By Esosa Omo-Usoh
No doubt the 70s remain one of cinema’s most memorable decades. Steven Spielberg’s Jaws released in 1975 birthed cinema’s summer blockbuster culture. Sylvester Stallone’s Rocky released in 1976 arguably gave cinema its most successful and iconic sports movie franchise. The Blaxploitation movies sub-genre thrived in the 70s. And of course, the release of Ridley Scott’s Alien in 1979 gave cinema, arguably, its most iconic alien/sci-fi movie franchise.
Since the release of Alien in 1979, there have been 3 sequels (James Cameron’s Aliens released in 1986, David Fincher’s Alien 3 released in 1992 and Jean-Pierre Jeunet’s Alien Resurrection released in 1997) and a planned 3-movie prequel series the first of which was 2012’s Prometheus and 2017’s Alien: Covenant both directed by Ridley Scott. There is, of course, honourable mention for 2 crossover series movies in the franchise; 2004’s Alien vs. Predator and 2007’S Alien vs. Predator: Requiem.
The events of Alien: Covenant occurred 10 years after the events of Prometheus. It is 2104 and a star ship named Covenant with its cargo of 2000 colonialists (in cryogenic sleep) and embryos is on a journey to Origae-6, a remote planet. The ship is 7years and 4 months away from its destination when an energy flare hits it resulting in onboard damages to the ship and the tragic loss of some of its colonialist passengers including the ship’s captain.
Whilst concluding repair works on the ship, they intercept a strange radio transmission from an uncharted nearby planet which transmission they eventually deciphered to be the song “Country Roads” by singer, John Denver.
The planet looks to be more suited for their purpose than their original destination. So, against the advice of an onboard expert, the new captain decides to send an exploration team to check out the planet. And thus begin the events of Alien: Covenant.
The exploration team lands on the planet and observe a field of wheat. However, this upbeat discovery is soon upended when reluctant explorer and terraforming expert Dany Branson (Katherine Waterson) observes that there appears to be no non-plant life on the planet. Her “Did you hear that?” “What”? “Nothing” is as ominous as it is foreboding.
Soon enough, two members of the exploration team get infected by alien spores which quickly gestate into Neomorphs who then escape their host bodies and escalate events to tragic levels for the team.
Whilst battling a Neomorph, they are rescued by a hooded stranger who leads them to a safe place and reveals himself as David (Michael Fassbender), the onboard Android on Prometheus. He fills them in on the fate that befell Prometheus and its crew.
In Prometheus, the mission was to find and make contact with Mankind’s supposed creators, the Engineers. In Covenant, the mission was to establish a colony in some distant planet in the far reaches of the galaxy. But a sub-theme of the creator/the created draws a common thread between both movies.
The opening scene of Alien: Covenant provides a contextual background for this sub-theme. A close-up shot of Prometheus’ Android, David’s eye pans out to an antiseptic white background to reveal him in conversation with his creator, Peter Weyland (Guy Pearce), founder and CEO of Weyland Corporation.
The subject of their conversation provides the foundation of Weyland’s obsession with finding Mankind’s creator culminating in the mission of Prometheus, and ultimately; David’s fascination with creation culminating in his actions in Covenant.
For a measure of poignancy, Wagner’s “Entry of the Gods into Valhalla” provides both literally and literarily a metaphoric soundtrack for the creator’s and the created’s obsession/fascination with creation.
Whilst Prometheus never quite pulled off a successful telling of the origin story of the Alien franchise, Alien: Covenant delivered a well-paced story telling with a layered audience impact that ran the entire gamut of the emotions spectrum.
The opening scene much like the golden energy-harnessing sails of the titular star ship gently unfurls to draw you in. The harnessed energy envelopes you and gently thrusts you forward with trepidation as the exploration team lands on the mysterious planet. Like the team, you are excited by their discovery of possible life on the planet and at the same time filled with dread at the dead silence that pervades the planet.
Just before the infected team members ingest the alien spores, you are filled with a sense of foreboding and an almost telepathic connection with the violent body quakes just before they burst out of their hosts.
Your emotions build up with intensity as the newly-hatched Neomorph scurries through a field of grass on the mystery planet and crest with crippling horror as the adult protomorph rampages through the tubular hallways of the Covenant.
Performance wise; Alien Covenant did not quite develop its characters with the layered attention as it did with the emotions its story telling and visuals evoke in the audience. Whilst Katherine Waterson’sDany was mildly impressive, she was not quite as impactful as Sigourney Weaver’s Ellen Ripley.
Also impressive is Michael Fassbender’s double duty as Androids David and Walter played with robotic soullessness and icy psychosis on the one hand and androidy detachment and programmed warmth/affection on the other hand.
Alien: Covenant is a well-paced telling of an intrepid excursion into the innards of space fraught with the unknown horrors harboured in its dark and uncharted bowels. It engages your attention from the first scene and successfully mines your full range of emotions by the time it ends, and establishes a covenant with you for the next prequel.
Watch trailer below;