Alien: Covenant Movie Review
If there is one positive thing I have to say about Alien Covenant, it’s that after watching it, I hope I’ll never hear anyone complain about how stupid the characters of Prometheus were after they see this movie.
While I get that I’m part of the distinct minority that still enjoys the movie Prometheus – mostly because it’s probably the closest thing we’ll ever get to a big budget adaptation of At the Mountains of Madness – but I never resented that most people wanted something more like a traditional Alien movie. This puts Alien: Covenant in the position of being both a sequel to Prometheus and a prequel to Alien, and sadly, in trying to both, the movie fails to do either.
Alien: Covenant centers on the crew of a sleeper ship on a colonization mission to a distant planet, which, upon receiving a distress call changes course to find the source on a nearby world. The signal, it turns out was sent out by the survivors of the Prometheus, who have since taken refuge on this world. Unfortunately, they were not the only ones to do so, as they will violently find out.
Again, Alien: Covenant tries to be a sequel to Prometheus, wrapping up the loose ends laid by that movie, as well as a prequel to Alien, and it completely fails in both regards, often greatly undermining both franchises in the process. Those seeking answers to the lingering questions from Prometheus will get them, in the form of brief bits of exposition that explain events that happen entirely offscreen – the answers we get are painfully unsatisfying. Even this is small potatoes to the ways it manages to, as many prequels do, completely undermine the mythos of the original movie. Without spoiling too much, the central mystery of the movie is that the xenomorphs aren’t actually aliens. Because it makes perfect sense for the Alien franchise to no longer be about aliens.
It also doesn’t help that Alien: Covenant has a truly awful script where every event is predictable well in advance. Where Alien is to this day brilliant in the dozens of ways it subverts both science fiction and horror genre norms, Alien: Covenant manages to be more generic and cliche than some of the later Friday the 13th sequels. I actually started making a mental checklist of some of these cliches, ranging from the group splitting up to get picked off one by one to people having sex all but inviting the monster to kill them midcoitus, and I almost have to wonder if the screenwriters were using the same list.
This is further hindered by an unimpressive cast playing a group of thin characters that could well be the dumbest bunch of red shirts in the entire Alien franchise. I’m well aware one of the central complaints about Prometheus was the sometimes dumb actions of the crew, but the sorry lot here makes them look like Einstein given the utter amount of suicidal stupidity on display. This ranges from going onto an alien planet without any helmets to someone literally sticking their face into a chestburster egg. It kind of guts any sort of horror or tension the movie might have had watching the crew get picked off when my first instinct is to scream at them for their stupidity rather than wince at their gory demises.
Once again, Michael Fassbender is the highlight of the film, here playing two androids instead of one, and yes, they go exactly where you think they would predictably go with that narratively. The franchise that once gave us Sigourney Weaver’s unforgettably badass Ellen Ripley, now has been reduced to sticking us with Katherine Waterston’s Daniels, who spends the majority of her screentime weeping or being led along like a dupe. Between this and Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, I think Waterson has spent the majority of her screentime in tears. Danny McBride plays a pilot named Tennessee, who wears a cowboy hat. Beyond that? I couldn’t tell you much about the other characters or performances in Alien: Covenant, given they’re mostly interchangeable, mindless red shirts who all but offer themselves to the xenomorphs on a silver platter.
The one upside is that Alien: Covenant offers some very impressive visuals at times, especially some long shots of the Covenant itself in the early parts of the movie, with its solar sails extended, though even that starts to lose its luster once the movie gets stuck on a mostly greyish-blue planet without much visual flair. There’s a couple action scenes, none of which are anything to write home about. Frankly, if you’d have told me Ridley Scott directed this himself, I might not have believed you, given it lacks any of the director flair we saw with Prometheus or The Martian.
Alien: Covenant was supposed to be a course correction for the Alien franchise after the mixed reception for Prometheus, but instead, we get a crash landing that leaves precious little worth salvaging. At best, it’s a generic slasher movie with some occasionally pretty visuals, and at worst, it’s a dull, painfully stupid misadventure that drags down both Prometheus and the Alien franchise. Even the most diehard Alien fan shouldn’t have to subject himself to Alien: Covenant – steer clear of it entirely.