Last week, I was lucky enough to attend not only an advanced press screening of Alien: Covenant, but the world premiere in London as well. (Huge thanks to 20th Century Fox for arranging all this!) As such, here is a spoiler-free review of the film for anyone curious how it matches up to the divisive last entry in the franchise and the film to which it is a sequel, Prometheus.
Covenant started really well, immediately fixing one of the biggest issues I had with Prometheus — namely the characters. Whereas I found the previous film's cast to be incredibly thin, unlikable and fundamentally uninteresting, the crew of the Covenant are far more human and engaging, recalling the kind of close-knit camaraderie of the crew of the Nostromo. Above all, they come across as real people, rather than threadbare excuses on which to hang the plot. Big improvement there. A couple of the more minor crewmembers are admittedly slightly under-developed and a little faceless as a result, but overall the cast of characters is a lot more engaging this time around.
The cast too were very good. Michael Fassbender was again excellent as both David and Walter, especially in scenes where he got to play off against himself as the two characters. Katherine Waterston and Danny McBride were also great, although McBride seemed a little underused — I so enjoyed watching him when he was on screen, I wish he'd got more to do. Incidentally, he definitely plays it straight in this film, as opposed to the heavily comedic roles he is known for. It seems some people were worried he'd be too funny, and I'm happy to clarify that isn't the case at all.
I thought most of the first half of the film was very good indeed — the intense Neomorph birth sequence already released in the Alien Day previews being the highlight. It's a really great sequence, effectively portraying how the crew breaks down into confusion and chaos as things start going horribly — and gruesomely — wrong. Make no mistake, this is a violent, bloody film; don't let its UK 15 certificate fool you into thinking they might have gone easy on the claret. But whereas Aliens vs. Predator: Requiem routinely feels like it is forcing its gore for the sake of cheap shocks, in this the blood and viscera felt more appropriate to the film.
However — and here comes the big "but" — the film was let down by some significant continuity breaches in its second half (chiefly regarding the Xenomorph life cycle) and a generally weak final act. As promised, I won't spoil anything, but the film definitely deteriorated towards the end and there will be issues for hardcore fans like me in particular. The Xenomorph wasn't portrayed as being particularly intelligent in a couple of moments, which was a big disappointment. Also the changes to the Xenomorph reproductive cycle didn't really make any sense and one in particular seemed totally needless (I'm sure what I am referring to will be obvious when you see the movie for yourselves). Another major problem I had was the big final twist, which, suffice to say, I saw coming a long time in advance. It was almost groan-inducing when the movie proved it really was going to be as blatant as I had feared.
Overall though, despite its faults, I enjoyed Covenant a lot more than Prometheus — which seems to be the consensus — and thought it improved with a second viewing. It's a much more straightforward, commercial movie than its predecessor, which may disappoint those who liked the higher themes explored in Prometheus, but ultimately I thought that worked in its favour. It's just a shame the things I didn't like were so heavily grouped towards the end of the film, because it left me with a disappointing conclusion after a great opening. I definitely recommend giving the film it a watch, even if my ultimate opinion is only mixed-to-slightly positive overall.
Feel free to ask any questions you might have below, although please keep them spoiler-free for the sake of others who haven't seen it yet.