In space, no one can bring new ideas to this franchise
Alien: Covenant is directed by Ridley Scott and is a sequel to 2012's Prometheus. Michael Fassbender returns to reprise his role as David, as well as play a new android character named Walter. Katherine Waterston, Danny McBride, and Billy Crudup also star.
It might've been best for me to rewatch Prometheus before I went to see Alien: Covenant (which I FINALLY got around to seeing), but since I faced no confusion towards whatever tie-ins that Prometheus has with this film, that to me might speak to my long-running opinion of Prometheus: a forgettable Alien installment that is at least tolerable enough so as to not rank below the dreaded AVP spin offs and the disappointing sequels that were Alien3 and Alien Resurrection. I will say that I believe that Alien: Covenant is the best Alien film since Aliens. I find this notion both satisfying and dispiriting. It's satisfying because we finally have a post-Aliens Alien film that isn't totally forgettable or straight up bad. It's dispiriting because it has taken 30 plus years for Ridley Scott, Sigourney Weaver, and whoever else involved to finally give us some quality Alien chow. The fact that Ridley Scott announced at least six more sequels speaks to me as to how determined that he is to not let this franchise run out of steam. Oh, but Mr. Scott, any film-maker in their right mind would easily tell you that a film franchise can linger on only so long until everyone and his brother is in agreement that the franchise needs to hang up its boots. Just look at the reviews for Dead Men Tell No Tales for recent proof on that claim.
Anyway, Alien: Covenant focuses on the crew of spaceship Covenant, who are on their way to to a planet called Origae-6. Two thousand colonists and a thousand embryos are held onboard, and the ship is monitored by the advanced android Walter. The ship is suddenly struck by a neutrino, killing several of the colonists and forcing Walter to wake some of the crew from stasis. The ship intercepts a radio transmission from a nearby planet, and the ship's captain, Oram (Billy Crudup), decides to go and investigate. An expedition team is sent down to the planet, and they discover that the signal came from a crashed Engineer ship. Two of the crew members accidentally get themselves infected with black alien spores, and you can probably guess what that eventually leads to...
The most recent film that I can compare Alien: Covenant to is Kong: Skull Island, because both of these films deliver exactly what you expect and have their greatest drawback being not taking any notable chances. Actually, Alien: Covenant does take one notable chance, and that is the way it ends. Without giving anything away, let's just say that it sets up for what should be an intriguing sequel. Prometheus had a deeper focus on themes and smart ideas, while Alien: Covenant gears more towards alien carnage. Can Scott somehow bring these two back together in the next installment and recapture the magic that we saw in the first two films? I don't want to jump off the Alien support train just yet because Scott has proven himself to be a rather fine director and I am confident that he can still do wonderful things with this sci-fi universe. Unfortunately, my confidence took a soft blow when it was fully clear in my mind that I found Alien: Covenant to be just passable Alien affair, which, to me, I find a little depressing since the bar was relatively low for Scott in regards to providing us both a better film than Prometheus and the best Alien film since Aliens.
- What we do get is another fine Michael Fassbender performance. I do find Fassbender to be a near perfect fit for the role of an Alien android, because he has just the right facial expressions and physical stature to be convincing like Ian Holm and Lance Henriksen were in their respective android roles. Fassbender makes the movie his own when the androids are in control of what's happening on screen.
- Katherine Waterston also gives a fine performance as Daniels, one of female crew members that tries to be as Ellen Ripley-like as possible. Sigourney Weaver convinced us that Ellen Ripley was a brave leader who always knew what to do. Daniels, though, goes through nearly the entire film looking as distraught as possible. She is no coward, but she does lack the radiance and wholeness that made Ellen Ripley such a magnificent female hero in a usually male-dominated world, and that is why I am hesitant to think of her (yet) as a proper new female lead in the Alien franchise. The movie doesn't really dive into any of her specific character, which I guess they're saving for next time(?). None of this is to knock on Waterston, because while she does spend a lot of time looking frightened, she makes it convincing.
- If you want to just see a good old fashioned Alien killing spree, then Alien: Covenant will deliver you exactly that. There comes a point, though, when endless killing loses its value and we begin craving a new and fresh experience. Aliens was a terrific follow-up to Alien because it calmed down some of the true horror components in favor of explosive action, which is exactly what the franchise was calling for at that point. Now in the year 2017, we might still derive some enjoyment out of watching people in deep space get ripped to shreds by the infamous Alien creatures. The problem is that there needs to be something new other than people travelling through space and encountering the aliens. Whatever new creative ideas would work, I can't say. There's only so many times that I can watch humans vs. aliens until I grow bored and can easily predict in what order that the human characters will fall.
I would be lying if I said I wasn't at least semi-amused by Alien: Covenant. Michael Fassbender and Katherine Waterston deliver strong performances to back up the alien bloodbath. The issue is that the film doesn't do anything new or interesting with its characters, human or alien. There are only so many times that I can watch a chest burst before I say, "Yep, they're all dead except for this one person." At least the film has a fairly surprising ending. Maybe that's a sign that Ridley Scott has some great new ideas tucked up his sleeve.
Recommend? Only if you consider yourself a fan of the Alien franchise
Here you'll find my reviews on just about any film you may have seen. I try to avoid major spoilers as much as possible. I structure my reviews in the following way: