The latest offering in the long running Alien series, and the second film of the prequel series Prometheus, Alien: Covenant attempts to bridge the gap between the rather dry Prometheus and the more terrifying Alien series. Unfortunately, it never really hits the mark. Fans want to see aliens, and while Alien: Covenant finally does that, it’s not until much later in the film, and it lacks all the power of previous Alien films, not to mention some really questionable CG moments and the fact that nothing will be surprising in the least.
The colony ship Covenant is heading to a distant planet to begin a new life for the human race. After experiencing massive technical troubles that results in the death of their captain in cryogenic sleep, Oram (Billy Crudup) takes over, with Daniels (Katherine Waterston) assuming second in command. Now awake years before they’ll reach their destination, they happen to discover a distress call from a much closer planet. This planet appears to be very habitable, so they decide to make a detour to not only see if someone is alive there, but to decide if this planet will be a better option for colonization. The crew, including android Walter (Michael Fassbender), another generation of the android David (also played by Fassbender) from Prometheus, land on the planet and quickly find out that there’s something there that is killing off all the life on the planet. When David appears and rescues the landing party, they start to plan a way back to their ship, but they may be bringing back more than they bargained for.
If you thought Prometheus was a bit slow, be prepared for another slog as Alien: Covenant takes quite a while before it steps out of the shadows of Prometheus to create something more familiar for fans of Alien. Sadly, once the more recognizable aliens arrive, the film turns straight into an action film instead of the tense and terrifying movies we may remember from the first films of the series. The problems are plentiful, even if Alien: Covenant manages to be entertaining for what it is.
The casting is unremarkable, with each person simply filling a cliché instead of actually getting to be a character. Waterston is an obvious take on Sigourney Weaver’s character, which not only doesn’t make sense, but doesn’t work. She doesn’t actually get to be her own character, just a poor representation of a character we’ve already seen done so much better. The same could be said for most of the other cast members. The most memorable wind up being Crudup as the by the book Captain who seems to be ruining any chance the other characters would have of actually being real people instead of dialogue delivery devices, and Danny McBride as Tennessee. He wears a cowboy hat and is named Tennessee. Try and figure out what his character is like. I bet you’ve nailed it dead on.
These poor crew members are just fodder for the alien to eat, and it’s pretty obvious that’s all they’re for. Most of the focus is pointed at Fassbender in his dual role as David and Walter. Walter has had his ability to create removed from his programming because people found David to be unsettling. This sets up the relationship between the two androids as David becomes a kind of father figure to Walter. It also leads to the most ridiculous and blatant pat-on-the-back moment of the two androids facing each other with David holding a flute and Walter blowing into it. The camera rotates back and forth as if to say “Look at how freaking amazing we are! We got two Fassbenders into one scene! One of them is holding a pipe and the other is playing it!” It seems to go on forever, and seems just like a way to push some fancy CG into your face.
Later on, when we finally get the arrival of a familiar looking alien, it’s presented in the most awkward and terrible looking CG moment. Gone is the crazy intensity of the chestburster from the original series. This time around, it looks like the birth of an alien in a oddly sexual music video and will immediately drag you out of the film as you look around to make sure you aren’t stuck in some horrible nightmare.
With the alien finally here, Alien: Covenant jacks everything up to 10 so it can show off some outrageous action scenes. There’s a fight between David and Walter that ends in the most obvious way imaginable, completely ruining everything for his character until the film ends. There’s also a wild fight between Waterston’s Daniels and the alien aboard a ship as they try to get back to their larger craft in space. If you wanted to see the alien stalking and murdering its prey, forget all about it. It’s so quick you’ll never have a chance to feel any tension. This is literally the only thing they really had to nail to make Alien: Covenant a great film. Give us the alien, and make sure the crew members are stalked and killed. Although, if you ever wished that Alien was faster and more action packed, you’ll find what you want here.
On top of all these problems, you’ve got the intrusive soundtrack that is incessant and constantly breaks your concentration. Personally, I rarely even notice the soundtrack to a film, so when I can’t help but wonder why there’s so much loud music over everything, you know there’s a big problem.
Ultimately, we do finally get the alien that we remember, and there’s no doubt that they’ve pumped up the action moments of the film, but this pales in comparison to the original two films of the series. It’s not scary in the slightest, we don’t really care about any of the characters, and the few twists of the movie are so painfully obvious that there are no surprises. Even if you try and ignore the fact that this is an Alien movie, it still can’t pull itself out of the generic sci-fi action hole that Hollywood is constantly tossing movies into. As an outer space action film, Alien: Covenant is passable, but as another film in the Alien series, this is a complete failure.