US, 2017, 122 minutes, Colour.
Michael Fassbender, Katherine Waterston, Billy Crudup, Danny Mc Bride, Demian Bechir, Carmen Ejogo, Jussie Smollett, Callie Hernandez, Guy Pearce, James Franco.
Directed by Ridley Scott.
Covenant is a word with religious overtones, especially in the understanding of the major world religions of the outreach of their God or gods for a response from humans, God’s/gods’ grace in our lives. This is not quite the understanding of Covenant in the title of this further chapter in the Alien series. However, there are religious implications throughout the film, about creation, about God or, at least playing God, and the consequences. The main character, in fact, can be seen as a Lucifer=figure, defying his creator and creating all kinds of ills and damnation for humans.
This theme is fairly evident right from the beginning with a scene of industrialist, Weyland (Guy Pearce) significant for the episode prior to this film, Prometheus. Weyland authorised the space expedition of Prometheus and created a very sophisticated android, David, created perfection (Michael Fassbender), to accompany the flight and even to control it. The dire consequences were seen in Prometheus.
Alien Covenant takes up the story 10 years later, an expedition already underway, 2000 colonists, embryos, and most of the crew put into a deep sleep for the seven years needed from Earth to their paradise destination. This is the kind of expedition we are getting used to in films such as Passengers, Life, Even Ridley Scott’s former film The Martian. All seems to be going well, under the direction of another android, Walter (also Michael Fassbender), until there is a malfunction and some of the dormant crew are killed by fire – which provides a moment as the captain’s grieving widow, Daniel’s (Katherine Waterston) looks at some footage where we find some moments of the captain in the form of the ubiquitous James Franco.
With some of the crew now awake, authority now falls to Oram (Billie Crudup) challenged by sounds being received, of John Denver’s ‘Country Road’. The overall controlling computer, Mother, indicates a nearby planet which has conditions for living, similar to that of Earth. Daniels registers disapproval but Oram decides that they should land. For some moments, all seems to be well, the discovery of wheat, the discovery of a spacecraft which has crashed. But, this is the Alien series always shows, and we know, that there are monsters lurking, waiting to emerge (often from the interiors of the humans, a tradition since 1979).
When some of the crew are bloodily overcome, the request goes out to the mothership, controlled by Tennessee (Danny Mc Bride), to come to the rescue. However, there is a vast and complex storm over the planet – and whether to come in or not… A further complication is that several of the crew are married couples and reactions are very emotional.
At which stage the android, David, appears, leading the remaining crew to a vast location of the dead where he, not human but android, has survived for ten years, venerating the memory and picture of Elizabeth Shaw (Noomi Rapace of Prometheus) for ten years after the destruction of the Prometheus. David is pleased to encounter his “brother”, Walter. As was seen in the opening sequence, David is fully conscious of his own self-perfection and begins to talk like Lucifer – and, eventually, to act like Lucifer, ultimately a Satan presuming that he is God.
While there are these philosophical and religious implications, most of the time is spent on the adventure, the ugly and destructive monsters wreaking vengeance, fights and heroics, even David fighting Walter. And then there is the buildup to the Covenant and its escape, with Daniels doing more heroics than even Sigourney Weaver’s Ripley did in the original film, swinging from (over, under, beside) the rescue vehicle, to destroy an intruding creature.
Ultimately, this part of the series is for the fans of the original, with many memories of it, and, of course, being a prequel, anticipating it. And, of course, open to a further sequel.
1. Almost 40 years since the original film? The succeeding chapters? Prometheus and prequels? Helping understanding of the original film? The prequel setting up anticipation for Alien?
2. Audience expectations, exploration of space, spacecraft and the details, crews? The horror, screaming in space, the alien creatures and the attacks?
3. The visualising of space, vast? The spacecraft and the interiors? Action? The new planet, Earth -like, the mountains? David’s refuge, the dead people, the laboratories and offices, the interiors? The creation of the creatures, blood and gore? The musical score?
4. The introduction, the creation of David, Weyland and his intentions? The image of God/Lucifer? David on Prometheus, in the planet, the cells and his control, wreaking destruction with the Prometheus expedition? The contrast with Walter, encountering Walter at the end, the clash, the attempted bonding? Taking Walter’s place – and preparing the way for destruction and the sequel? Michael Fassbender as each android?
5. The covenant, the voyage, the number of passengers, embryos? The accident, the death of the captain? Oram and his taking over, his personality, his decisions, the issue of the funeral of the captain, Daniels and her grief, looking at the footage of her husband? His coffin going into space? The sounds of John Denver songs, the planet being close, the control, Mother, and the information?
6. The visualising of the planet, similarities to Earth, the wheat, the mountains, the weather? The size and impression of the ruined spaceship? The alien experiences, smoking and coughing, the particles, forming together, entering the humans, ear and nose? The destruction, the transformation, getting the astronaut to the ship, the doctor looking after him, locked In, the blood and gore, deaths? He isn’t hysteria? The shooting of the spacecraft, the explosion?
7. The human touch, the number of couples on the craft? Grief?
8. On the main ship, Tennessee and the small crew, the need to go the rescue, information about the storm, the appeal from the planet and Daniels? Tennessee defying the others, reprogramming? The descent, the vehicle going to the rescue, the dangers? The creature on the craft, Daniels fighting it, the connection and her being swung around the craft? Her being rescued by Walter – that it was David?
9. David’s appearance, rescuing the group, his headquarters for 10 years, the dead bodies, communications, his tour of his area? The laboratories, the specimens, the background of Elizabeth Shaw and Prometheus, the truth about the creatures? David and his intentions? Oram trusting him, his being infected, his death? The creatures attacking the rest of the crew?
10. Daniels, on the roof, signals to the craft? The rescue?
11. David and Walter, their talk, android production development over 10 years, perfection? Walter and his love for Daniels? The fight with David? David becoming Walter, even the injured hand, reassuring Daniels?
12. On the craft, the crew and their showering, their deaths? The hibernation for Daniels and Tennessee – and her discovering too late that it was David?
13. A prospective scenario for a sequel?