Alien: Covenant: A sequel to the prequel (No Spoilers)
First off I just have to say what a great performance we got from James Franco in this film. I'm so glad he was cast in the movie because I really don't think it would have been quite the same without him. He just might be my favorite character in the whole movie besides Michael Fassbender. Anyways this one starts off a bit unexpected, if you were hoping to see it pick up directly after Prometheus, well we'll get there, at some point I think... kind of.
After some passive aggressive dialogue between David and Peter Weyland establishes a thoughtful direction for the movie (creation becomes creator), we get a title sequence that calls back hard to the original alien film in very much the same treatment. You'll notice in this sequence and throughout other parts of the film, key sections of James Horners original score are infused with a new layered and pulsing score from Jed Kurzel who's work I enjoy listening to on its own (Macbeth 2016, Assassins Creed), even bringing back familiar musical cues from Prometheus, which subtly connects it to the previous installment.
We then find that this new entry revolves around a crew of colonists aboard the Covenant set out to colonize a new planet light years away (7 normal years). The intro to our central characters is somewhat unfortunate and ultimately leads them in an attempt to find a new home on a planet closer to that which they were seeking (NOT LV-426, not any of the planets, not even mentioned). This is where everything obviously gets worse for them and there we have our story.
Michael Fassbender's performance helps propel the story along as you'd expect and surprisingly Danny McBride does a decent job at NOT hamming it up as much as we're used to seeing. I actually really enjoyed his performance for what it was and he seemed to be a good fit for the movie. Katherine Waterson who has about an equal amount of screen time emotes effectively and her character Daniels is as fearless as another familiar character that may come to mind.
It goes without saying but the effects and visuals were beautifully designed as with most Ridley Scott productions. The fact that he chooses to film on actual sets rather than empty rooms filled with green screens helps immerse both the actors portraying the characters as well as better absorb the audience into the story. The beautiful scenery is captured very well on screen and I can't even fathom how long it takes and what goes into to building complete rooms of a ship like the Covenant. That being said, the story and some of the character choices is where the audience may scratch their heads.
Countless times we've seen that if you go off on your own, it's not gunna end up good for you. If you go to a planet and don't question the safety of the environment you're in, it probably won't end well for you either. If you put your face in front of a veiny alien pod... well you get the idea. Sometimes character choices like these are needed to move a story along but I do appreciate seeing a story unfold in which characters have a more difficult time having to make a difficult decision that might put them in a dangerous situation rather than making one without any thought. It was nothing as ridiculous as the space cobra scene from Prometheus but still, I had a few face palm moments that came close. And while I'm on the tangent about tropes we've seen before, I sometimes question whether or not we needed to know the origin of how every little thing in the Alien mythos came to be. In recent interviews Ridley Scott goes so far as to say he could have at least 6 more sequels to Alien: Covenant alone, but will settle for 3. I just... isn't that a bit much? I was so curious to see what Neill Blomkamp was cooking up with his Alien spin-off that would have utilized characters we wanted to see more of from the original franchise and wipe clean the rushed and lauded sequels Alien 3 and Resurrection.
While Covenant explains away more things we may or may not have wanted to know about, it continues to veer away from anything leading up to a proper bridge to the Alien series. This may be an exciting prospect for some, I fear the general audience (which equals money to keep making these) may lose interest in such a long winded explanation on how we got to LV-426 in the first place. If you want to see a fairly well done Sci-Fi suspense thriller then this will hopefully hit the spot, it's definitely not a turn your brain off kind of popcorn movie but it's not so complex you will be questioning things after every scene (thank goodness). We even get some easter eggs and musical cues that nod back to the original Alien film which will likely be appreciated by those familiar and while it may not be the movie we had hoped for, you definitely won't see one quite like it... at least not until the next one comes out.