My chief concern with Alien: Covenant was that the trailers gave away too much. The teaser trailer was fantastic, showing what appeared to be a xenomorph bursting out of a man’s back as a terrified crew member demands to be let out of the room. It gave the impression that the Alien franchise was heading back to its horror roots, away from the pseudo-action of the Alien vs. Predator series. But then they kept releasing trailers, kept showing the alien, and seemingly gave away the entire plot of the movie.
Well, I was pleasantly surprised.
Don’t get me wrong; it’s still about a bunch of interstellar colonists discovering a signal, following it to a mysterious planet and becoming hosts for an alien. It’s a winning formula, but Covenant keeps it from getting stale by adding its own twists and turns. You have a vague idea of what is going to happened, but not necessarily how it will happened. It takes serious effort to make the xenomorph scary again after so much cultural exposure, but Covenant comes pretty darn close. The set-pieces are crafted in a way to maximize the tension of a xenomorph’s appearance, even when you know what’s going to happen next.
I also loved that everything the characters do makes sense. One of the worst things about horror movies is that the characters have to do excessively stupid (or dickish) things for the plot to move along. In this movie, any “decisions” a character makes that leads to a negative outcome (mainly dismemberment of some sort) still make sense in context. Of course you’re going to lock your crewmate with a corpse birthing an alien monster; you don’t know what the threat is and quarantine is the best option.
And this is where we get the phrase “Oh HELL no!”
I’m on the fence as to whether one needs to see Prometheus before seeing this movie.
For all the references it has to its predecessor, Covenant has a way of neatly summarizing them for new viewers. For example, the movie repeatedly references Elizabeth Shaw when explaining plot details. People who have seen Prometheus know her as the protagonist, and that she was part of the crew that made first contact with the “Engineers” of humanity. But if you haven’t seen Prometheus, all of the preceding sentence is neatly explained without ruining the flow of the movie.
The problem is that the central conflict of the movie lacks the proper gravity without the context of Prometheus. I know that sounds maddeningly vague, but saying anything more would spoil the movie. Basically, the plot without Prometheus is about a shallow character on a power trip that’s willing to destroy everyone to do it. With the plot of the first movie, Covenant’s conflict (and possible sequel) is about what it really means to be a god and the type of brutality that often accompanies it.
I think everyone should watch Prometheus before seeing this movie. The main flaw of Prometheus was that it gave us a lot of tension and questions but resolved nothing. With the release of Covenant, that problem is solved.
Overall, I really liked the movie. It’s not a movie with any faults; rather, it’s a movie that could have done some things better. Inoffensive at its worst, refreshing at its best. You can do way worse than that.