Feature Article

Alien: Covenant Review

There will be blood.

After the mixed reaction to 2012's Prometheus, Ridley Scott is back in the Alien universe with the latest in the long-running sci-fi series, Alien: Covenant. Thirty-eight years after the original, Scott shows with Covenant--the first main entry in the franchise with 'Alien' in the title for two decades--that he's still finding new ways to turn the stomachs of the audience, awe them with beautiful visuals, and intrigue them with unexpected story twists. Despite all of that, it feels like Covenant retreads familiar ground and doesn't come close to being as frightening or exciting the best Alien films: Alien and Aliens.

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Covenant picks up 10 years after the events of Prometheus. The crew of the massive interplanetary ship Covenant are on a seven-year journey to what they hope is a new planet to colonize with the 2,000 frozen passengers they are ferrying. However, a disastrous solar flare awakens the crew early, damaging the vessel in the process. Amid the repair effort, they receive a puzzling transmission stemming from a habitable planet that is only a two-week journey away. The choice then becomes to either stick to the plan and re-enter hypersleep to reach the faraway planet (which was vetted thoroughly) or seek out the signal and land on the closer yet unfamiliar moon. Very much against the wishes and advice of Katherine Waterston's character, Daniels, they pursue the signal to find its source. This brings them to a mysterious planet full of terrors they couldn't have imagined.

The film begins strongly with a gorgeous, introspective scene in a big white room involving the mega-rich scientist Peter Weyland (Guy Pearce) meeting with Michael Fassbender's android character. Continuing on from the existential ideas put forth in Prometheus, they discuss the origins of life and creation, with Weyland emphatically laying out his ambition to basically discover the meaning of life. Covenant overflows with exposition and early on in the film, Daniels remarks: "There is so much here that I don’t understand." I nodded along from my seat as she said this. Covenant does provide answers--satisfying ones--to the questions put forth in the meandering story of Prometheus, including what happened to Noomi Rapace's character, Elizabeth Shawn, and Fassbender's David. It also talks about the origins of the Xenomorphs and dramatically teases out the shocking horror of what might come in the future. All up, the story is compelling and thought-provoking, if a bit heavy-handed at times.

Covenant's tone and style bounce around a lot--but not in a way that makes the complete package feel scattered or disjointed. The first and third acts are basically all suspense and action, featuring gunfights and big set pieces, disturbing deaths and gory moments. The second act, meanwhile, feels quieter and more reflective, planting the seeds of some of the biggest questions that will hopefully be addressed in the sequels Scott is planning.

As for the cast, Michael Fassbender's compelling performance makes him the standout. He plays two robots: David and Walter. They are identical in appearance but have different ambitions and objectives when things go awry. Fassbender's energy and versatility drive the weight and intensity behind his robot characters. Despite their identical appearance, he always makes them feel unique. Danny McBride plays the cowboy hat-wearing, John Denver-loving pilot Tennessee, who doesn't get the most screentime, but absolutely makes a mark with his wit and passion. Daniels is also a standout character, with Waterston playing the broken-but-determined, loyal crewmate in a strong and engaging performance. Billy Crudup is adept in his role as the hesitant but driven-by-duty captain Oram, a man of faith. But the script doesn't do much to explain why his religion matters, leaving a character who feels forgettable and empty. It feels like a missed opportunity considering the grander themes of life and creation that permeate the entire film.

The classic and frightening Xenomorph, which was shown in some of Covenant's teasers, is not seen in the early stages of the movie. Instead, more screentime is devoted to a menacing-looking white variant that moves fast and bites hard with its ferocious fangs. In one particularly unsettling scene, a few of these beasts dash and scurry through a wheat field, jumping and diving at the would-be colonists in the dark of night. The clicking sound they produce makes them all the more horrifying.

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The trend of aliens being grotesquely spawned from human bodies continues in Covenant. How this works has been well established, but this time, Scott finds even more orifices to spring slimy, screaming alien creatures forth from their human host. Then there are the face-huggers that terrorize their host in a different brutal way. There are literal back-breaking scenes, convulsing bodies, and blood splatter everywhere when the creature finally breaks through. Scott truly gives the viewer new ways to experience trauma. The death scenes are brutal and unique, but scarcely scary and never surprising when they're about to happen--almost every death scene is telegraphed. A couple, naked in the shower together on a remote section of the spaceship? You can see it coming.

The death scenes can feel unaffecting, and they aren't helped much in their significance by the fact that much of the crew are married. It's an unexpected element, and Scott attempts to use it to make each death all the more painful to witness. However, the impact isn't always there. Holding things back is the script in general, as we don't learn enough about what the crew members are leaving behind or much of anything that would help the audience try to understand their relationships on a deeper level.

Covenant is a fun movie that has a number of standout scenes, including one of the biggest, most over-the-top (and somewhat silly) set pieces in the franchise's history. It is a notable improvement over Prometheus, but it runs the risk of feeling too familiar and formulaic overall.

The GoodThe Bad
Fassbender's performance is memorableNot all that scary
The trademark Alien gore is here in spadesFeels familiar and formulaic

Thought-provoking for its commentary on life and creation

Incredible production values with stunning visuals

  • Directed by: Ridley Scott
  • Starring: Michael Fassbender, Katherine Waterston, Danny McBride, Demian Bichir, Billy Crudup, Carmen Ejogo, Amy Seimetz, Jussie Smollet, Callie Hernandez, Nathaniel Dean, Alexander England, and Benjamin Rigby.
  • Rating: R
  • Runtime: 122 minutes

Disclosure: ViacomCBS is GameSpot's parent company

Got a news tip or want to contact us directly? Email news@gamespot.com

eddienoteddy

Eddie Makuch

Bring back the Whalers.

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Fishslap33

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Edited By Fishslap33

I think it made things worse. First of all it antagonized the fourteen people who liked Prometheus. But it also made fans of the original movie even more annoyed than they already were because of the ending. Not because Covenant spoiled the mystery of the xenos, but because it resolved the question of their origin in a way that is impossible. They can't have been created or finalized by David the Paranoid Android for one simple reason:

The alien discovered on LV426 (A mere 18 years after Covenant according to the time line) was fossilized. It had also been killed by a chest burster. According to Wikipedia, it takes at least 10 000 years for an organism to fossilize, and the purpose of this main expositional scene of the entire series was to inform us elegantly that both the xeonomorphs and the pilot were ancient. They can therefore not have been created by David the Paranoid Android 18 years prior to being discovered by Dallas, Kane and Lambert in Alien. Nor can the pilot have been killed by him because he had been dead for at minimum thousands of years. The real mystery, along with how alien blood vessels can carry acid around in them and how exactly xenos go about gaining body mass early in their lives, was how the eggs on LV426 had been able to stay alive and ready to infect Kane for so long. You would think they should have dried out. The mystery was not that Blade Runner made the xenos. All this says to me is that the people who wrote this awful movie had not even bothered to watch the original. Presumably Ridley Scott has gone senile enough that he doesn't remember it. Or perhaps he doesn't care or never understood it in the first place. Or just maybe he disagreed with the writers of Alien and now finally had his chance to write the real Blade Runner vs Alien move he had been wanting to make since the late 1970s.

Either way it now appeals to no one. Not to Prometheus fans (There are dozens of them!), not to Alien fans and not even to Blade Runner fans, even though the new Rutger Hauer was given such a prominent role in both Prometheus and Covenant. It only appeals to Ridley Scott now. And perhaps that was the idea all along.

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kuda001

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Edited By kuda001  Online

I was disappointed by the movie, I got the same feeling after watching Alien 3 following Aliens.

It doesn't build on the previous installment, add anything new and when you consider the storytelling it left me more confused than ever.

Yes production value is good but it is massively toned down in both story telling and horror (not sure about everywhere else but in the UK it has a 15 rating).

In a nutshell, its average.

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adeshmukh

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Edited By adeshmukh

Prequels are a tough thing to pull off. They ride under heavy weight of expectations from the fans of it's predecessors and yet they need to create their own mark.An honest review of prometheus - http://www.fanboyzandpopculture.in/prometheus-review/ . Prometheus does so much of things better as far as prequel goes but Alien Covenant i think is a response to the criticisms of Prometheus. This is not necessarily good but this is a show business dependent on audience's reception.

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soulfulDAGGER

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An Alien movie for Generation Y.

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riseagainst976

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I know a lot of ppl who really liked Prometheus, including myself. I didn't even realize it was viewed poorly till now​ lol. You internet folk are silly

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jflkdjs

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@riseagainst976: I liked Prometheus too :)

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VANGUARD003

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"However, a disastrous solar flare awakens the crew early, damaging the vessel in the process."

Read this like an event prompt from FTL. F***ing solar flares.

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thereal25

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Good to hear that it's rated R.

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Pelezinho777

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Where's "The Ugly" ratings section?

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Jdzspace

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so it's more Aliens than Alien......that's not horrible. Can't wait to see it for myself....i'm sure it'll scare my wife, but she's an easy scare.

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solatron

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Should create EntertainmentSpot...

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Ape_Escape_1Fan

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Edited By Ape_Escape_1Fan

Eddie! This is excellent. I feel bad for talking shit about your writing - you clearly know how to make good stuff.

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commander

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Edited By commander

maybe they should try something new, like the movie 'life' for instance, that's some good sci fi horror right there, and isn't based on a nearly 40 year old movie.

I did like prometheus though but this reminded me of the aliens vs predator flop(s)

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Daian

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Why is the news editor reviewing this?

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springdaddy

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I personally loved Prometheus. I'm sure I'll dig this as well.

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HuSSaR83

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@springdaddy: I still watch Prometheus now and then...I just love the atmosphere in that movie

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Risingdawn

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@springdaddy:

Same, I've watched Prometheus several times now so I'm sure I will enjoy this.

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BDRTFM

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Edited By BDRTFM

@springdaddy:Well I guess that makes 2 of us. Yeah, the plot had more holes than a sponge and some of the things the characters did were bizarre for their profession but I enjoyed it. I watch Alien, Aliens and Prometheus the odd Sunday still and just skip the others. I have a hard time finding others who enjoyed Prometheus though. It gets a lot of hate.

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BDRTFM

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Sounds like it has all the hallmarks of a great Sunday rental.

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Litchie

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Starring Benjamin Rigby 2 times.

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eddienoteddy

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eddienoteddy  Staff

@Litchie: Fixing that now. Thank you for pointing it out!

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Keitha313

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Feeling familiar surely shouldn't be that bad of a thing, If it ain't broke don't fix it.

I'm a tad worried about it not being scary, I'm hoping maybe the action sequences will make up for that.

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scottyp360

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@Keitha313: "Feeling familiar surely shouldn't be that bad of a thing, If it ain't broke don't fix it."

Especially with a franchise like this. It should feel familiar because this is now the 6th movie in the alien franchise (not counting the AvP movies). The movie should feel new and fresh but it should still feel like an Alien's movie. I think part of the issue with Prometheus was that it tried disguise itself as not being an Alien's movie despite being an Alien's movie.

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Abdulrahman1981

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I hope it's as good Alien and Aliens❤️

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deactivated-59a01e5d4a917

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@Abdulrahman1981: From a technical perspective, Alien is quite literally one of the most perfect movies ever made, so you're setting your hopes a bit high for such a late entry in the series - I enjoyed Covenant, but do not in any way expect it to be as good as Alien

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lfebaggins

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@Abdulrahman1981: Set the bar lower. If you go in with those expectations, you will be disappointed.

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Blackened_Halo

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@Abdulrahman1981: no it isnt

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93ChevyNut

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I'm a little surprised Eddie didn't shoehorn a statement about which console Ridley Scott owns....

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PcRevolution

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@93ChevyNut: So true

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lionheartssj1

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As long as the writing and character actions aren't as inexplicable as Prometheus, I'll watch it.

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lfebaggins

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@lionheartssj1: Sadly I hear that they are.

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DaVillain-

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@computernoises: For once, I'm glad to see him doing some writing in him that's not all about click-baits and I'll admit, i enjoy his movie review so credit where it's due.

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Domiddian

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Edited By Domiddian

After years of ballsing up and click-baiting various gaming articles, Eddie Makuch takes a stab at a film review and it's... actually pretty damn good.

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DaVillain-

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DaVillain-  Moderator

Nice review Eddie Makuch. I'm totally hype for Covenant as it is, all the trailers got me pump up but man, May 19 is so close & yet, so far away :(

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alien33

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Edited By alien33

Trailers and teasers almost gave away the whole movie. I'll watch it, but I don't expect to be pleasantly surprised. Looks like another run-of-the-mill.

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deactivated-59a01e5d4a917

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@alien33: I managed to avoid all trailers and clips over the past few months, so I watched it without any concrete idea as to what was going to happen. Much (but not all) of the major plot points I saw coming a mile off, as most alien fans will be able to. Still, it's definitely a step up from Prometheus and is very competently executed.

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alien33

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@danhalen: Good to hear it, thanks!

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LongFlopper

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Why is Noomi Rapace not listed in the starring cast?

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DarthLod

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@longflopper: Because she is barely in the movie.

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