In what feels like an amalgam between the Prometheus film and the original Alien films, Alien: Covenant feels like it clashes with its message. Is it the exploration of deep themes of world creation and the evolution of humanity or is it a violent monster flick filled with horror images?
The fact that the answer really is “both” is one of the problems for the new entry in the film series by Ridley Scott. It is both a sequel and a prequel and, at times, is confused because of it.
The crew of the spaceship Covenant, on a colonization mission, awake from their slumber when the ship runs into trouble. Several colonists are killed, as is the captain, leaving Oram (Billy Crudup) as the new captain. They discover a strange message (along with a John Denver song) on a mysterious unknown planet considerably closer than the planet that they were originally heading to, so they decide to change course and go check out the new place.
Despite the fact that, from the outside, the planet seems to be perfect for their needs, the crew finds out that they are in deep trouble.
Michael Fassbender reprises his role as David here, as well as playing a second artificial humanoid named Walter. David has been on this mysterious planet for years, since he arrived after the Prometheus movie.
I have to say, I found the first act of the film to be fairly slow and somewhat dull. I know this was meant to be more Prometheus-like, but I enjoyed that movie more than I did this part of the film.
It also feels like this film is barely a sequel to Prometheus at all. Most of the story line of that film is completely cast aside here. If you were a big fan of Prometheus, Covenant will probably be a crushing disappointment.
Though I liked Prometheus, it was not a film that I loved. In fact, there were only so many parts that I even remember from it, so the part where Scott tosses it aside did not bother me.
When creatures started popping out of people, I thought the film got considerably better. There were several very tense and frightening moments in the film, more so than many horror movies. The third act of the film really did feel like a totally different movie. It was okay, though I did enjoy the Michael Fassbender parts. The film was certainly predictable. It was not hard to imagine what was going to happen to this colony of people on Covenant.
Along with the predictability of the script, the film also fell into the horror genre cliche of disposable characters. There were very few that I had any connection to at all. The new captain was kind of a jerk. The women were all basically the same (although Katherine Waterston was solid as the typical badass female from the Alien franchise) and there were several who I did not even know their names.
One exception was Tennessee (Danny McBride), who was great in this film. He was one of the characters that I cared about and whom had some development.
Unfortunately, Covenant had another horror weakness to it. That would be how some of the characters do blatantly stupid things. I mean, these are meant to be scientists. They really do some dumb things. There is one scene in particular with Crudup that is almost laughable it is so dumb. Hadn’t the guy ever seen a horror movie before?
Alien: Covenant looked tremendous. Ridley Scott has always had a flare for making these films look beautifully stunning, and this is another one. There are so many great shots here that you can appreciate the work and effort Scott places into each exterior. Still, I could have done for more development in the character arcs than what we got.
There were plenty of people who complained after Prometheus that they did not get any Xenomorph action in that film, and this film tries to make up for it. It succeeds part of the way. By including the Xenomorphs, the film becomes more of a horror monster movie than anything with greater aspirations. Not that a good horror monster movie is bad. It just feels like this should have been even greater.