As the follow up to Prometheus (2012), Alien: Covenant is indeed much more of an “Alien” movie than its predecessor. This is both good and bad for fans though. Fans looking for something new to bring to the franchise will be disappointed, as Covenant rehashes from each Alien film in the canon leaving behind quite a mixture of its best and worst aspects. For those new to the franchise or for reasons unknown have not seen the original Alien films (Alien, 1979; Aliens 1986) through Alien: Resurrection (1997) and all its spin-offs including the V.S. Predator series may be the only ones who find some surprises in Covenant.
Rugged crew with questionable judgement and ability? Check. Cargo ship too valuable to believe to have been put in the hands of said crew? Check. Android who plays key role in shit hitting the fan? Check. These conventional Alien movie tropes are not bad in of themselves, but when paired with a script that plays it safe, it comes off as a bit “dumbed down” for the masses, which is extremely unfortunate since this is director Ridley Scott’s second attempt at making an Alien film that could potentially rival his 1979 masterpiece, Alien.
Every member of the crew reminded me of a crew member from a previous Alien installment, with no real stand-outs besides the pilot who is played by the brilliant Danny McBride. There are efforts made to develop the characters in the early parts of the movie, but the scenes felt forced and left the characters flat and boring. Michael Fassbender continues his role as the android David (except in his Assassin’s Creed wardrobe apparently) from Prometheus, and like in Prometheus, however strong his facial expressions may be, his delivered lines are almost too robotic at times. Ian Holm (Alien) as Ash or Lance Henriksen (Aliens, Alien 3) as Bishop were very human-like and much better candidates for the Turing Test than David. Yes, you could argue they are newer models making it so, but it doesn’t change the fact that it is difficult to feel sympathy for Fassbender’s David in Covenant.
On the positive side, the Alien creature has never been so scary and fierce as it is in Covenant. The sheer strength of the scenes that include the alien creature make Covenant absolutely worthwhile. There are legitimate scenes of horror and H.R. Giger’s brilliant designs, including the Alien in its full nightmarish glory, get some breathtakingly gorgeous money shots. As an above average horror picture, Covenant hits some great notes, despite its underwhelming climax.
For those who thought Prometheus failed to advance the Alien story enough will be pleased to know that Covenant covers a lot of ground. It is so unfortunate that it follows such familiar conventions from the previous entries, even with Ridley Scott at the helm, considering both Alien (1979) and Prometheus (2012) sported so much daring originality. Perhaps the franchise has grown to a point where playing it safe is the only way forward. Overall, Covenant is a good modern addition to the Alien canon and pleases on its horror side only. Fans of “smart” sci-fi that pushes the genre into new territory will be be left wrinkling their nose.
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