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Overall Rating

Awesome: 7.41%
Worth A Look: 3.7%
Pretty Bad: 29.63%
Total Crap: 3.7%

2 reviews, 15 user ratings

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Alien: Covenant
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by Rob Gonsalves

"More of the same xenomorph frenzy."
3 stars

Closing in on eighty years old, Ridley Scott doesn’t seem to be able to leave his legacy alone.

October will bring a sequel to his Blade Runner, which he’s executive-producing but not directing, and he has now directed two prequels to the Alien saga, which he started in 1979. The first of them, 2012’s Prometheus, was a ponderous though gorgeous slog through questions of life’s origins — did he who made the xenomorph make thee? Now we have Alien: Covenant, a direct follow-up to Prometheus that bows to commercial demands and actually calls itself an Alien film. Which it is, more or less. Prometheus was dull but at least attempted something larger; Covenant (named after the spacecraft in the film) is a regression to the original Alien’s set-‘em-up-knock-‘em-down schematic.

Michael Fassbender, at least, is back, this time in two roles: as David, the android from Prometheus, and Walter, a later, upgraded version of David. Walter serves on the crew of the Covenant, which seeks to colonize a remote planet. Two Fassbenders is even better news than one, and the actor plays the duty-bound Walter and the somewhat more emotional David with a variety of gradations. The rest of the crew are either non-entities or played with one or two notes, with the exception of Katherine Waterston’s Daniels, whose close-cropped hair and general aura of torment (Daniels is widowed early in the film) reminded me of Falconetti’s Joan of Arc.

Daniels is clearly being groomed as the new Ripley (the hero of the original four films, played by Sigourney Weaver), and as long as Waterston plays her, I’ll need to come back for more. She’s about the only dab of humanity in this aggressively designed, biomechanical movie, which like Prometheus has the best technical bona fides money can buy (returning editor Pietro Scalia and cinematographer Dariusz Wolski) but labors under a convoluted plot overlaying the slasher-flick structure. The aliens, it seems, were deliberately created and have been maintained on some ghastly planet where they killed all the Engineers (the weird-looking folks who apparently created life). These critters keep being called “the perfect organisms,” but all they do is shriek and hiss and drool acid and reproduce. They were never the interesting aspect of the Alien series; that was Ripley.

Will Daniels be allowed to take on the metaphorical, #YesAllWomen struggles of Ripley, with the soulful Waterston stepping into Weaver’s boots? I hope so, because Alien: Covenant doesn’t otherwise point to a promising future for the franchise. The movie is sleek and morbid, with the usual ugly undercurrent of gnashing teeth, shredded flesh, misting blood. More than once, I heard myself sighing at the predictability not only of the film’s and-then-there-were-none structure but of the supposed twists. I called the big twist a mile off, and anyone who’s seen a movie before will, too; the reveal is delayed a bit, so that the real twist is that, oh yeah, there is a twist after all. It still does away with a character with no explanation and lazily expects us to accept and overlook that.

Alien: Covenant isn’t all bad. Some of the images have a dour beauty; the various alien landscapes glow like a sunrise in Hell. I was happy to hear Jerry Goldsmith’s ominous, minimalist theme for the first Alien, an echoing strain that has always sounded to me almost prophetic, prefiguring the newly remorseless sci-fi/horror blockbusters of the late ‘70s and early ‘80s. It turns up in Covenant now and again, reminding us of the Ridley Scott who scared the crap out of us in 1979 without having to yoke the movie to some half-assed creation myth involving bodybuilders with Easter Island heads making life out of black liquid. I suspect that Scott, looking his eighth decade in the face, wanted to make his what’s-it-all-about saga with Prometheus but couldn’t get the budget unless it could be marketed as Ridley Scott’s return to the series that made his name.

"Alien: Covenant" shows, rather dispiritingly, that Scott is not resentful about regressing; on the contrary, he has gotten comfortable in this old pair of slippers. And despite the blood and teeth, that’s what the movie feels like.

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originally posted: 09/14/17 08:46:21
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User Comments

3/12/18 Mark Louis Baumgart Not bad as a sf/horror show. Builds on Prometheus. Ending really sucks though! 3 stars
2/14/18 Charles Tatum Merely "good enough" 4 stars
9/27/17 morris campbell alien3 & resurrection suck imo 2 stars
9/21/17 David Hollingsworth I would rather watch Alien 3 and Resurrection, thank you. 2 stars
9/17/17 Starsurfer Worst one, a classic example of implausibility ruining a great premise. Simply put: lazy. 2 stars
7/21/17 morris campbell change of opinion stick with the 79 alien 2 stars
7/21/17 Chaz Walter I can't wait for this to come out on DVD/Blu Ray. I'm a huge fan of the 'Alien' series. 5 stars
5/30/17 TonyK Weakess of ALL the Alien films - switch director? 2 stars
5/30/17 Louise No better or worse than the `79 movie, in other words, GREAT ! ! !, 5 stars
5/28/17 action movie fan nothing new or thrilling style over substance, see the 79 alien instead 2 stars
5/27/17 Bob Dog Finally got a chance to catch up on my sleep by watching Alien: Covenant 1 stars
5/21/17 Big Chicken So killing off the creators of humanity was THAT easy? Lame 3 stars
5/20/17 the truth I was (sadly) more entertained by *gasp* Prometheus. So, the Engineers were right? A-HOLE 2 stars
5/20/17 morris campbell good but the script has problems 3 stars
5/20/17 mr.mike As entertaining as Alien 3 : Resurrection. 2 stars
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