Alien: Covenant Review

Director Ridley Scott listens to Alien fans and he shouldn’t have.

WARNING: Spoilers follow:

10 years following the events of Promethus, the crew of the colony transport ship Covenant is awakened on accident. When a distress call comes from a planet far more favorable to human life than even the one they are traveling to and could cut years off their trip, the crew decides to investigate to see if it’s viable. They discover remnants of a wiped out civilization and unimaginable horror.

When Promethus was released back in 2012, I walked out of the theater following the film intrigued with the premise that director Ridley Scott had introduced. This was a film set in the Alien world, but it wasn’t telling the Alien story. It focused, instead, on the origins of the “space jockey”, the pilot of the ship that Ripley and co found in the original Alien story. The result was an interesting story with great characters that focused on big questions. It was fun sci-fi horror but the film had a lot to say about greed, human nature, and faith. Was it a perfect film? No, it had the same problems a lot of works by screenwriter Damon Lindleof have, namely setting up a lot of questions and not allowing them to pay off by the end of the story. But I had assumed a lot of this would be addressed in sequels. I don’t think it’s unfair to say that most Alien fans hated Prometheus, they resented Lindelof’s myserious style, it’s faliure to connect to the original Alien in any substantive way, and most of all they didn’t like there were no xenomorphs, the epytomous creatures that have usually starred in the series.

Well, with Alien: Covenant fans have gotten what they demanded: a straight-forward story with nothing hidden and nothing really revealed, a clear and uninspired path to the original Alien, and their xenomorph in full CGI glory, more mobile, but far less threatening than the 1979 original puppetry. The result is kind of blah. What a disappointment Alien: Covenant is.

The cast is mostly unlikable, with the exception of lead Katherine Waterson as Daniels, who is the only bright believable part of the ensamble except perhaps Empire’s Jussie Smollett, who plays a very minor role. The characters make tons of really dumb decisions that would make any semi-intellegent person face palm when you consider the plot ramifications. My wife is in danger, we have to get closer to the surface to make sure she’s alright! To hell with the lives of the thousands of colonists we have aboard our ship! Even the initial decision to explore the planet is rooted in stupidity and insecurity. The creators tried to do something interesting with Billy Crudup’s character and his faith, but once again Prometheus did it so much better with Shaw.

But perhaps the biggest disappointment is the most interesting characters and plot threads established by Prometheus are quickly swept aside to make room for the ramp up to the original Alien, a film that honestly doesn’t need such a direct prequel. David, the morally ambigioius android from Prometheus, becomes a mustache-twirling villian in this film. Michael Fassbender is too talented to make this totally suck, but it’s clearly not the direction Scott and co. had in mind before the blowback from Prometheus. The engineers, the star alien race introduced in Prometheus, are literally wiped out in seconds. That’s not to say we’ll never see them again, but it would have been interesting to see a film with Shaw meeting these creatures and learning more about the origins of humanity, which is clearly what Scott wanted to do in the first place.

Alien: Covenant is a reaction more than it is a film. Following a brave sci-fi film that didn’t follow the template of what it’s fans had in mind, it settles for giving them what they want in the sequel. It’s clear that Scott’s heart isn’t all that in it. The result is a ho-hum, boring sequel and prequel with an unlikable cast that literally throws away the best elements introduced in the previous film. Decent performances from Waterson and Fassbender help give the film a little bit of lift but overall it’s a disappointment.