The Alien franchise remains one of the greatest Sci-Fi epics in film history. With two original films – Alien & Aliens – met with acclaim by audiences, the later entries did not quite resonate. When original director Ridley Scott announced he would direct prequels to the franchise, audiences were drawn back into outer space.
First entry Prometheus, despite its visual effects and stellar cast, left many wanting in terms of story and context. Alien: Covenant, the second prequel, builds on the mythology and action of its predecessor. Yet without a strong character centre the film still cannot match the greatest of Alien.
On board a colonisation mission, the crew of the spaceship Covenant are awakened from hyper sleep when their ship hits a radiation storm. Under the leadership of Captain Oram (Billy Crudup), the team intercept a rogue transmission from a seemingly perfect planet. With the potential to settle in a nearby world the crew decide to follow the signals trail, despite protests from first mate Daniels (Katherine Waterston). The planet has plant life, water, and breathable air yet the deeper they venture it becomes clear this world is not all it seems.
Covenant acts as a direct sequel to Prometheus and the sixth instalment in the Alien franchise. Directed by original mastermind Ridley Scott, the prequel aims to explore the origins of the Alien.
The film establishes a new setting, context and crew quickly. Awaken due to a fault the group encounters tragedy and must follow the orders of their new captain. Elements of the plot feel familiar and downfall is inevitable yet tension builds and the great visuals and set pieces will impress the most die-hard of fans.
Visually the film builds on the gore and action of the previous films; more Aliens and mixed with the familiar, there are welcomed images of the crew running around their ship with guns in arm. Yet this lacks the unique effects the originals become so famed for.
With a larger than usual core group to establish, the film does not create a strong central lead. Waterston’s character Daniels will inevitably be compared to the iconic Ripley, yet despite her performance she does not get the development needed to carry the film.
The most intriguing character here is again android David. Michael Fassbender plays a dual role of David and new model Walter who assists the Covenant crew. He is impressively able to distinguish his two roles between the more emotional yet ambiguous David with the stoic Walter. The characters have long scenes together and their power play is the films strongest dynamic. Still even two Michael Fassbender’s cannot fill the void Ellen Ripley has left in the series. With at least one more film to bridge the gap before Alien, the film will not answer all questions die-hard fans have. Yet this adds to the mythology the franchise has always circled.
The second instalment for the Alien prequels builds on the promise of Prometheus yet fails to reach the heights of the originals. Although, there’s a stronger story with more tension and action make this a good watch. Yet the lack of a developed central character leaves Covenant trailing behind the film’s original instalments.
Alien: Covenant is out 12th May!