In space, or really in the movie theater I saw this in, no one can hear you scream, because there really aren’t any screams to be had throughout watching this movie, at least from me anyway, maybe more from the characters in it. My point is, Alien: Covenant isn’t really scary, among other problems. And after watching it and hearing about what’s being planned for the Alien franchise going forward, I can only ask this one question: seriously, Neill Blomkamp’s Alien 5 movie got cancelled for THIS?
Throughout the whole time the movie played, I couldn’t help but feel a sense of deja vu. And then it hit me: this is Fox and Ridley Scott, not to mention the writers, trying to relive the first Alien, and doing a mediocre job at it. It’s like they’re saying “Hey audience, you remember Alien, right? Huh? Member? Well, this is what you wanted right? Please tell us this movie is good and we’re cool for doing it, we got a bunch more of these planned and we need this one to be good so we can sell more of this prequel shit to ya in piecemeal with not exactly a clear end goal in mind”.
I wasn’t exactly sure what to expect from this movie other than it being another Alien prequel and a sequel to Prometheus. Then once I saw those YouTube clips that provided buildup and backstory to the Covenant crew, David, Elizabeth Shaw, and the Engineers, and that they ended up not being in the final film, I figured it might suck. Say what you will about Prometheus, but at least it tried to do something interesting before devolving into standard operating procedure for a sci-fi horror movie. Alien: Covenant is just more obvious, and like the previous film, it answers some questions while asking more. Also the fact this takes place ten years later after the previous movie is a questionable decision that I don’t think this movie acts on very well, much like with X-Men: Apocalypse (ironic that they’re both 20th Century Fox productions).
Ya know how in previous Alien films (at least the first two, not so much the later ones) there was character development and buildup for the characters established in those movies, to give a feel for them when something happens to them? Yeah much like with Prometheus, that doesn’t seem to apply for hardly any of them except for a few, with this film it’s David/Walter, Daniels, and Tennessee. These characters do some of the dumbest things possible in a film like this. After experiencing a “solar storm” that caused some equipment damage and a few deaths (including the captain played by James Franco, so good to know his inclusion in this movie is well-spent), the Covenant crew encounter receive a mysterious signal (gee, how familiar), and decide to go to where it came from in order to investigate and possible colonize the planet, despite the fact they have no idea what it is and they were already on their way to a different planet that they have surveyed, researched, and prepared for.
Why do they decide to go to it? Well, not just because it’s more convenient for them and the plot, but also because the message played a fucking John Denver song. [Sigh] At least in the original Alien there was a much better excuse for why they went to LV-426, because the Nostromo crew were contractually obligated to investigate mysterious signals. Here, everything that happens to the Covenant crew is because they were simply too stupid and lazy to ignore it (also so Ridley Scott and Fox can rehash the original film).
If there’s anything positive to take away from this movie, it’s the visuals and acting. No matter if the movie is bad or good, the visuals in ANY Ridley Scott film are vivid, intense, and quite beautiful to look at. While the filtering can get a bit annoying at times, especially depending on where you’re watching this movie, I’d recommend having the lights off or dimmed down, it does fulfill its purpose of helping to provide tension in several scenes. Though I’ll admit when the xenomorph rushes at the crew while trying to escape the planet and they attack and kill it, any tension would probably be lost cause with the xenomorph being portrayed in motion capture and CGI, it just looks kinda silly.
As for the acting, well if one thing was definitely clear regarding who the standout was in Prometheus, that being David (played by Michael Fassbender), then it’s no different here in this movie. This time, though, Fassbender also gets to play an additional android, Walter, and the way these two characters play off each other is amazing. David is cynical, cold, cultured, and calcualating, while Walter is pragmatic, down-to-earth, and more caring, especially towards Daniels, which can be somewhat similar to how David loved Shaw (exception here being that Walter doesn’t want to kill Daniels). They have different ideas of what humans are like, based on their experiences, and how they go about expressing those ideas is pretty interesting. Though I will admit, some moments between these two can get a bit, uh, “weird”, like when they kiss each other (not joking) and play the flute, with Walter blowing and David, in his words, “doing the fingering” (giggity).
The fact that David has become the main antagonist of these prequel movies now is a little cliched and reminiscent of Ash, but Michael Fassbender portrays him with grace, nuance, and intensity. He definitely steals the show here. I actually think of him as sort of the antithesis of what Ripley was for the original films. David is an android, male, apathetic towards humans (except Elizabeth Shaw) and the Engineers (especially considering he commits mass genocide by dropping black goo canisters on em), affectionate towards his “creations” aka the xenomorphs, and has delusions of grandeur as being a great creator and wanting to experiment by creating life, and is cold and calculating with little emotion about the situations at hand, except when he shows how much he cares for his “creations”, like I said. Ripley, on the other hand, is a human, female, affectionate towards those she cares about, is a mother figure not only to her actual daughter but also to Newt and even others she comes across, and is all about destroying the xenomorphs that have haunted her since her first encounter with them. When taking ALL the movies into account, we see a “cycle” of sorts within the Alien saga, with the development of David, the “creator”, and Ripley, the “destroyer”. It’s actually kind of neat when thinking about it in that regard, even if the quality of each individual installment varies, especially this one and the one before it (and the other two before that, but whatever).
While Daniels (played by Katherine Waterston) may be a Ripley knockoff, she’s amazing in the role, and probably one of the few “smart” characters in this movie. When she protests about going to the mysterious planet cause they literally know NOTHING about it instead of the one they prepared for, I was actually rooting for her and figured she was gonna be the one to live through the movie. While her relationship with her dead husband isn’t exactly well-established, you do get a sense of what she’s going through and why she’s on this mission to start a new life. Tennessee (played by Danny McBride) is kind of a comedic relief for the movie, though he also has his serious moments so he’s not a caricature. He’s kind of like a mix of Brett and Parker from the original Alien and while it is a bit on the nose, given how this movie is, he is kind of refreshing to watch, even if he might make a dumb decision here or there, like having the ship get closer to the planet despite the dangerous weather might damage or destroy it.
The other characters in this movie I couldn’t really give much of a shit about. They might as well wear friggin red shirts and call it a day. Aside from deciding to go to the unknown planet and basically signing their death warrants, they continue to do more dumb things. When they get on the planet, they don’t decide to wear protective gear so as not to get infected by any airborne contaminants, like how two characters did when they stumble upon the tiny egg sacs and get neomorphs in em (yeah I know other characters didn’t wear protective gear either but those guys only got infected cause the plot says so). When one of the infected is being operated on by the biologist and the lander pilot, the latter decides to lock the two up for no reason other than to “contain the infection”, despite that she also got blood sprayed in her face by the infected guy too. And once the neomorph gets out, the biologist tries to attack it with a knife but of course that backfires and she gets killed, and then the pilot tries shooting it with a friggin shotgun but ends up blowing herself up cause she’s SHOOTING AROUND EXPLOSIVE CANISTERS like a moron.
When some of the characters split up, of course that horror cliche plays out in which that’s a bad idea and one of em gets killed by a neomorph. Then Captain Oram (played by Billy Crudup) allows himself to get impregnated by a facehugger simply because David tells him to look closer at the egg. And when the survivors get back on the ship, for some reason they don’t bother to do a medical checkup on Lope (played by Demian Bichir), who’s got acid scarring on his face from a facehugger, and a xenomorph pops out, and the ship’s AI called “Mother” (get it?) doesn’t tell em til it’s fully grown (though I guess David might’ve had something to do with that). Oh, and two characters get killed by the xenomorph while having shower sex, because for some reason there had to be a shower sex scene, and they don’t hear the really loud alarm because they got even louder music playing somehow, and when Daniels and Tennessee discover their dead bodies, it’s just like how Ripley discovered Parker and Lambert’s bodies in the original. And the movie ends on how it’s such a twist that David switched places with Walter, planning to experiment on the survivors and remaining colonists, but it’s so obvious after the Walter and David fight that I’m surprised the people who made this movie thought it was clever.
And let’s not forget Elizabeth Shaw (played by Noomi Rapace) and Peter Weyland (played by Guy Pearce). Sure, they’re relegated to cameos in this movie, but it’s interesting to see how they figure into it. At the beginning of the movie there’s a younger Weyland overseeing David’s creation, which foreshadows the relationship between the two and how it’ll play out in Prometheus and even in this movie somewhat. It is disheartening to know that Shaw is dead in this movie and why/how David killed her as part of his experiements despite his love for her, given what she went through in the previous movie, I really don’t see how else her character was gonna end up in this one, but it would’ve been nice to have gotten more of her here (ya know, like those YouTube clips showed).
When I look up how other reviews apparently mark this movie as a “true return to form” for both the Alien franchise and Ridley Scott, I can’t help but say to that, “da fuq? really?” Because this movie is not that at all. Sure, it’s a visual spectacle, the acting pretty decent, and the story and ideas in it are kinda interesting, it’s still a mixed bag of questionable story and editing decisions, leaving you confused, frustrated, and wondering what was the point of it. And somehow despite there being FOUR writers on this, they couldn’t really deliver on making a better script for this. Not to mention the sequel-baiting is more forced than in the previous movie, which already had enough sequel-baiting as it did. If you want to see a REAL true return to form for Ridley Scott, go watch The Martian, which had a more interesting story, character development, and a better positive feel than this movie does. And they want to make more of this prequel shit? They wanna go George Lucas on this franchise now? And have a CGI Ripley at some point? I’m sorry, but no, this movie doesn’t deserve that or even earns it.
I’d rather have a facehugger impregnate me than watch another subpar Alien prequel, if what I hear about the next installment is true, which apparently will be set between Prometheus and this movie, and I just gotta wonder why that couldn’t have been done instead of this. As much as I hate to be harsh on this, I just gotta say my piece on it. The ideas are there to make an interesting prequel for this franchise, but much like with Star Wars, The Hobbit, and others, the ideas are solid but the execution isn’t. There are good prequels, though, like Better Call Saul, the new Apes movies, and a couple of others, but that’s mostly because they don’t necessarily make the prequel aspect that obvious and are able to stand out on their own.
Honestly, I hope Fox and Scott reconsider and get Neill Blomkamp’s Alien 5 back up and running, because I’d like to see a more proper conclusion to Ripley’s overall story. And then, if they like, they can make whatever prequel or sequel shit they like, as long as it’s GOOD. Plus it’d be great to see Michael Biehn as Hicks again, too. Heck can we also have a sequel to Alien: Isolation and maybe a better version of that shitty Aliens: Colonial Marines while we’re at it?
Look upon their [Fox and Ridley Scott] works, ye mighty, and despair, cause Fox and Ridley Scott made Alien: Covenant, and it’s pretty shitty.