| 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.
Whilst Prometheus was a prequel, it was only really connected to the Alien franchise in terms of its aesthetic and a brief appearance of the creature at the end of the film. And make no mistake, this is a sequel to Prometheus first and foremost in terms of its story and is unlikely to win over those who disliked it. Previous entries in the Alien franchise have always offered something different or new, even the least successful ones, and it is a shame that this entry offers very little that is new in terms of ideas or themes. Instead the film feels more like a greatest hits package of the entire franchise with Scott riffing on all the previous entries. The mythology and themes of Prometheus are explored a little further in this entry, although not like I would have preferred, because Alien Covenant is a good film when it’s not trying to be a franchise movie, and it gets frustrating and empty when it’s trying to be one.
Considering the highly mixed reception that Prometheus has received, this film should have been much better without an overabundance of effort; however, I am actually one of the few that enjoyed Prometheus, because of its premise, resonating themes and technical prowess. To this day, I think it’s the most misunderstood Alien movie and I can’t help but feel that Covenant is an inferior film to that of its maligned predecessor. Covenant, at worst, is riddled with what I feel like is lazy and spiritless writing with full of horror clichés by its writers John Logan & Dante Harper.
As for the direction, Scott has changed very much as a film director, and it’s a change that somehow is very disappointing to me. So disappointing that it made me relieved that Denis Villeneuve took over the reigns of the Blade Runner sequel. Let me explain; Scott’s direction in the original Alien and Blade Runner is ambitious, confident, and filled with creativity, risk, and message, but, unfortunately like all of his latest films, Covenant lacks this sort of spirit and feels like a film drained of heart and ambition. One could say that in this film, David and his antics combined with the whole obsession of creation can be an interesting commentary on creationism and servitude, but I found it uninspired and uninteresting, laced in well-tread villainous plot turns that, again, Scott didn’t even feel like disguising or leaving to ambiguity, and just revealed everything.
The reception to the cryptic nature of Prometheus perhaps dissuaded Scott from taking more ambitious angles with this story, and to some degree I understand the direction, but the end-result is a story that feels dumbed-down, simplified, and formulaic to set-up sequels and future endeavours. The ending in particular disappointed, which I felt was both paying too much homage to the first film in its finale, as well as well too lazy and unambitious in its resolution.
As for the production design itself, it tends to be gorgeous. No Ridley Scott vehicle is ugly or even less than great, so it should come as no wonder that his scenery and cinematography are on point, capturing eerie locales and framing for maximum tension. The design of the xenomorphs themselves are lesser than they have been in the past, thanks mostly to an unnecessary reliance on CGI for their many attacks, lending little credence to their physical manifestation in frame. Also the fantastic score by Jed Kurzel, serving as an homage to the late Jerry Goldsmith, deserves an honourable mention.
Fassbender knew he had the role of a lifetime when he decided to play the two parts (Walter/David). He is such a master of precise diction and able to evoke feelings and emotions with a simple look. Words are most of the time unnecessary as we see his mind planning the next move. Unfortunately for the rest of the cast, the spotlight never leaves him, and even the new and improved monsters do quite a bit of impressive damage, we continue to hold our breaths, waiting for David and Walter’s next moves.
I didn’t think anyone gave a bad performance, it’s just that absolutely nothing about the crew was memorable. Katherine Waterston gets top billing, and she does fine with a few decent moments here or there, but for the most part I found her character pretty forgettable. Danny McBride gives one of the better performances in the film, in a role that went against his type. I feel overall the lack of a strong protagonist took away from the tension and atmosphere that the original had.
But, despite going into all its flaws and my personal problems with Scott in this review, I have to say that as a big fan of the franchise, I still had fun with the movie and I still think it’s worth watching it due to its setup for its upcoming sequels. Is it better than “Prometheus”? Not really in my honest opinion. It really depends on what you wanna see out of this franchise.
‘Alien: Covenant’ gets a 7.1/10
Shot on 35's Rating Sheet: 9.5 – 10.0: Excellent! 8.5 – 9.5: Fantastic, but with minor flaws 7.5 – 8.5: Great, but with issues 6.5 – 7.5: Okay, but with major issues 5.5 – 6.5: Had potential, but falls flat hard. 4.5 – 5.5: Disaster!
Follow me on Twitter for more random movie, comics & sports stuff here.
You can also follow my Letterboxd account to see my movie activity here.