In 2012, Ridley Scott revisited the Alien universe he kicked off back in 1979. Prometheus divided critics and fans alike, most of the complaints accused the film of straying too far from what the fans know and love. Prometheus raised a lot of questions, and, in a confusing turn of events, offered almost none of the answers. I personally hold Damon Lindelof responsible; he and frequent collaborator J.J. Abrams have rigid hard-ons for introducing mysteries that they never even come close to paying off competently (Lost, Cloverfield, Star Trek Into Darkness, Star Wars: The Force Awakens, Ultimate Wolverine vs Hulk, etc). The sequel to Prometheus provides a lot of answers to questions fans have been speculating for years, and what do you know? Lindelof isn’t involved. In a lot of ways, Ridley Scott’s latest film, Alien: Covenant, is a direct response to the criticism and hatred Prometheus may or may not have deserved. Just look at the title, nowhere does it mention Prometheus, 20th Century Fox wants to assure you this is an Alien film, not a Prometheus sequel. See? Look, those Xenomorphs we all know and love are front and center on all of the billboards and posters. It’s as if the studio is going out of its way to say, “Please forget Prometheus and accept this new Alien film as an apology.”
“There’s deep dialogue that explores interesting concepts like creation, power, and control, unfortunately, one chest-bursting scene later and we’re back to Aliens running amok on a spaceship…”
I enjoyed Prometheus a bit more than most people I know, but the film is still severely flawed. It could have been a great film if they expanded upon the lore while also going off into something different. Instead we had a movie about a space crew that lands on a mysterious planet, something extraterrestrial infects a few of them, all hell breaks loose, and in the end there’s one female survivor that gets a “This is blah blah blah, signing off.” monologue. Guess what? That’s pretty much what we have here with Alien: Covenant too. This film is another rehash; sure, it’s a nice looking rehash with some great gore, but we’ve seen this film three times now. Alien: Covenant’s only saving grace is the second act, which features the returning android David (played marvelously by Michael Fassbender), the last survivor of the doomed Prometheus crew. It’s his introduction that offers this brilliant, albeit too short, exposition that provides those sweet, sweet answers most of us have wanted to know for decades. We’re not only given answers, we are given answers that are fairly satisfying. There’s deep dialogue that explores interesting concepts like creation, power, and control. Unfortunately, one chest-bursting scene later, we’re back to Aliens running amok on a spaceship and the last remaining crew members doing what they can to survive.
I kind of just glossed over the plot, so here it is again in greater detail. The Covenant is a ship with a mission to colonize a distant planet. After tragedy strikes, they discover a mysterious transmission coming from a mysterious planet, and the Covenant’s new Captain (played by Billy Crudup giving a downright awful performance) decides that they should colonize this new planet instead despite the protests of his second in command played by Katherine Waterston. Along with an upgraded android model called Walter (who is also played by Michael Fassbender), they go exploring and bad things happen to characters that we never get a chance to know or care for. That’s another major flaw this film has, I don’t care about any of the characters aside from David and Walter. I never even bothered to learn any of their names because they were so bland and boring. It’s awkwardly established that Billy Crudup’s character is a man of faith, and it literally serves no purpose to the plot. His religious views have literally no bearing over his decision-making and leadership, so why bother hammering home that this guy believes in some interpretation of God? There’s also this twist that’s so telegraphed and obvious, it makes our lead female protagonist look like a fucking idiot.
“…despite an amazing break from monotony in the second act; it’s simply just another redundant Alien film…”
I want to say that Alien: Covenant’s philosophical explorations elevate the film beyond a mediocre Sci-Fi/horror film, but it’s just not enough. We’re given more of the same with this one, and despite an amazing break from monotony in the second act; it’s simply just another redundant Alien film, just like Prometheus before it. It’s not bad like Alien: Resurrection or the Alien vs. Predator films, the script is at least decent, the acting is adequate for the most part, there’s some wonderfully gruesome death scenes, an awesome and terrifying new alien creature I’d love to see more of, and despite some terrible looking special effects, the film looks absolutely stunning. Alien: Covenant simply lacks a pleasing amount of creativity. As an Alien film, it fits in with the universe, and it has an authentic feel to it, but ideally I’d like to see the franchise go in a different direction and explore new ideas. Alien: Covenant is an passable Alien film, but honestly I’m tired of Alien films. I want something new, exciting, and thought provoking that doesn’t overtly rely on unresolved questions and dangling plot threads like Lindelof did with Prometheus. It’s obvious Ridley Scott and his team felt pressured to deliver something less bold and more familiar, but when the film strays from all of the recognizable conventions, it really shines and feels like something special.
Alien: Covenant (2017) Directed by: Ridley Scott. Written by: John Logan, Dante Harper, Jack Paglen, Michael Green. Starring: Michael Fassbender, Katherine Waterston, Danny McBride, Billy Crudup, Demián Bichir
7 out of 10