Alien Covenant Review: In Space, No One Can Hear You Complain
In 2012, Ridley Scott released Prometheus. The film received a mixed response from critics and audiences. There were certain people who loved it while others complained non-stop about it. While I wouldn’t say that Prometheus was anywhere near as great or groundbreaking as Alien or Aliens, it was something new and different. I appreciated that aspect of the film and was able to enjoy it for what it was. As you probably know or heard by now, that film ends on a cliffhanger which hinted at another Alien film. This is that film.
Alien Covenant picks up ten years after Prometheus. The story follows the crew of the USCSS Covenant as they actively search for a new planet to call home as part of their colony mission. The Covenant crew is lead by Chris Oram (Billy Crudup) as well as several other crew members including Walter (Michael Fassbender), Daniels (Katherine Waterston), Tennessee (Danny McBride), and various others. The crew learns of a remote planet through some sort of transmission. Oram believes this planet could be the answer they are looking for. Daniels, his second in command, disagrees and fears for the worst. They land on the planet only to learn that they aren’t alone and that the planet has quite a horrific past.
Ridley Scott’s Alien raised the bar for both horror and science fiction films. Scott’s Alien and Cameron’s follow-up, Aliens are arguably two of the best horror and science fiction films ever made. They are smart, scary, and loaded with suspense. They tell great stories and feature the character Ripley, who is one of the most badass female characters to ever grace the big screen. If you are interested in seeing Alien Covenant, I would hope you already seen these films and know why they are considered game-changers to the genre. If not, do yourself a favor and watch both before even considering seeing Alien Covenant.
This is probably one of the most challenging reviews that I have had to write in quite some time because Alien Covenant has moments of greatness but it is such a disappointment as a whole. What makes reviewing the film even more challenging is trying to not give away any of the story element because I know fans of this franchise want to see the film for themselves before reading about theories and what exactly happens. Let’s just say that Alien Covenant is the follow-up to Prometheus but the story at times acts like it doesn’t want to acknowledge that Prometheus even existed even though the character of David and another character is part of this story.
Alien Covenant starts in a very generic way as you might have expected from my lackluster plot summary above. Early on in the film, something happens which in return results in Oram becoming the captain of the Covenant. Most onboard the mission, don’t like Oram and early on disobey his direct order. The first 20 minutes is basically about how they shouldn’t land on the planet but of course, they do and as you guessed bad things begin to happen once they do.
The fun begins when some of the crew members accidentally touch what looks like xenomorphs “eggs” that are all over the planet. The eggs extract particles, which enter into the bodies of two of the crew members. If you have seen, the original films, you know what happens next. The way that the alien comes out of one of the crew members is incredibly violent with plenty of blood. The scene is a ton of fun because it is loaded with suspense and gore. Fans of Alien will be overjoyed and I must admit that this scene is one of the best of the entire film. It takes a classic scene and makes it new. Is it more extreme, but it works.
From there, the crew learns there are tons of xenomorphs on the planet and go with Walter because they think he can help them. Walter and David spent plenty of time talking which leads to the discovery that the planet contains a virus and hints that more bad things are going to happen. During David and Walter’s screentime, there are several moments that are interesting because they build off the groundwork built in Prometheus. The issue is that the story doesn’t dig deep enough and the script glances over a lot of things that were in Prometheus. I understand that the film wasn’t as big of a hit as Fox hoped for but you can’t just forget it happened especially when you are relying on that film to build this one.
The second act of Alien Covenant is without question the strongest. It is where all the suspense and excitement lies. I found myself invested and entertained with the film after the first 20 minutes until the third act. It is the final act where things go horribly wrong. While the story is fairly predictable throughout, it gets to a point where there no surprise left. It feels like the writers just gave up and try to reinvent the first Alien by making Waterston’s Daniels channel her inner Ridley. Waterston looks the part but something about it just feels off. It doesn’t have the same level of awesomeness as the original and let’s be honest, Waterston is no Sigourney Weaver.
As the final act draws to a close, things get so dumb that I was taken out of the film completely. Without spoiling anything, there is a scene that involves a truck and an alien. It’s a pretty bad scene but what makes it worse is that there is suspense to it. It is bad enough that the film doesn’t develop any of the characters, therefore there is no reason can care about them, but to make the final act as formulaic as it is; well that is just pure laziness. I found it baffling that the writers felt the need to reveal the so-called “surprise” during in the hibernation scene. There is ZERO surprise in this scene and the fact that Fassbender has to utter the line “Goodnight, don’t let the bed bugs bite. I’ll go tuck in the children” caused me to burst out laughing and I know it wasn’t meant to be funny.
Ridley Scott has always known how to build suspense and he does it in this film when he wants to. The scene of the alien coming out of the back of one of the crew members is awesome. There is a ton of suspense when the crew is investigating the planet and find another ship had landed there. The film also looks beautiful and the space scenes, as well as the shots inside of the ship, are all captured so perfectly. Scott clearly knows what he is doing but I think a lot of his problem is with a mediocre script that he has to somehow turn into gold. This obviously hasn’t always worked for him and the same can be said for this film.
I can’t help but be disappointed that CGI has replaced the original xenomorphs because still to this day, the ones from the 1979 film look awesome. I understand that it isn’t common to use practical effects nowadays but I would have loved for some of the scenes to not be CGI. Scott, who knows his original film defined two genres, should’ve known better and he could have pushed for some of the scenes to be practical. I know this probably isn’t that big of a deal to most since the xenomorphs still look great but, Scott is who started this franchise, why not try to please the fans with something that die-hard fans would love?
Alien Covenant has its moments but in the end, it is even more disappointing than Prometheus. I tried going into Alien Covenant with my expectations in check but I still left the theater disappointed. There are countless plot holes and things that just don’t add up. Fassbender is fine in the dual role of Walter and David but nothing too memorable especially for someone of his talent. The rest of the cast is fine as well with the exception of Danny McBride who is totally miscast in the role. I can’t blame the actors for their average performances because it is the script that gives them nothing to work off of. Alien Covenant tries to recreate the first two films but gets lost in its own laziness. It’s hard to pinpoint where it all went wrong but between the lack of character development, a number of predictable moments, and an ending that is simply atrocious, I just couldn’t help but feel extremely let down by Alien Covenant. I can only hope that the final two installments end this franchise in a way that makes us forgive these two uneven films.
Scott “Movie Man” Menzel’s final rating for Alien Covenant is a 6 out of 10.