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Movie Review

The Covenant coasts through dark, dead space bearing breath, life, hope.

The ship is on a colony mission. Two-thousand adults sleep in suspended animation, ready to wake to a new world. More than a thousand embryos travel, too, cocooned in drawers, encased in artificial wombs. Fifteen crewmen also sleep as one android caretaker, Walter, roams the ship alone.

Then, cataclysm

A nearby sun turns cantankerous. The shockwaves ripple through space, buffeting the Covenant. Crewmembers are shaken awake—if they wake at all. Two die in the disaster, including the captain. He's immolated before he can even open his eyes.

Daniels, the captain's wife and a crew member aboard the Covenant, grieves as quickly as she can. There's little time to mourn: They need to make repairs and get on their way as quickly as possible. After all, they still have more than seven years to go.

But as a crew member repairs the ship's solar sails, he hears something—a signal, unmistakably human and unmistakably close. The ship flips on its sensors and finds a planet nearby, one they'd missed before and seemingly suitable for life. In fact, this planet seems far more habitable than the one they were headed for.

No one's eager to go back to sleep for another seven years, particularly not with the disaster so fresh in their minds. The new captain, Oram, suggests they swing by the planet, see what's up with the signal and take a quick look around.

"It's our responsibility to investigate," he explains to Daniels, now his second in command.

"It's our responsibility to protect 2,000 colonists!" she protests.

But it does no good. The Covenant turns toward the mysterious planet. Most of the crewmembers head to the surface to traipse through what appears to be a green, lush wonderland.

But then someone notices something.

"You hear that?" she says. "Nothing. No birds, no animals, nothing."

But she's wrong. There is something on the planet's surface.

And they want to play.

Positive Elements

So, not to spoil anything here, but there are aliens in Alien: Covenant. Nasty, hungry aliens. And once the movie's plot starts to click, pretty much every character we meet is thrown into serious fight-or-flight mode. Sometimes both. They don't have much time to do heartwarming deeds of good.

That said, the fact that they do try to save themselves and others is worth applauding. Several crewmembers take risks to rescue their friends and protect the colonists.

Perhaps the most admirable person here isn't technically a person at all. Walter, Covenant's android, serves the crew dutifully, even putting his own android body into serious jeopardy to protect them. He seems to have a special affinity for Daniels, and someone suggests that, in his own android way, might even love her.

Not every android we meet is so dutiful, unfortunately.

Spiritual Content

The Covenant crew eventually meets David, Walter's android "brother" (and a main character in this film's immediate predecessor and Alien prequel, Prometheus). . In a flashback, we see David and his creator: "If you created me, who created you?" David asks. The android's creator says that every other question and achievement in the universe is dwarfed by this central question: Who or what created mankind? He tells David that together, hopefully they can find the answer.

We get the sense that David and his creator eventually had a bit of a falling out (though what that looked like, we can't say), and David mentions that the creator was "entirely unworthy of his creation." David feels that he himself is the more godlike of the two. Allusions to his self-identification as a godlike entity lurk everywhere, from him playing Wagner's "Entry of the Gods into Valhalla" on the piano to quoting Milton's Paradise Lost to his recitation of portions of the Romantic-era poem "Ozymandias."

"My name is Ozymandias, King of Kings;
Look on my Works, ye Mighty, and despair!"

Walter reminds David how the poem ends, though:

"Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal Wreck, boundless and bare
The lone and level sands stretch far away."

Another character, Oram, has religion on his mind. Though captain by default now, he feels that title was originally withheld from him because of he's "a person of faith." He claims he met the devil when he was a child. At one point, Oram sarcastically tells Daniels, "Oh, ye of little faith." But when things go south, Daniels tells Oram that she and the crew need his faith. Is she sincere? Or does she simply tell Oram that to calm him down and feel more confident in his own leadership? The film doesn't answer those questions.

Sexual Content

Two married crewmembers have a long, joking discussion about each other's various body parts (using crass, offensive words to refer to them)—one that Oram puts a stop to so everyone can focus.

Couples kiss each other affectionately. There may be a same-sex couple in the mix, as well, though their relationship is never explicitly seen or stated. One man is shown simply grieving over a fallen comrade, holding the dead man's ringed hand in his.

Michelangelo's fully naked statue of David is visible in one scene.

Two crew members take a sensual, gratuitous and obviously naked shower together. It doesn't end well. When alive, their various body parts are mostly covered by each other as they kiss and caress. (We do see their exposed backs and sides, though, and just a bit of their rears.) After an alien comes to visit, the two are left splayed on the shower floor, but their positions and the blood make it difficult to determine whether any actual sexual organs are visible. Oh, and speaking of organs …

Violent Content

Alien: Covenant does not skimp on blood. Several aliens burst out of people—from the back, the mouth and, of course, from the chest. Blood obviously flies during these horrific moments, often spattering gore across the people closest to them.

Once these critters are freed from their organic hosts, they typically eat as many people as they can. One seems to eat away the face of a still living crewmember. Another bites someone savagely in the neck, spewing blood everywhere. (The next time we see this person, the body lies lifeless on the ground while the head stares sightlessly from a pool of crimson water.) Blood accompanies these critters wherever they go, often covering glass walls or saturating floors or the ground.

One scene features an ancient city covered with blackened corpses, some of which seem frozen in some state of horrific metamorphosis. [Spoiler Warning] In a flashback, we see how it happened: A pathogen of some sort seemingly devours and melts its victims.

Even when characters are not directly killed by the aliens, they still suffer mightily. One man is attacked by a "face hugger" (a larva-like, breeding-stage alien that looks like a cross between a pair of hands and a horseshoe crab). Another crewmember manages to cut the thing off his face, but its blood is acidic: The resulting burn horrifically eats through the man's cheek. (Someone later tries to patch the wound up with some high-tech putty, but it still looks pretty grotesque.) Walter loses a hand to an attacking alien. Other crewmembers patch up various bloody wounds as much as they're able. An android staples a wound on his cheek together.

Aliens die, too. Some are shot to death (after much effort), others skewered by various implements. Their own green blood and gore can fly as much as the red stuff can.

In the ancient city, we see what appears to be a sculpture of a woman whose torso has been ripped open, exposing a great many sculptured organs and a whole lot of empty space. A handful of people die in comparatively mundane, relatively bloodless explosions. A fire inside a sleeping capsule kills a man; his charred body is removed.

Crude or Profane Language

More than 35 f-words and nearly 15 s-words, along with a ship's worth of other profanities ("a--," "b--ch," "d--n," "h---"). God's name is misused half a dozen times, three of those with the word "d--n." Jesus' name is abused three times.

Drug and Alcohol Content

One character smokes. (Given what happens after he lights up, it could be cautionary tale never to take a smoke break. Ever.) Covenant crewmembers drink glasses of whiskey to salute their dead friend.

Other Negative Elements

One character vomits; others retch. A man says he needs to urinate. Someone seems to regurgitate largish pellets with something inside.

Conclusion

We've been down this interplanetary road before.

The horrifying xenomorphs and their kin. The androids you're never sure quite sure you can trust. The strong heroines doing battle with hideous creatures. For 38 years, the Alien franchise has been reminding us that in space, no one can hear you scream. Except, of course, we hear screams aplenty.

But director Ridley Scott has more on his mind in this prequel-sequel (which still takes place before the original 1979 film) than just splaying open alien pods (and plot points for the next Alien movie).

Scott is not particularly religious. Indeed, you could say he's quite the opposite. "The biggest source of evil is of course religion," he told Esquire magazine while promoting Prometheus (a film which, in the Alien chronology, takes place a decade before Alien: Covenant).

And yet he returns to religious themes time and again, from his attempted takedown of Christianity in Kingdom of Heaven to his odd religious epic Exodus: Gods and Kings to his theo-philosophizing in Prometheus. When David's creator says that the origin of creation is "the only question worth asking", we get the sense that Scott himself is asking that same question. As such, Covenant has a certain unexpected depth. While Scott still clearly has no idea what Christians are all about—Oram's faith has all the nuance of a ham chucked by a catapult—the subject of God seems like one he's sincerely grappling with.

Aesthetically, Alien: Covenant is a return to form for the franchise after several disappointing chapters. But that form, like the xenomorphs themselves, has always been extraordinarily problematic.

The franchise began as a staggering gross-out-fest and has only gotten grosser over time. The level of bloodshed we see here is, as Scott desired, truly terrifying. It's also largely gratuitous and, at times, can even feel counterproductive. After all, Alien's famous monsters stem from the truly disturbing artwork of H.R. Giger, whose sexuo-violent oeuvre has always exuded a cold, barren vibe—as blanched as a bone, as stark as a tombstone. The copious red somehow doesn't seem to go with it.

It's probably too much to ask of this franchise to rein in its bloody ways. It's worked well enough for the masses thus far. Still, it's a shame when a movie has something to say, but undercuts it with the grotesquerie it revels in.

Pro-social Content

Objectionable Content

Summary Advisory

Plot Summary

Christian Beliefs

Other Belief Systems

Authority Roles

Profanity/Violence

Kissing/Sex/Homosexuality

Discussion Topics

Additional Comments/Notes

Episode Reviews

Content Caution

Kids
Teens
Adults

Credits

Rating

R

Readability Age Range

Author

Cast

Michael Fassbender as David/Walter; Katherine Waterston as Daniels; Billy Crudup as Oram; Danny McBride as Tennessee; Demián Bichir as Lope; Carmen Ejogo as Karine; Jussie Smollett as Ricks; Callie Hernandez as Upworth; Amy Seimetz as Faris; Nathaniel Dean as Hallett; Alexander England as Ankor

Director

Ridley Scott ( )

Distributor

20th Century Fox

Network

Performance

Record Label

Platform

Publisher

In Theaters

May 19, 2017

On Video

August 15, 2017

Year Published

Awards

Reviewer

Paul Asay

We hope this review was both interesting and useful. Please share it with family and friends who would benefit from it as well.

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