Androids and Aliens and Death, oh my!
Directed by Ridley Scott
Starring Michael Fassbender, Katherine Waterston, Danny McBride
Released May 19th, 2017
Two thousand passengers in hypersleep on the spaceship Covenant are heading to Origae-6, a planet deemed to be habitable for humankind. A small crew is awake on board, guiding the ship toward their new home, a trip that is estimated to last around seven years. After passing through a major space storm, a distress signal arrives in the form of a John Denver song.
Tennessee (Danny McBride) recognizes the melody and says it’s coming from a nearby planet, one that looks like it’s safe for humans. Oram (Billy Crudup), a man of faith and Captain of the ship, wants to go check it out, thinking they may be able to make their home there instead of Origae-6. Daniels (Katherine Waterston) is against the idea, preferring to stay the course to their destination. She was going to build a log cabin with her husband there. Oram wins out.
The crew, along with their android Walter (Michael Fassbender), explore the planet attempting to find out where the distress signal came from. They find David (Michael Fassbender), an older android from the ship Prometheus. What has David been doing alone on this planet all this time? How did he get there? Did he send the distress signal? WHY ARE THERE MONSTERS ON THIS PLANET? OH GOD, EVERYONE IS DYING! HELP! HELP!
While Prometheus was experimental, this film is lean and meaner.
I was pleasantly surprised at how cruelly Alien: Covenant treats its characters. Not everything works (there is a goofy shower scene toward the end), but overall this is a very dark science fiction film with an intense ending full of gore and space madness. Danny McBride is strong in a rare non-comedic performance, and Katherine Waterston fills the role of action heroine nicely, but the film belongs to Fassbender.
As Walter and David, two very different synthetics, Michael Fassbender gives some of his finest performances to date opposite himself. Walter doesn’t understand David’s motivations. He lives to serve. David considers himself More Human Than Human. He doesn’t want to settle for an existence bringing humans tea. He wants to create life. To that end, we see the creation (or at least the mutation) of the classic xenomorph creature from the original Alien films. Don’t be confused however, Covenant isn’t really about where the aliens come from, it’s more about what fuels the desire to create them.
Alien: Covenant is the third film in Ridley Scott’s Alien saga, after 1979’s Alien and 2014’s Prometheus. Scott doesn’t consider Jim Cameron’s Aliens, David Fincher’s Alien 3, or Jean-Pierre Jeunet’s Alien: Resurrection to be canon, let alone the Alien vs. Predator films. So you’re not going to see alien swarms or dreadlocked predators or alien queens. Androids though, you’ll see some androids.
Nobody expected Ridley Scott to return to the franchise he kickstarted and so far he’s delivered two films that add to the mythology in surprising ways. While Prometheus was experimental, this film is lean and meaner. Alien: Covenant is a worthy entry in a series of films set in an ugly, broken universe where humans do stupid, emotional things while running from horrific monsters. It’s an anthology that shows how vulnerable humankind is even as we move through space and create artificial intelligence. For all of our grand accomplishments, we are still fragile things failing to impress God.