“The path to paradise begins in hell.”
Having been born in the late 80’s to a nerdy, sci-fi-loving father, I grew up idolizing the likes of strong-ass bad bitches like Princess Leia, Sarah Connor, and of course Ellen Ripley. From the first Alien movie in 1979, this franchise is almost 40 years in the making. The original trilogy (Alien, Aliens, Alien 3) saw a sequel (Alien: Resurrection) in 1997 and then the addition of two spin-offs (AVP: Alien Vs. Predator, Alien Vs. Predator: Requiem) in 2004 and 2007, as well as a prequel (Prometheus) in 2012, and now a sequel to the prequel, Alien: Covenant. Man was that hard to keep straight, which is an indicator of how difficult to follow the Alien story is getting.
The most recent instalments to the Alien movies are taking the story back in time, to explain the origins of the mysterious xenomorphe “perfect being” aliens. Prometheus centers around a group of scientists following a map, left by several ancient civilizations, to a distant planet they believe to be home to the “Engineers” of the human race. They do indeed find their “Engineers” who, as it turns out, have also created the perasitic, acid-blooded aliens we all know and love, to destroy Earth.
Covenant picks up 6 years after Prometheus, and about 20 years before Alien. It follows the all-couple crew of the spaceship Covenant, the first ever, large-scale, off-Earth colonization mission, carrying 2,000 colonists and 1,000 embryos to a far-off, habitable planet. As if in testiment to the times we’re living in, there is one briefly-shown same-sex couple on the crew, which is otherwise made of up heterosexual couples. Yay progressiveness!
The crew awakes from stasis when a sudden neutrino blast damages the ship, killing the Captain (a James Franco cameo) in a freak stasis-pod accident. While doing repairs the ship receives a distress call from a nearby planet and although the deceased Captain’s wife, Daniels, played by Katherine Waterson, strongly disagrees, a team is sent down to the planet to investigate. Low and behold the usual carnage ensues as several crew members are infected in ways not yet seen, and killed as aliens either burst from their bodies or mutilate them.
In one very memorable and even slightly funny scene, a crew member wanders into a cave with an alien egg, as it opens he is told to “go ahead, take a look.” This is a scene where everyone knows what’s coming and I wanted so badly to scream “Don’t do it!”, yet when it happened I still jumped. Nearly 40 years after the first alien jumped out of the egg and attached to someone’s face and I’m still jumping when it happens, that tells me the franchise is not losing any steam.
However, there is much more going on underneath the surface of this plot. Perhaps the most interesting aspect of the movie was the secondary plot about the androids’ relationships to humans and their ability to create and destroy. I won’t go into it too much so as not to give away any spoilers, but the film features two identical androids. David, the original android from Prometheus, who we saw escaping on a ship with sole-survivor Elizabeth Shaw, at the end of Prometheus, and Walter, an updated version of the android serving on the crew of the Covenant, both of whom are played by the magnificent Michael Fassbender.
The crew is briefly rescued from an alien attack by David, who has been on the planet for quite some time it seems. Through an interaction between Walter and David we soon discover that the most significant difference between the two androids is that Walter was updated to specifically not have the ability to create nor destroy anything. Using music composition as a metaphor David tells Walter of the joys both creation and destruction can offer, exclaiming that Walter has symphonies in him.
While the older Alien movies featured their trademark jump-factor scares and gore-based plot components, with a backdrop of mystery behind the aliens and why exactly the Weyland Corporation wants them, the newest movies have a much more philosophical and cerebral backdrop. They still contain the usual components but also interweave a narrative on the origins of humanity, meeting our “Engineers,” and going where no man has gone before. In addition, we start to see a paralleling between the relationship the “Engineers” have with the aliens and the relationship humans have with the androids. It gets deeeeep!
Now if you’re heading into this movie hoping for the highly-entertaining, yelp-inducing, female-dominated sci-fi-horror-esq plot that is the signature of Alien movies, you won’t be disappointed either! Covenant is the first of three that will take the overarching story from that of Elizabeth Shaw in Prometheus, to the beginning of Ellen Ripley’s story in Alien. An ambitious goal that hopefully will not see it’s audience lose interest in the meantime. For all the complicated plotlines I’d say it is worth it to keep with it!
Rating: 4 Alien Thumbs Up out of 5