‘ALIEN: COVENANT’ (2017) SPOILERS REVIEW – The Genius Plot Lying Within.
Alien: Covenant has finally arrived in Australian cinemas to mostly positive reviews with the film’s performances, Ridley Scott‘s visuals, and his return to gruesome horror amongst its most praised qualities. Now where a lot can be said about this film without spoiling the key moments integral to the story there is a lot of compelling spoiler filled content that is worth highlighting and discussing. And that is what i want to do here. Some topics are intriguing story elements that are introduced and exist within this film alone whereas others are elements of the film tied directly to other films in the Alien franchise, big moments for fans. That being said, this post will contain HEAVY SPOILERS for Alien: Covenant so if you have not yet seen the film and don’t want this Sci-Fi Horror to be spoiled for you, stop here, bookmark this page and come back once you have seen it. But if you have seen the film and want a little more insight into the good and bad spoiler filled moments stick around beyond the break.
As a huge fan of the Alien films, a franchise that stretches way back to 1979 and a massive fan of 2012’s Prometheus (a film that sits within my top 10 of all time) it’s safe to say one aspect of the film I and many others were most looking forward to was how the events of Prometheus (set 10 years prior) would tie into this film, and in what quantity. Going into the film i was aware that there would be some reference to what happened with Dr Elizabeth Shaw (Noomi Rapace) and the synthetic David (Michael Fassbender) after the events of the film and the prologue short titled The Crossing. But i was pleasantly surprised to find out that this movie was much more of a Prometheus sequel than i anticipated, delving pretty deeply into what became of David (who appears significantly in the film) and Elizabeth (who is featured a short and emotional cameo). So the film explains the events of the last 10 years as follows:
Following the events of Prometheus, Elizabeth repairs David and in return David agrees to transport her to the home planet of the Engineers (the beings responsible for the creation of life on Earth) in order to seek answers as to why the Engineers decided to turn against mankind. David navigates a Juggernaut spacecraft to the planet but rather than waking Elizabeth from hypersleep on arrival he instead bombards the planet with thousands of Steatite Ampules. Containing the biological weapon manufactured by the Engineers they seemingly wipe out the entire Engineer civilisation turning the planet into a breeding ground for the various aliens. Following the ships crash landing onto the planet David continued his research on the aliens, studying their behaviour, learning to communicate with them, and attempting to create the perfect living organism. It is also discovered that during his research he used Elizabeth as a test subject in giving birth to new alien creatures, ultimately killing her and studying her remains.
All of this information picked from just a handful of scenes was very fascinating and such an awesome way to satisfyingly close out all loose ends from the end of Prometheus. Finding out what happened to Elizabeth at the hands of David was a very emotional end to her story with that scene of her cut open body on the table bringing back all of the feels. Also, the incorporation of Track Number Four on the Prometheus soundtrack titled Life in this revealing scene got me all choked up as it is a beautiful little piece of Prometheus‘ incredible score that is now forever tied to Elizabeth’s character. Finding out what became of the Engineers was unfortunate as i was looking forward to seeing more of their civilisation but maybe in a future film we get more of that? Also seeing David’s horrific actions once studying the Engineers may raise questions as to why he did such things….. Thankfully though, David’s arc doesn’t stop there as he is also integral to the story unfolding within Alien: Covenant, especially with his many interactions with Walter (Michael Fassbender), the second synthetic character in the film.
By far the most compelling relationship featuring the most intriguing interactions in the entire film was that between David and Walter. Their story within this film was less of an action oriented one and was instead very intelligent, meaningful, and gripping comprised of many endlessly compelling scenes looking at ideas of creation, emotion, and a stark contrast between humans and machines. One detail of their relationship that was very fascinating was how David, being an earlier model, was capable of feeling and expressing emotion, and also capable of self thought and obtaining a heightened intelligence whereas Walter was not as humans later deemed those qualities in a synthetic to be hard to control. This lead to a great scene where upon learning of Walters inability to think outside his given parameters David is disappointed in what he sees and kills Walter (albeit temporarily). This difference in the two regarding a higher thinking and human-like improvisation is explored once more in the final moments of David and Walter’s fight where David is able to use his intelligence to manipulate Walter with words, giving him enough time to turn the tables, killing Walter before getting his head smashed in (something not found out until the very end).
Throughout all of their scenes David had a goal, he was trying to convince Walter to see life as he also sees it, and turn on their creators (the humans) taking over as the more superior life-form. David strives to have Walter witness the greatness he could achieve if only he stopped serving his creators and became a creator himself, as David has already accomplished through his various alien experiments. Every moment together, every expression of emotion was all calculated to turn Walter onto his side. This all paid off amazingly in a mind-blowing turn of events where in the end of the film you find out that it isn’t Walter who has survived and is putting Daniels (Katherine Waterston) into hypersleep but it is in fact David. Now some people are saying that this reveal was predictable right from the moment they didn’t show Walter actually kill David, but for me it really wasn’t, and that was again due to the little nuances in all of their interactions throughout the film. Like i said, the whole film David was trying to get Walter to adopt his point of view that the Humans didn’t deserve to start life over and my thoughts in those final moments were that maybe David’s plan had come to fruition and Walter had turned to the Dark Side. There were two moments shortly before the reveal where you see a slight sign of pleasure in Walter’s face at the sign of danger, that is when all of those prior scenes paid off in making you think that maybe this is Walter and he really has changed. But nope, it was David all along and in his final moments he regurgitates two alien embryos and places them in storage with the human embryos. Whatever he has planned most likely won’t turn out good for the humans.
Now that’s enough about David, Walter, and the films connections to Prometheus, i now want to briefly elaborate a little more on the crew of characters in the film and exactly why it was harder to get emotionally attached to them within this film. In Prometheus and the original Alien much time is spent introducing all of the crew with distinct personalities, giving us insight into their various relationships, and developing the characters so that you are able to form a bond with most, if not all of them. But here the plot introduces all of the characters as couples, stating that for every crew member you see there is a loved one on board who they really care about, which is fine as an introductory detail. But for whatever reason the film uses this detail and this detail alone as a way of trying to get you to care when everyone loses their partner at some point in the film. It was like the film was saying ‘well, these people cared for each other so you should too’….. and it just didn’t work emotionally.
For instance, one of the key deaths that the film spends quite a bit of time on was the death of Branson (James Franco) in the opening minutes of the film. Aside from the prologue short titled The Last Supper there is no time at all spent with his character as within seconds of meeting him on screen he bursts into flames and dies. But then following this event the film stops to mourn the loss of a character we never met, we get a makeshift funeral and scenes of various characters shattered by the event. The tightness of the crew i guess is one thing on show here but the amount of time spent on such a small event that doesn’t really make you feel for Daniels or the rest of the crew any more was unnecessary.
And finally i just wanted to touch on one element that as an Alien fan was just so damn cool to see once again. And that is the return of the original alien species that is now so iconic in pop culture. Seeing the Facehugger, Chestburster, and original Xenomorph again just took me right back to the original film and for fans of the franchise it was a long time coming. It was great to see this alien tear the crew of the USCSS Covenant to shreds in a gruesome manner as a callback to 1979’s Alien. Now technically speaking, this alien isn’t exactly the same as the Xenomorph XX121 species seen in the original film as all of its forms here have minor physical differences to their Alien counterparts, but it is so close that they may as well be the same and the differences be down to a future process of evolution. And this film also answers the question of where the Xenomorphs came from, we now know that it wasn’t the Engineers that created the iconic beast but rather it was David who created them through his many experiments. Really fascinating stuff for OG Alien fans. Also, i have to give props to the Neomorph which is the new Xenomorph-like form introduced here. The beings which end up wiping out much of the Covenant crew were still a cool deadly new take on the alien despite being eerily reminiscent of the Pale Man from Guillermo del Toro‘s Pan’s Labrynth (2006).
So there you have it, after these thoughts on some of the spoiler filled events within Alien: Covenant all eyes now turn to the next instalment in the Alien franchise that Ridley Scott has just revealed whilst speaking with IGN UK he will begin filming within 14 months.