages to recapture the essence of Jerry Goldsmith’s original work, again setting the tone and putting the audience in the right state of mind.
Then, with the tone set, the story unfolds. Again the shadow of Alien looms, as the crew of the Covenant spaceship is taken off course when they intercept a beacon. However, the film begins to lean more in Prometheus territory after this point. A large part of Covenant is dedicated to expanding upon the themes and questions of its predecessor. The concepts of faith, creation, and free will are explored and discussed at length. Through this, though, Scott peppers in moments of horror and suspense. It’s as if the spirit of Alien is trying to break through. And in the third act, it succeeds.
There’s a clear shift in tone towards the film’s end. Covenant ceases to be Prometheus 2 and becomes the prequel to Alien that fans were hoping for it. It’s straight up survival horror, complete with a Xenomorph. Scott directs a tense, gitty finale, and it’s sure to satisfy those who have longed for the franchise to be scary again.
The characters were largely what made the first two Alien films successful. The crews of the Nostromo and the Sulaco were likable and memorable. Crew members had distinct personalities, and their chemistry with one another played was a joy to watch. This is something that the rest of the films in the franchise – including Prometheus – have lacked.
Unfortunately, Alien: Covenant also lacks this element. Granted, there are a few notable characters. Michael Fassbander stands out in particular, pulling double duty as synthetics Walter and David. Viewers also get invested in Daniels and Tennessee, played by Katherine Waterston and Danny McBride respectively. Outside of these three though, the crew is underdeveloped and forgettable.
Story and characters aside, Covenant is a gorgeous film. And keeping with the overall tone, the set design is a split. While the crew is on land, the setting is reminiscent of Prometheus. It’s not a carbon copy, but the silent and vacant surroundings carry the same vibe. Meanwhile, the Covenant ship itself is almost a dead ringer for the Nostromo. The corridors and crew areas are hauntingly familiar. By the time the film ends on the ship, it’s clear that the franchise is finally back in Alien territory.
The Bottom Line
Alien: Covenant is a transition film. It’s a balanced mix of Prometheus and Alien, so it has a little bit of something for every fan. Questions are answered while new ones are asked, and the future of the franchise is something to be excited about. Audiences may be left wanting more from the crew as a whole, but that can be forgiven thanks to strong performances from the main actors and gripping direction from Scott. While it’s still not the prequel that fans have been waiting for, Covenant is definitely a step in the right direction.