Alien: Covenant May Be The Biggest Disappointment Of Winter

Image: IMDB/Alien Covenant

Here's a sentence I'm just incredibly sad to type: Alien: Covenant is bad.

It's not terrible. Director Ridley Scott didn't make some kind of hugely annoying, incoherent movie or anything like that. There are a few pockets of enjoyment in what unfolds on screen and watching it is semi-pleasant. But after the credits roll, mulling over everything you just saw, the film continues to sour like milk left out in the sun. It was good for a little bit, but not for long, and that's just not good enough for a franchise with this history.

Alien: Covenant is a sequel to Scott's 2012 film, Prometheus, and it follows yet another ship travelling into deep space. This time, though, the ship is out there not for research but to colonize a new planet. Things then go awry, they land on a different planet, and very quickly it becomes obvious that bad things are about to happen.

And while the characters might realise they made a mistake relatively quickly, the film is not quick in getting to that point. Alien: Covenant is criminally backloaded, with almost an hour going by before the crew lands on the planet and another half-hour or so after that before the thrills start to really kick in. In that long slog of exposition, you spend a lot of time with the new characters but still manage not to learn much about them.

Daniels (Katharine Waterston) is the main character so, of course, she has the best backstory. The other standout is Tennessee, a pilot played by Danny McBride, who thrives on the actor's charisma. As for the rest of the crew (which includes Billy Crudup, Demian Bichir, Jussie Smollett, and Callie Hernandez), you basically learn they are on this flight to do a job and that's all. Some of their interactions raise mildly engaging questions, but nothing particularly exciting or interesting happens in the film for a long, long time.

That changes a little once the Covenant ship gets to this mysterious planet. The film opens up with a little more action, unsettling imagery, and it feels like things may be about to take a turn for the better. Unfortunately, that's not the case. With one or two small exceptions, the characters don't change very drastically when faced with these obstacles, the tone stays very even, and there are almost no scares to be had. There's plenty of gore, yes, but nothing that scary.

What you do get is is a lot of explanation of what happened after Prometheus. What happened to the characters, where the ship went, all of that. You even start to think you're going to get answers to the big "Why are we here?" questions from Prometheus too, which were by far the best part of that film. However, before any real answers can be revealed, Alien: Covenant almost maliciously removes any chance of that happening. The film includes such a brutal, clean dismissal of Prometheus' potential it almost feels like Scott is apologizing to fans for that film.

Everything that follows pads the mythology about the title xenomorph, driven primarily by an oddly unmotivated and slightly confusing plot involving Michael Fassbender's android character from the first film, David, and a second android on the Covenant, named Walter. Fassbender is great in both roles, but the character's stories demystify everything that made those aliens so terrifying in the first place. So Alien: Covenant gets rid of everything good about Prometheus and takes all the mystery of Alien away. It basically makes both films worse.

As this is happening, the characters continue to get picked off one by one until the big finale. The finale is definitely the coolest thing in the movie but feels relatively standard when compared to the typical big, Hollywood blockbuster. It also doesn't help that you've spent the entire movie waiting for these big action scenes so shoving so many into a short period of time removes much of the tension. There's just nothing that memorable in the movie. The gore and creature work make for some fun or gross moments, but nothing in the film stands out as something worth of the name "Alien."

Which is what you should be able to expect from a Ridley Scott Alien movie, right? Something epic, scary and visceral. Alien: Covenant is none of those things. It's just there. You almost wish it was terrible because then at least it would have taken some risks. Instead, you're left with an instantly forgettable piece of entertainment with boring characters, obvious mysteries, and none of the horror that made the Alien franchise so great.

Alien: Covenant opens in Australian cinemas May 11.


Comments

    Reporting in, I have been to the preview screening 2 days ago and the movie is fine. Would rate 7/10 and not as bad as the article is saying.

    It is classic Alien and Ridley Scott.

    People keep talking about the Alien Franchise as being awesome. There were only 2 great movies, one a horror and the other an action movie... The rest have all been crap to mediocre.

    Just watched it. Very good i thought. In my opinion this reviewer wanted Alien 2.0. Instead Ridley serves a more thoughful and brutal movie and one that the "human" characters are to be more feared than the creatures. 8.8/10. Excellent!

    That was really bad

    Okay, here's what I thought after watching it. SPOILER ALERT.

    The film started out well, after a shaky opening scene where David is talking to Peter Weyland after being created. In this opening scene it was made quite clear that Weyland was an immensely stupid man because he created a robot that is superior to him in every way, with enough reasoning and intelligence to be able to see itself as superior, and with a murderous desire and hatred for its creator. WHY WOULD YOU DO THIS? On top of this, why would the Engineers make such a clearly hazardous bio-weapon that would create such horrific, uncontrollable creatures and unforeseen outcomes? They'd have to be immensely stupid as well. It's such a flawed premise, that is only made worse by what comes after.

    Anyway it followed with the familiar theme from the first Alien film playing as Covenant started, which made me smile. The film looks great, excellent special effects, excellent designs, great soundtrack, and some very realistic science fiction.

    However after that it all goes downhill fast. First of all, the characters are unbelievably stupid. They are so stupid that they make the characters in Prometheus look like geniuses. They are on a mission, they are scientists, they are professionals, or supposedly anyway. But the instant one thing goes wrong, their new captain makes the most bone-headed decision ever to deviate from their mission and go to some unknown planet "because it's habitable" and also because they got a signal from it. Totally not a trap.

    Then when they go onto this alien, potentially dangerous planet, they don't wear any protective gear, like a space suit or environment suit, completely disregarding any potential danger in the most unprofessional manner possible. Of course, as you would expect, this leads to them getting infected by a deadly alien virus lying in wait on the planet. What a massive surprise.

    Another obviously dumb moment was the one where the captain walks up to an egg after it opens, after being shown it by David, whom he already distrusts... yet he puts his face right over the egg so that a facehugger can jump out and latch onto his face. The twist ending was so predictable as well... Oh no, it's not Walter, it's David! Yawn.

    But the worst thing is that this film completely de-mystifies the Alien creature by showing its apparent origins. It was created by David... who manipulated the virus weapon created by the Engineers to make a new creature... the Alien. It is beyond ridiculous and stupid that they did this, the best thing about the Alien was its mystery, and if you're going to reveal its origins at least make them good. These origins are just so hard to believe, and remove the awesome mystery of the first film, contradicting the idea that the vessel on LV-426 is ancient.

    I suppose it does leave some lingering questions to be answered in another film. How could David possibly know how to manipulate the alien virus created by the Engineers? He isn't any more intelligent than a human. He has no idea how it works, or tools necessary to even study it in his little make-shift laboratory. How did the ship with the Engineer (Space Jockey) end up on LV-426 full of eggs, if the eggs were invented by David?

    Last edited 13/05/17 5:38 am

    I justed watch it, dont let this article put u off watching it. It is ok and answer what happens after Promethus which is what a sequel should. 3 out of 5 from me.

    For me, Prometheus and Covenant destroyed Alien,... I´ve read the commentaries, and there´s the all important issue none have raised... in Prometheus, the central plot line shows you how dumb Ridley Scott really is, his lack of science grasp and research: he took the inane, childish and pseudo-scientific crap of Von Däniken and his lap dogs. There are actual interviews where Scott mentions this idiotic charlatan as inspiration. Maybe that was the point, to tap the deluded audience of the Ancient Aliens crap. From there you get the bad science and logic, moronic dialogue, demystifying of the Space Jockey and its cargo, the age and vastness of space, and [SPOILER ALERT!!!] the eggs-facehuggers-xenomorphs were crated by David... So now we´ll get the icing on this crap-cake in the form of whatever happens on the third and final prequel that ties to the 1979 Alien.

    We've been lied to. Prometheus ends with the android and the woman going off to the Engineers' planet to get answers. That is the movie we wanted to see. That was the promise. The continuation of that story. That is not what we get. Instead Davis now is magically not just a head and there is a whole apeshit nonsense story that the android was out to destroy the engineers and humanity. Where are the answers we wanted? If the original actress didn't want to be in the sequel they should have just replaced her but kept the story. Now, if the engineers were a space faring species it would be expected that there are many many other engineers elsewhere (and also that their planetary defenses would be better agains terrorist actions like the one committed by David). So bad...

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