If to err is human, then Ridley Scott’s aliens are perfection. But as Covenant proves emphatically, perfection isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. What a machine might view as imperfect emotions, like fear or love, are what make us human. Covenant sets those two opposing forms of existence against each other like Darwin’s sci-fi Theory of Evolution, and watches the sparks fly.
For a director with so many masterpieces under his belt, Scott is prone to the occasional dud. Thankfully, he hits fine form returning to a mythology which clearly enthralls him. Dariusz Wolski is his right-hand man, delivering miserable cinematography that grinds the life out of every face on display. That might sound like a criticism, but his sadistic shadowplay is perfect for this relentless descent into an atheist’s vision of hell. No flames or horned devils, just bleak, indifferent terror around every corner.
At this point in his career, Scott has become as fine an embodiment of his beloved xenomorphs as one could imagine. Characters stumble their way into avoidable deaths and Scott gobbles them up mercilessly. A level head would quite fairly blame that on clumsy writing but it feels apt. Every time a character wanders off alone, or touches an ominous piece of alien ephemera, the retort is simple: “But of course, they’re only human.”
The cast are as committed and petrified a herd of sacrificial lambs as one could hope for, with Fassbender the unquestionable MVP. People will be talking about his performance here for years to come.
In the cold light of day, there’s not much to Covenant. Its plot throws standard slasher mechanics against grand existential musings in a haphazard manner, and only Fassbender gets a character worth caring for. But as Scott knows all too well, films aren’t watched in daylight…
CAST: Michael Fassbender, Katherine Waterston, Billy Crudup, Danny McBride, Demián Bechir, Carmen Ejogo, Amy Seimetz
DIRECTOR: Ridley Scott
WRITERS: John Logan and Dante Harper (screenplay), Jack Paglen and Michael Green (story), Dan O’Bannon and Ronald Shusett (based on characters created by)
SYNOPSIS: The crew of a colony ship, bound for a remote planet, discover an uncharted paradise with a threat beyond their imagination, and must attempt a harrowing escape.