‘Alien: Covenant’ Is An Entertaining, But Male-Centric Horror Tale.
Warning: This review contains spoilers for both Alien: Covenant and Prometheus.
The Alien franchise is at an odd stage of its life. Covenant is the sixth Alien movie overall and the second movie in what is presumed to be the second trilogy. Moreover, it has the misfortune of directly succeeding 2012’s Prometheus, a film that a seemingly large portion of the internet denounces as a confusing and questionably-written movie.
Covenant attempts to absolve itself of many of the problems that plagued its predecessor, and it mostly succeeds. However, this particular film also brings to light one of the crucial differences between this trilogy and the one before it — or more specifically THE crucial difference that exposes this trilogy to be the thematic opposite of the original.
First, let’s take a few steps back and ask: what is this new trilogy actually about? Prometheus offered some clues as to the origin of the titular alien monster, as well as the larger mythos of the Alien universe. Covenant brings this full circle and provides a direct connection between the creatures seen in Prometheus and the creation of the alien that we all know and love.
Covenant also thrusts the character of David, the token android and the only character to survive the transition from Prometheus, into the narrative spotlight. By the movie’s end, it is revealed that David’s story is inextricably entwined with that of the alien, and that this relationship is in fact the beating heart of this new storyline.
It is on this last point that this new trilogy most diverges from the original. The original movies essentially told the tale of one woman’s ongoing struggle to destroy the aliens. These new movies tell the exact opposite story. By shifting the focus to David, Covenant retroactively morphs Prometheus into David’s story and reveals the common narrative thread between these two movies. This new trilogy is about one man’s struggle against the presumptive heroines of each story, who he repeatedly triumphs over and even murders in cold blood. It is a trilogy in which the new Ripley ultimately loses against the alien again and again.
So, the million dollar question: is Alien: Covenant worth watching?
Well… it’s complicated.
For fans of Alien: This is probably the movie that best replicates the horror slasher-esque atmosphere of the original. Structurally, Covenant features a plot that is quite close to that of 1979’s Alien: the crew lands on an inherently suspicious planet, mayhem ensues, the crew are killed off one by one in an increasingly gruesome manner, the “Final Girl” has a climactic showdown with the alien, and there is a palpable tension throughout.
Yes, much of this movie treads upon familiar territory, but it’s done effectively enough that Covenant feels like one of the better entries in this decades-old franchise. Regarding new and possibly controversial material, Covenant delves deeper into the androids’ existential plight than any previous Alien film; it’s not a stretch to argue that, compared to the original trilogy, these newer movies are far more focused on androids than any of its human characters or even the titular alien.
For fans of Ripley (and characters like her): Of course, Ripley herself does not appear in Covenant, but Daniels is clearly intended to be her stand-in. No, Daniels doesn’t reach the dizzying heights of badassery that Ripley does in Aliens — and frankly, that is a high standard that the Alien franchise might never successfully reproduce — but she is likeable enough to root for.
Of course, this matters little in the end, since this new trilogy is ultimately about David. For all her apparent similarities to Ripley, Daniels (like Elizabeth Shaw before her) is just another bump in David’s journey towards domination. For a franchise that produced one of the most beloved action heroines in film, this aspect of Covenant can’t help but feel a bit disappointing.
So if you’re craving a story with an empowered heroine, you’re better off looking elsewhere.
For non-fans: If you have never seen an Alien movie before, Covenant is not the place to start, nor is it likely to be the film that will convert you into a fan. If anything, Covenant is a fairly poor representation of the qualities that made the first two Alien movies so unique and ahead of their time.
This is particularly true of the diversity of its cast: in terms of female representation, Covenant is hardly revolutionary, and though the representation of POC feels pretty token-ish in the Alien franchise, Covenant is one of the worst offenders.
Alien: Covenant isn’t a bad movie and there are certainly worse ways to spend an afternoon, but at the same time, I wouldn’t argue too hard against the notion that you might be better off just rewatching Aliens.
Author: Helen from Overlooked
Editor: Trianna Nguyen