Alien: Covenant is the Devil We Know

Katherine Waterston in Alien: Covenant plays the part flawlessly. Photo courtesy of 20th Century Fox

The Alien franchise and director Ridley Scott make a brilliant return to form.

The question from my friend following the press screening for Alien: Covenant wasn’t amped-up energy as much as tempered stoicism.

“Dude, is it worth it?”

My answer: “Alien: Covenant is good. Really good. Like, revise-your-list good.”

It’s not hyperbole. After spending a decade-plus of movie monster mashups paired with an Alien movie starring no true xenomorphs, Covenant and director Ridley Scott return to the wheelhouse and deliver a film that’s narrowly behind masterpieces Alien and Aliens.

Covenant is the second in a trilogy connecting the original 1979 classic, Alien. I cannot stress enough that film and director get so many points for knowing what it is and, more importantly, what it isn’t.

Unlike 2012’s Prometheus, there isn’t 120 minutes of bloviating, ruminating, talking about gods, monsters and the hubris of man. Therein lies the masterstroke of Scott and writers John Logan and Dante Harper. We know who the bad guys are. The xenomorphs are the premier cinematic boogeymen of the past three-plus decades. There is no point in building a philosophical argument over a killing machine that has a singular focus, nor is there one to be had in androids that are products of the evil that men do. Scott and Co. stop debating and start showing.

The actual alien aside, Sigourney Weaver’s Ellen Ripley will forever be the icon of this franchise. As much as Katherine Waterston fills in nicely as foil here, Michael Fassbender is stunning. The depth to play a robot convincingly, yet with enough humanity to complicate matters, never mind the sheer physicality, is worth the price of admission alone. Performances like this should get awards. If Ripley is the face of the original trilogy, Fassbender owns the prequels.

Waterston is our Ripley in Covenant and credit to the actress for playing the part flawlessly. As Daniels, it’s a wonderful sleight of hand to have the performance be uniquely her own while feeling lived in. You don’t know how it’s going to happen but you know Daniels is going to save the day and watching how that happens is so much fun. Waterston plays the character with all intensity. Credit to Danny McBride for being the film’s silent MVP. No jokes from the consistently comic-relief sidekick. He fills in ably as the voice of the audience. He deserves more screen time.

Ridley Scott is back in fine form returning to this world.  Now that the franchise is back on its feet from being a think piece, its narrative structure creates a horrifyingly fun, tension-filled, push-and-pull that will leave all reeling after. It would’ve been understandable to swipe the slate clean post Prometheus and just start anew (hence that rumor of a new fourth film), but building off that dumpster fire and taking the hallmarks and set pieces from the whole canon makes Alien: Covenant, while nerve-wracking, feel like home.


JP Spence

JP Spence is a writer, screenwriter, and improviser living in Los Angeles. He previously served as the media critic for the Topanga Messenger and as Editor-In-Chief for the LA Valley Star. You can find Josh @JP_Spence on twitter or at any press screening.

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