By Shelby Fielding (Lubbock, Texas)
Since 1978, Ridley Scott has showcased his remarkable talents as a filmmaker. After his controversial addition to the Xenomorph mythology with Prometheus, Scott displayed his intentions on redesigning the Alien franchise by focusing on the exploration of the Xenomorph’s existence in this universe. That initiative leads to this sequel to “Prometheus” and prequel to Scott’s masterpiece Alien dubbed Alien: Covenant, which focuses on a crew of colonists who are obligated to colonize a specific planet known as Origae-6. They then decide to examine a nearby planet that contains a stable habitat for life and discover shortly after that their arrival has to lead to the birth of a terrifying threat that they then must escape saving their colony, launching us on an enigmatic and suspenseful narrative that is constructed with memorizing filmmaking.
As one of the few fans of Prometheus and as a massive fan of the Alien franchise itself, I went into Alien: Covenant with an overwhelming sense of anticipation, particularly with the facets of the film being centered around horror. With its high R rating and the return of Ridley Scott to direction, Alien: Covenant is one of my most highly anticipated films of the year thus far, beginning with the filmmaking of Alien: Covenant, it is undeniably ravishing. The cinematography specifically is almost seductive with its enchanting color design and shot placement. Dariusz Wolski did a fantastic job on producing these engaging shots with this gray color pallet covering the overall frame of the film. He uses this design to his advantage by then engaging the viewer with strong neutral colors, by using a combination of whites and blacks to engross the viewer’s attention on this alluring picture.
The direction is of course exceptional. Ridley Scott is perhaps the greatest sci-fi director ever in the vast history of filmmaking. Not only with how he helms the camera, but also how he uses the sci-fi genre to present some substantial thought-provoking themes. With Alien constructed with pseudosexual themes from its anatomy driven imagery and Prometheus’s philosophical and biblical themes focused on the creation and the reasoning for existence. And of course the vast amounts philosophical, biblical, and sociological thought provoking ideas presented in Blade Runner. Ridley continues those risky aspects of his direction with Alien: Covenant as he continues to dissect the themes of creation that Prometheus presented. He also presents these historically reflective themes as well with how these colonists and some other characters approach this undiscovered planetoid.
Ridley Scott works so well with his writers on how he intertwines his visual imagery with his straightforward storytelling presented by Alien: Covenant. The performances are marvelous as well, specifically Danny McBride and Michael Fassbender. McBride showcases his talents as an actor from a dramatic standpoint by portraying this brazen character is a different role for what we have become accustomed to Danny McBride playing. Michael Fassbender carries the weight of this film, by grasping at least 75% of the one hundred and twenty-one minute run time. He grasps every second of his screen time with this undeniably enticing depiction of his characters. He interchanges between calm and emotionless to charismatic and conniving in so many ways.
Katherine Waterston is satisfactory in her performance. She doesn’t stand out per say, but she doesn’t disappear into the foreground either. She resonates with her portrayal of Daniels, but she is slightly forgettable due to the heavy reliance of the film’s depiction placed upon the talented shoulders of Michael Fassbender. Alien: Covenant stood out in a lot of ways for me; specifically it’s magnificently exquisite cinematography. The only other film this year I put in contention with Alien: Covenant for best cinematography is Sean Byrne’s The Devil’s Candy. However, just like The Devil’s Candy, Alien: Covenant does contain some significant flaws in its structure and writing. The writing is at times cliché with how it chooses to kill off characters, by how it decides to use the horror tropes of someone going to the bathroom or the shower by themselves. This limited choice for how these characters are killed off placed a barrier for resonation by conflicting the inventive filmmaking and tonal focus with this genre trope.
The characters themselves are a bit underwhelming as well and are never completely unraveled. Instead, these characters are written with intriguing aspects that never flourish to their full potential. Specifically the character of Daniels who has a strong potential to be an updated and more dynamic version of Ripley, but instead suffers from a lack of characterization written for her character. There are also some plot devices that become a bit of a nuisance in how the reasoning for these devices existing is never explained, but instead skipped over to become an unexplained reason for conflicts to occur. Even with those flaws, I still found myself completely mesmerized by Alien: Covenant. At times I realized I found myself with my mouth agape and my eyes glued to this stunningly crafted screen.
Alien: Covenant has some definite flaws surrounding its narratives construction and explanations for these inciting incidents. Its characters are a bit forgettable aside from that of Michael Fassbender’s portrayals. However, Alien: Covenant is still marvelously crafted from its cinematography to its editing to its flawed screenplay that still contains some certain white knuckling sequences that grasped me into its narrative once again. Alien: Covenant is a strong addition to the Alien franchise, and I am still contemplating its place in my rankings of this franchise.
Debating between Alien: Covenant and Prometheus and which of these films I enjoyed most and which of these films will take my third place slot in my rankings as Alien will most likely stay atop and number one. And, Aliens will probably stay locked in at number two. Alien: Covenant is immaculate with its filmmaking and at times incredibly enticing with its thrilling and frightening sequences with this early evolution of the Xenomorph, leading me to begin to become even more excited for the future of this franchise and the further development of the Xenomorph. Transforming into the methodical and nightmarishly lingering creature that is one of the most frightening things ever placed in the overcrowded monster genre in cinema.
Prologue – Last Supper Quotes:
[shining a flashlight over Daniels face]
Walter: Follow the light. How do you feel, Daniels?
Walter: Any dizziness, nausea?
Daniels: No, I’m fine.
Branson: It’s a hell of a view, ain’t it?
Oram: It is pure majesty.
Tennessee: I don’t know what you’re talking about. It kind of spooks me out, some big old sea of nothing.