It also helped to recruit a couple of very good writers, John Logan and Dante Harper, to dig the series out of its hole. No matter that these aliens have been around far longer than most of the viewers who will see this film opening weekend have been alive; this entry feels vital, freshly thought out and keen to keep us on our toes right up to the concluding scene, which leaves the audience with such a great reveal that it makes you want to see the next installment tomorrow.
The elegantly spare opening, in which a “synthetic,” Walter (Michael Fassbender), engages his “father” (an uncredited Guy Pearce) in a pointedly philosophical conversation, simply and effectively frames the thrust of the film's central interest in human life's origins and its prospects for survival. Casual viewers may assume that Walter is the same character Fassbender played in Prometheus. But, no, Walter, who sports an American, not British, accent, is an updated version of that all-purpose butler, factotum and technical wizard — a far friendlier iteration of the know-it-all computer Hal in 2001: A Space Odyssey.
And as in 2001, Alien: Covenant involves a long outer space voyage during which the 2,000 human passengers, along with 1,140 embryos, will linger in a deep-freeze sleep for several years while the humanoid plays watchdog. The giant ship, called Covenant, is headed for a very distant planet, Origae-6, which is considered a promising new home for humanity to settle. For this reason, not only the slumbering immigrants, but the crew, too, are composed of prospective parents meant to propagate and establish a new homeland for homo sapiens.
This couples-only orientation lends a fresh feel to this group of space travelers, and definitely cranks up the emotional distress quotient as partners start splitting open and giving birth to the wrong kind of offspring. When a space storm hits and damages the ship's giant wind sails, the first to perish is the ship's captain (James Franco, seen ever-so-briefly), which devastates his mate Daniels (Katherine Waterston), assigned to oversee terraforming on humankind's new planet.