Alien: Covenant Review
Starring Katherine Waterston, Billy Crudup. Michael Fassbender, Danny McBride, Damián Bichir, Carmen Ejogo, Jussie Smollett, Callie Hernandez, Amy Seimetz
Written by John Logan and Dante Harper with story by Jack Paglen and Michael Green
Directed by Ridley Scott
Cinematography by Dariusz Wolski
Coming home from watching Alien: Covenant I sit in front of this computer thinking of clever ways I could express my disappointment. Truth is, I can’t. Alien: Covenant, in all of its promotional material, looked like a promising return to the series after the misstep with Prometheus. Ridley Scott returning to the series with Prometheus was supposed to the film to right the wrongs of Alien 3 and Alien: Resurrection, except it didn’t. With Ridley Scott returning once more, who impressed with The Martian in 2014, optimism for the new flick was at an all time high.
Set ten years after the events of Prometheus, Alien: Covenant follows a colonization team bound for a new habitable earth-like planet. Aptly named Covenant, the ship is carrying over 2000 colonists and embryos to begin life anew for humanity. Hit by solar flares, the crew is roused early to find their captain dead from a technical mishap. Oram (Crudup), now the acting captain, decides to, on a whim, steer the ship towards another possible hospitable planet never before picked up by RADAR.
Here in lies the problems of Alien: Covenant. Like Prometheus before, which was widely panned by fans for having characters make stupid decisions. John Logan and Dante Harper, with help from Michael Green and Jack Paglen, write a story relying too heavily on poor decisions made by authority figures instead of chance.
These characters are supposed to be intelligent, yet they make baffling choices for the sake of moving the story forward. Plus, neither one of these characters is interesting, with a slight exception of Daniels and Tennessee (Waterston, McBride). Aside from it being frustrating, it’s a lazy storytelling method. Scott, along with the writers, seemingly try to recreate that first film with tone and atmosphere. Like Alien, Alien: Covenant features the directing talents of Ridley Scott. And that’s where the similarities end.
Many of the groan-worthy aspects of the film come with baffling decision making and enough contrivances to make a Lifetime movie blush. With that aside, the film relies too heavily on computer generated imagery. Having revisited Alien and Aliens beforehand, I was in awe of the masterful use of puppetry. Stan Winston’s puppeteering in Aliens is definitely a highlight. Eagerness for another chestburster scene quickly died with an overuse of CGI. Despite reported budget of $97 million, most of the xenomorphs look out of place and look more dated than its predecessors.
Coven-can’t Bring Anything Fresh
Adding to the poor writing is Covenant’s boring and predictable story structure. Following the same formula as its predecessors, you could accurately predict who and the order people die. There is absolutely nothing fresh or surprising in Covenant, which is sad considering the talent behind the film. Katherine Waterston can’t do much to save the film from being a complete waste of your time. Neither can a double dose of Michael Fassbender save Covenant from being pure schlock. Speaking of schlock, who’s idea was it to include a kung-fu fight sequence? It felt out of place and contrived I had to rest my face in my palms.
(Some) Saving Graces
Religious overtones prevent Covenant from being totally inept, however. The opening conversation between Peter Weyland and android David is more interesting than almost all of Prometheus. While never reaching Blade Runner levels of existentialism, Logan and Harper write some interesting dialog. Talks between both androids Walter and David further explore this idea, but that plot point ends with contrivances. What Prometheus tried to do, Covenant nails, albeit if it is heavy-handed.
Covenant’s cynical (final) ending isn’t a complete surprise but is done fairly well that I wish the filmmakers would have put that much energy in the whole film. Getting to the end is a chore as the film ends three different times. Horror films rely on fake out endings, prolonging the scare-factor of a film. Covenant pulls that same dirty trick twice.
Alien: Covenant is just a retread of better films in the franchise with a glossy finish. Take the action of Aliens, add in the stupidity of Prometheus, merge that with an overuse of CGI, and throw in a director who feels like he’s given up and you’ve got the latest addition to the franchise.