Warning: Obviously this article contains “Alien: Covenant” spoilers. Enter at your own risk.
You thought it was going to be a simple retread of “Alien” or “Aliens,” didn’t you? The ads promised you “Alien: Covenant” would essentially be an upscale slasher movie, only where the killers are creatures from another world with big teeth and lots of mucus. It wouldn’t, you hoped, be another “Prometheus,” the one that was an “Alien” prequel without the classic Xenomorphs but plenty of philosophizing — the one that raised more questions than it found time to answer, the one where every human is really, really stupid.
Joke’s on you. Yes, there’s a ton of Xenomorph action (plus a new alien, the albino Neomorph). There’s also just as much god talk, maybe more. That’s not a bad thing, mind you. Heavy talk about creation and existence and the cosmos go down a lot better with the occasional alien chow action. And honestly? Director Ridley Scott — who helmed the first but none of the others till “Prometheus” and this — has some fun/bleak thoughts on God. And it goes down all the smoother with the dulcet tones of a posh-accented Michael Fassbender.
So, here’s what happened in “Alien: Covenant”: A ship carrying thousands of human colonists from Earth to a new home far, far away wound up making a pitstop on another planet. It looked like it might even be more hospitable and lovelier than their original destination. They were wrong. Not long after some of the awake crew go down to check it out, two are infected by spores, which enter in through the ears and produce the Neomorph. One beastie emerged from one poor guy’s back, and another through the mouth. Those were gross. And they were why you came to see “Alien: Covenant.”
What you may not have expected was the return of David, the android played by Fassbender in “Prometheus.” The last time we saw him, one of the “Engineers” (those giant white guys who apparently created humankind on Earth) tore off his head. In a short film posted online weeks ago, we learned that the last film’s hero, Noomi Rapace’s Dr. Elizabeth Shaw, stitched him back together. They took an alien spaceship and headed for the planet our “Covenant” team wound up visiting. Jump 10 years, and David’s still there. He even comes to the rescue when this film’s crew are trying (and badly failing at) killing a rampaging Neomorph.
But David’s no savior. He takes the surviving crew (including the ones played by Katherine Waterston, Billy Crudup and Demian Bichir, plus Walter, another android also played by Fassbinder) to his hideout, inside a fallen temple. And he started acting weird. He kind of puts the moves on Walter, including some homoerotic business involving a flute. He tries to convince Walter that they should kill all humans, because David has decided in the interim that they’re weak and terrible. He even killed Shaw, we learn. Walter disagreed. So David ripped out one of his life circuits, appearing to kill him.
David also revealed to Crudup that he’s “something of an amateur zoologist.” He’d spent the last 10 years monkeying with alien genes. David even wound up creating life: It’s he who created the Xenomorph, much as a human created him. He lures Crudup to a room filled with those Xenomorph eggs we see in all “Alien” movies. Then he invites Crudup to take a closer look. Lo and behold, a face-hugger jumps out, and soon Crudup’s chest is bursting a la John Hurt. This lone Xenomorph goes on a rampage, causing Waterston and Bichir to make a run for a getaway ship piloted by Danny McBride.
In the madness, Walter emerges; he’s not quite dead. He and David get into a cool Fassbender-on-Fassbender fight, which ends ambiguously. In any case, it appears that Walter has emerged from the fight, victorious. He joins our surviving human trio on McBride’s pod, with the Xenomorph catching a ride. After the alien kills Bichir on the main ship, Waterston manages to not just flush it into outer space, as Sigourney Weaver’s Ripley did in both “Alien” and “Aliens,” but get it impaled on a sharp object as well.
Everything settles down, and Waterston and McBride, the two surviving humans out of an original two-dozen crew, both get in their sleeping pods to slumber through the seven years it will take to arrive at the original destination. As Waterston is about to fall asleep, she says something to Walter he doesn’t seem to understand. She realizes Walter is really David — that David killed Walter and posed as him. She tries in vain to break out of what is essentially her coffin before she’s put to sleep, but to no avail.
In complete control of a massive ship with thousands of sleeping colonists, David asks the ship’s computer to blast the Wagner, puts some face-hugger embryos in a fridge alongside human ones, and prepares to, we presume, create thousands of Xenomorphs.
One last thing: No “Alien: Covenant” spoiler piece would be complete without a mention of James Franco. He plays Waterston’s husband. He doesn’t make it past the first five minutes, and he has no lines. His sleeping pod catches fire and he burns to death. So that’s fun.