MOVIE REVIEW: Alien: Covenant

In 2012, two types of people exited showings of Prometheus; those satisfied with the earnest attempt to weave some different ideas into the Alien franchise, and those pissed off at the lack of bloody, chest bursting goodness. Count me in the former. I quite liked Prometheus. I liked that director Ridley Scott chose to examine deeper themes and do some world building rather than take the easy way out in catering solely to the ADD crowd seeking nothing more than guts and gore.

Flash forward to now, and the release of Prometheus 2.0, also known as Alien: Covenant. I’ll come right out and say that I liked this film quite a bit, even if it feels like a course correction on Prometheus to appease some of those aforementioned pissed off fans.  And that’s the rub. Your thoughts on Prometheus may shape your thoughts on Covenant.  And while I liked both of these films, it is time for Scott to propel this franchise forward.  After essentially the same movie twice, it’s time to find out who the engineers are. It’s time understand some of the science and history of the titular xenomorphs.  And it’s definitely time to get a handle on whatever it is these darn synthetics are up to. If the next installment is nothing more than another ragtag crew du jour made up of scientists that make horrible life choices, we may have a problem.

We definitely get a heavier dose of aliens in Covenant. They’re faster and more vicious than ever. Chests are bursting at a more satisfying pace. It’s fair to say Scott is still able to craft tense scenes that draw audible gasps from his audience, even when the timing of those moments are pretty obvious. It’s all quite impressive to look at, with top notch production value and set design.

This time around, we are aboard the colony ship, Covenant, loaded with a crew and two thousand embryos on course for a new planet to inhabit in a galaxy far, far away. The film starts out Passengers style, with the crew snuggled in cryo-chambers for safe keeping as the years wile away during the lengthy journey. A malfunction leads to tragic events, and the crew must now deal with some new circumstances before they can consider jumping back into the cryo-pods to finish hibernating. As is typical with this franchise, very smart people make some very questionable choices. Years of study and training can somehow be derailed by the soulful stylings of Mr. John Denver.

As the crew detours to seek out strange signals, hoping they may have discovered a much closer, habitable planet than the one they’ve prepared for, because…wheat…. shenanigans soon ensue. This crew is led by Daniels (Katherine Waterston) and Oram (Billy Crudup), both of who are up to the task as the film’s main protagonists. Add Daniels as another in a sequence of strong female characters in the franchise. Much like Sigourney Weaver’s Ripley and Noomi Rapace’s Dr. Elizabeth Shaw, Waterston portrays Daniels with a combination of intelligence and strength. Also notable is Danny McBride, as the ‘throw caution to the wind’ ship’s pilot, Tennessee. He’s a franchise trope, but a fun one to watch.

But let’s not think for a second this film doesn’t stand on the broad shoulders of Michael Fassbender, here playing two versions of synthetic android- David from Prometheus, and Walter, a new and improved version of synthetic traveling with the Covenant crew. We knew David was up to something in Prometheus, but Scott doubles down on that idea here in Covenant. Fassbender’s movements, chilling demeanor, and ‘cat that ate the canary’ expressions are worth the price of admission. He ably transitions from one personality to another, giving each synthetic an unique voice.

Alien: Covenant fits neatly into the Alien mythology. It ties well with Prometheus, answering enough of the lingering questions from that film to move forward. Yet, whatever comes next needs to do just that. Move forward. We cannot be satisfied with another side quest film that treads water, regardless of how entertaining it is. Regardless of how brilliant Fassbender is. Regardless how much John Denver is used. Covenant does enough to put the series in a position to build upon the mythology, but we’re at the proverbial crossroads. Which way Scott goes next may determine the viability of future installments.

What We Learned This Week: May 14-20

LESSON #1: YOU’RE GOING TO LIKE WHERE THE ALIEN FRANCHISE IS GOING— Five years ago, after Prometheus, audiences were scratching their heads about the beating-around-the-bush purpose of the film and where any Alien  prequels were going.  For a bit there, I didn’t even think Ridley Scott knew.  Alien: Covenant builds on the mythology and world-building of Prometheus in a strong and effective way to add in the horror and suspense elements that Prometheus was missing.  These Scott prequels, with a few more possible installments, are planned to plug into 1979’s Alien.  After Alien: Covenant, I like their trajectory and I think Alien fans like yourself will too.

LESSON #2: CONTINUE KEEPING YOUR COOL AND PATIENCE WITH WONDER WOMAN— Two weeks ago in this column, I argued for people to cool their jets on movie marketing, particularly the example of the lack of it when it comes to Wonder Woman.  The first reactions are in and start inhaling for those sighs of relief.  I’ll repeat my rant: The number one marketing tool that costs zero dollars for any studio is WORD OF MOUTH.  Good movies sell themselves.  Make a good movie and people will come, period.  You’re going to thank me and yourself on June 3rd.

LESSON #3: A24 IS A BIG-TIME PLAYER WITH SMALL-SCALE FILMS— In four short years, A24 Films has gone from an indie shingle pushing Spring Breakers and The Spectacular Now to an industry leader and Oscar winner.  GQ wrote an excellent piece on their history.  2016 was a banner year led by Moonlight‘s Best Picture victory and a portfolio of Swiss Army ManThe Witch20th Century Women, and Green Room.  This year looks equally promising with A Ghost StoryThe Disaster ArtistsGood TimeKilling of a Sacred Deer, and more.  Remember the name and the logo.  You’ll be seeing them often.

LESSON #4: KEEP AN EYE ON THE CANNES FILM FESTIVAL THIS WEEK— Speaking of independent studios and film acquisitions that can turn into Oscar contenders, turn your eyes to the French Riviera for the world premieres, reviews, movie buzz, and deals being made at the annual Cannes Film Festival.  Execs and big-timers work hard and play hard while enjoying the finer things and patting their own backs.


DON SHANAHAN is a Chicago-based film critic writing on his website Every Movie Has a Lesson.  He is also one of the founders and the current directors of the Chicago Independent Film Critics Circle.  As an elementary educator by day, Don writes his movie reviews with life lessons in mind, from the serious to the farcical.  As a contributor here on Feelin’ Film, he’s going to expand those lessons to current movie news and trends.  Find “Every Movie Has a Lesson” on Facebook, Twitter, Medium, and Creators Media.

Feelin’ It: Alien: Covenant

RUN. PRAY. HIDE. Our spoiler-free review of Alien: Covenant is here and hopefully will help you decide if it’s worth seeing. Don Shanahan joins Aaron to discuss this newest entry into the Alien-verse. Does Scott still have some magic left? Listen now to find out.

Don Shanahan

Twitter: @CasablacaDon
Blog: Every Movie Has a Lesson

Alien: Covenant Review on Every Movie Has a Lesson

Download the Audio Review Here

Minisode 20: Alien Franchise

In celebration of Alien Day, we have assembled a ragtag crew of horror fanatics and podcasters for a roundtable discussion about Alien and the franchise it has spawned. Returning guest hosts Reed Lackey and Blake Collier bring their vast genre knowledge to a robust conversation that starts at the beginning and ends at… the actual beginning? We touch on every film in the franchise, with a focus on Alien. So sit back, listen, and enjoy this awesome episode as we get ourselves ready for Alien: Covenant.

Blake Collier

Twitter: @blakeicollier / @thebodytheblood
Website: blakeicollier.com
Podcast: The Body|The Blood

Reed Lackey

Twitter: @reedlackey / @TheFearofGod
Website: morethanonelesson.com
Podcast: The Fear of God


Intro/Outro Music – “Air Hockey Saloon” by Chris Zabriskie

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