Early in the second act of Alien: Covenant, we’re gifted a beautiful scene, charged with sexual tension, between David (the returning android from Prometheus, played by Michael Fassbender) and Walter (android 2.0, again played by Fassbender), in which the former is teaching the latter to play the flute. The scene could have easily gone the silly route, but the uninterrupted tracking camera, director Ridley Scott’s steady hand and Fassbender’s masterful performance elevates it into almost a spiritual space, begging for psychoanalysis.
Alien: Covenant takes the best of Prometheus- its deep philosophical questions — and combines it with the best of the original Alien movie — the strong female character, more scary versions of the aliens and a steady tempo that keeps the action coming fast and furious. But despite seeming derivative in theory, Covenant oozes originality.
The story kicks off with an accident on board the Covenant, a colony ship headed for Oregae-6, a planet fit for human civilisation to thrive. In the ensuing confusion, the ship’s captain, Jacob Branson (played in just one scene, surprisingly, by James Franco) dies while still in hypersleep.
His grieving widow is terraforming expert Daniels, played by Katherine Waterston, who is our Ripley stand-in. And taking charge of the ship now is Oram (Billy Crudup), a leader sans leadership skills, and a Christian in a world where religion’s outdated. The android taking care of the crew this time is Walter (Fassbender), a more humane version of the android David, played by Fassbender in Prometheus. Also, almost everyone in the crew is paired up and married, which seemed odd at first, but works to give some of the off-kilter scenes some weight.
Post accident, the team decide to push on towards Oregai-6, but receive a distress call from another planet that’s much closer and looks inhabitable (why no one found this planet earlier is anybody’s guess). Oram decides to take a leap of faith and investigate this new planet than risk going back into hypersleep, and suffer the fate of their former captain. And predictably, things go south faster than you can say Alien: Covenant.
A terrifying night scene on this rainy planet have the colonisers fight against two aliens in pitch darkness, grass as tall as them blanketing their motions and the aliens — the sleek camerawork in this scene alone makes Covenant a better film than Prometheus (can you tell that this writer didn’t enjoy ‘Prometheus’ very much by now?).
Coming to their rescue is David, the prodigal son of Prometheus, dressed a little bit like Fassbender’s Aguilar from Assassin’s Creed. The rest of the film is basically a face-off between the two Fassbender androids, and trust me when I say this — two Fassbenders are definitely better than one. Where Walter is naive, loyal and servile, David is commanding, sensual and egotistical: And to watch them play off each other’s energies is sheer joy.
Supporting the Fassbenders is Waterston’s Daniels: her strong yet touchingly vulnerable performance acts as a glorious foil to David/Walter’s confusion and Oram’s continually grating presence.
Also the late H.R. Giger’s initial work as the creator of the ‘Alien’s’ aliens gets a touching and full-blown homage, the likes of which none of the others Alien’ movies have seen yet. The result is a rogue’s gallery of unholy creatures and creations, sure to find their way into your nightmares shortly.
Whether the film answers more questions than it should is still up for debate. We particularly enjoyed the little twist at the end of the movie, perfectly sealing the franchise’s future, because finally, here’s a sequel that actually gets you excited for the next iterations in the franchise. We say Alien: Covenant is essential watching this weekend, and definitely merits multiple viewings to truly engage in its many layers.