In concept, ‘Alien: Covenant‘ is what ‘Prometheus‘ should have been. In many regards, the film is a vast improvement over it’s predecessor. It’s also better than many people are giving it credit for. Instead of focusing more on the philosophical aspects of the story, this film is a straight up Alien movie, and that’s a good thing. Unlike it’s predecessor, ‘Alien: Covenant‘ feels like it’s a return to form for both the franchise itself, as well as director Ridley Scott. Set roughly ten years after the events of ‘Prometheus’, the film is both a sequel to that, as well as a prequel to all of the previous Alien movies. But this is also part of the problem with the film, that it can’t quite juggle all of these aspects while also telling it’s own unique story. Despite a few minor flaws, the film still brings a lot of interesting ideas to a franchise that has gone increasingly stale with the past few entries.
Interestingly, the film also loosely mirrors the original ‘Alien‘ in structure. This is not a bad thing, especially because this 4-act structure is different enough from Scott’s masterpiece to make it feel new but also similar enough to make it work — for the most part. While there are solid performances all around, Michael Fassbender gives the standout performance as both androids Walter and David. This relationship proves to be the most dynamic, and offers even more depth to the character of David. What’s interesting about this the way David is handled in ‘Alien: Covenant‘ is that it made me realize that Fassbender’s android is actually the main character of this prequel series. That’s a pretty bold and unexpected move that had me wanting more. Luckily, both Katherine Waterson and Danny McBride are also given plenty to do. The ship’s crew being comprised of couples is an idea that is a breath of fresh air, and seems like a no-brainer considering it’s a colonization vessel. Having essentially double the characters to set-up and pay off proves troublesome, however.
It’s interesting, because as much as I love this idea in theory, it’s one of the main reasons why so many of the characters feel flat by the end. With the exception of the actors mentioned above, the rest of the characters aren’t given enough screen time for us to make a real connection to any of them. As much as I enjoyed this movie, there’s also aspects that really, really bug me about it. With any prequel, you inevitably run into the problem of revealing too much about the mystery set up in the original film. ‘Prometheus‘ was guilty of this, but that infraction is amplified here. My problems with ‘Alien: Covenant’ aren’t with how things are handled in the film, it’s that they are taken too far. Some questions are answered, but not enough new mysteries are introduced to make up for the ones answered. More importantly, the movie isn’t really scary. Sure, there are tense moments, but there’s no truly terrifying moments in this film like the originals, or even ‘Prometheus‘ for that matter. This is mostly due to the fact that we never follow the perspective of the monster in those movies. In ‘Alien: Covenant‘ though, we often follow the whereabouts of the monsters, thereby lessening the impact when they actually show up on screen because we know where they’re at most the time.
It’s one of those things where less is more, but perhaps my biggest problem with the movie is that they withhold much of the information about David and Elizabeth’s relationship, as well as her eventual demise. The interesting thing about this is that they actually shot and released several sequences that go into this subplot more (see below). It’s really a shame, especially because some of this material could have easily been inserted into the film with little effect to the plot. In fact, it would have made it better, especially when you consider how it only makes David even more complex by the ending of the end of the story. Ultimately though, it feels like Covenant has a bit of an identity crisis. The film tries to be somewhat profound like ‘Prometheus‘, while also trying to adhere to the tropes established by ‘Alien‘. This feels like something that the movie is consciously trying to juggle. Despite these flaws, the movie is good enough to justify itself as a solid prequel, although I wish that it would have focused more on trying to be it’s own thing.
The ‘Alien: Covenant’ Blu-ray sports an AVC encoded, 1080p transfer presented in a 2.40:1 aspect ratio. The the movie was shot digitally using Arri Alexa Cameras, and was completed using a 2K DI in the finishing process. The “look” of this film remains more in line with the original films, but boy is it dark at times. Most of the planetary sequences employ a very drab palette that includes lots of grey tones, as opposed to the slightly more colorful interiors of The Covenant. I’m all for contrast, but there were times in this presentation that I felt that the black were too black (see below). Even so, you never really lose detail in some of those darker scenes, but this is just really a matter of preference. Even only five months after it’s release, the visual effects in this transfer feel a little fuzzy at points. Many of the wider shots that feature heavy visual effects sequences tend to lose clarity (The flashback sequence comes to mind). Despite all of this, you never lose enough detail that it hurts the film, it’s just something that will lessen the film’s timelessness down the line. Skin tones remain unaffected, and the sharpness and clarity are certainly one of the highlights of this disc, especially in close-ups. Overall, this is a solid transfer and certainly lives up the standard set by more recent Ridley Scott releases.
‘Alien: Covenant’ arrives on blu ray with an impressive DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 track. The Alien films have always had great audio, but this might actually be my favorite to date. Although I watched the disc on a 5.1 system, you never lose any of the intricacies within the audio mix. The sequences that take place in the Covenant are perhaps most impressive, as it brings a whole new life to the ship in many subtle ways. The environmental sounds also work well here, especially when our characters are first exploring Planet 4. Despite having a variety of locations from wide-open, cavernous locations, to some of the more claustrophobic spaces, you never really feel that the track looses dynamic range in either way. The sound effects are well preserved on the track, and you can tell that Scott & co. are making the most out of the film’s R-rating in the sound design. In what is easily the highlight of this disc, this masterful audio track certainly lives up to the standards of the previous films have set fourth. It might even be my favorite, although the original’s minimalist sound design is very hard to top.
The Special Features:
There’s one thing I always look forward to when purchasing a movie directed by Ridley Scott: the special features. With the help of now-legendary documentary filmmaker Charles de Lauzirika, Scott has released some of the most in-depth making-of documentaries for his movies — including the 3 1/2 hour ‘Furious Gods: Making Prometheus‘ and all of the incredible making-of documentaries in the ‘Alien Anthology’ box set. But interestingly, Lauzirika’s work is nowhere to be found here, and it shows. Although the nearly hour-long documentary of this film goes into some detail, it’s nowhere near the powerhouse that these previous ones were. In fact, it’s probably one of the weakest points of a strong overall selection of bonus content. Here’s the full list of all the special features:
Deleted and Extended Scenes (17:37; 1080p):
- Prologue: Extended
- Walter in Greenhouse
- Oram and Daniels: Extended
- Walter Visits Daniels, Daniels Bedroom Flashback
- Jacob’s Funeral: Extended
- Ledward’s Fall
- Crossing the Plaza: Extended
- Daniels Thanks Walter
- Rosenthal Prayer
- Walter Reports Back
- Stairs to Eggroom: Extended
- Meet Walter (2:20; 1080p): A viral ad for the new and improved model of android.
- Phobos (9:09; 1080p): Several viral ads that serve as a series of virtual therapy sessions for the crew of the Covenant.
- The Last Supper (4:37; 1080p): An extended viral prologue of the crew partying before they go into hyper sleep. This should have been in the movie, as it adds a lot of missing information for each of the character dynamics and would have added a decent amount of weight to their relationships.
Sector 87 – Planet 4
- The Crossing (2:34; 1080p): Another viral ad that gives some backstory on how David and Elizabeth made it to Planet 4. This ad connects directly to the flashback scene directly in the movie, and is something that I feel should have been used in the actual movie itself.
- Advent (6:41; 1080p): An original short film that gives us more information about what happened to Elizabeth, as told through a transmission from David to Weyland-Yutani.
- David’s Illustrations (1080p): A collection of David’s illustrations from the film.
Master Class – Ridley Scott (55:30; 1080p): This multi-part, pseudo making-of documentary, focuses on Ridley Scott’s vision for the film. Although this is a solid documentary by normal standards, it lacks the intricacies provided by the aforementioned documentaries on previous films.
Director Commentary by Ridley Scott: Scott’s commentaries are always insightful and interesting, and this track keeps with that trend. Even though he sometimes tends to summarize the events of the film a little too much for my liking, it all serves the purpose of the point that he’s trying to make, so it’s forgivable. Overall an enjoyable and revealing commentary.
Production Gallery: A collection of concept art for the film.
- Ridleygrams (1080p; 1:33)
- Conceptual Art
- Exterior – Covenant (3:43; 1080p)
- Interior – Covenant (2:58; 1080p)
- Lander (3:28; 1080p)
- Lifter (00:08; 1080p)
- Exterior – Engineer’s World Forest (1:18; 1080p)
- Juggernaut (00:28; 1080p)
- Exterior – Engineer’s World City (2:48; 1080p)
- Interior – Engineer’s World City (1:18; 1080p)
- Interior – Daniels’ Apartment (00:08; 1080p)
- Interior – White Room (00:18; 1080p)
- Chestburster (00:28; 1080p)
- Egg Slices (00:33; 1080p)
- Facehuggers (00:28; 1080p)
- Neomorph (1:01; 1080p)
- Open Egg (00:28; 1080p)
- Xenomorph (00:53; 1080p)
- Logos and Patches (2:53; 1080p)
- Theatrical Trailer 1 (2:26; 1080p)
- Theatrical Trailer 2 (2:04; 1080p)
Despite my relatively low expectations going into the film, I found this disc to be a fairly solid release. ‘Prometheus‘ was somewhat of a disappointment, but I found that disc to be an exceptional release despite the movie’s many flaws. On the contrary, ‘Alien: Covenant’ is a better movie, although sometimes this release stumbles to achieve greatness. With all this said however, I enjoyed the movie and the disc enough to not regret buying it, which is always a good feeling. Recommended.