For the two years of hibernation the crew of Prometheus endured before all hell broke loose, the ship’s robot David (Michael Fassbender) frequently watched the film Lawrence of Arabia. As the film went on, the comparison between Lawrence and David made sense. They both were outsiders in a place of uncertainty, both filled with grandiose ideas and the personal mantras that “big things have small beginnings.” This was also true of Prometheus, Ridley Scott’s return to the franchise that had larger ideas that it could feasibly tie together and make sense. Prometheus was just the start of a bigger plan.
Taking place ten years after Prometheus, Alien: Covenant takes place aboard a colonist ship heading towards a new planet. The ship Covenant wakes early from hyper sleep, killing their captain, leaving behind his wife Daniels (Katherine Waterson) and putting his second-in-command Oram (Billy Crudup) in charge. Daniels and Oram are a battle of faith vs. fate, which rears its head when the ship’s pilot Tennessee (a terrifically restrained Danny McBride) catches a distress signal. Daniels believes they should keep going to their intended destination, while Oram believes this could be a sign of something even better. Since this is an Alien film and fortune doesn’t exactly favor the bold in this series, of course Oram’s way goes, directly to a planet full of creatures just waiting to burst out of them.
Scott and co-writers John Logan and Dante Harper smartly make the xenomorphs almost a secondary sense of dread, instead favoring Prometheus’ David for the film’s primary looming fear. As Prometheus showed, David is conniving and yearns to create, whereas Covenant’s robot Walter (also played by Fassbender), sides with the Covenant crew, a design choice after David showed to be too human. The scenes between the dueling Fassbenders are just as captivating as when the film turns full horror show. Fassbender’s duel roles both come off as completely different characters, each distinguishable without even opening their mouths. Fassbender was a stand out from Prometheus, so doubling the fun is just so crazy that it actually works.
But Scott still is still brilliant at creating the horrors that built this franchise almost forty years ago. Each Alien film deals with a ship’s crew making a horrible decisions, then being picked off one-by-one by the same creatures, yet Scott continues to make the monotony comes off as fresh instead of tired. Scott knows what his audience will expect to see and creates variations that are equally as terrifying as Scott has ever directed. Even when Scott gives a scenario that the audience will be a step ahead of, his building of tension and carefully curated editing by Pietro Scalia keeps Alien: Covenant an anxious affair.
With Alien: Covenant – Scott’s Prometheus sequel/Alien prequel, it’s as if David also spent plenty of time with The Godfather Part II. Alien: Covenant is bolder that the film that came before it, larger in scale, but more consistent in its message. Prometheus relied on the huge questions Scott wanted to ask, but Alien: Covenant belongs to David, Scott’s Michael Corleone, who in this film is willing to do whatever it takes for his family to thrive. David is willing to keeps his enemies close, deceitful for his own gain and even makes an overt reference to Part II with Walter.
As Scott nears eighty, Alien: Covenant shows he is able to captivate and surprise just as much as he did with the original Alien. With one bold film, Covenant is able to tie Prometheus strengths in with his beloved Alien franchise in a way that improves both ever so slightly and makes these two approaches to the same universe one. Heady and brutal in equal measure, Alien: Covenant is the ideal link between Scott’s two ideologies and interests.