Alien: Covenant is the direct sequel to the mostly critically maligned franchise prequel Prometheus. While initially I aggressively despised Prometheus like most critics, since its release I’ve slowly started to appreciate the prequel’s bold and unconventional approach to its huge scale science-fiction story. The philosophical ideas presented were fascinating and unique and every shot in the film is quite stunning, despite the tonal mess – especially in the awful third act.
So it was with unexpected excitement that I greeted the news that Prometheus was getting a sequel titled Alien:Covenant that promised to focus on being a better mix of the franchise films with a more faithful Alien story, while continuing the new tale begun in Prometheus. Somehow, some way Ridley Scott and Co. managed to get neither aspect right in this bland mess of uninspired ideas and predictable sci-fi scares, ultimately doing a disservice to both eras of the franchise.
Alien: Covenant once again brings a doomed ensemble cast to the Alien dinner table, but Michael Fassbender is the true lead, pulling double duty as the androids Walter and Prometheus‘ returning character David. Fassbender’s performances as the duo are one of the lone positive elements of the film and he does a great job differentiating the two while they play their intellectual cat and mouse game.
Katherine Waterston acts her adorable little chipmunk face off as terraforming expert Daniels “Dany” Branson, but the film barely lets the audience get to know her character – or really anyone else, which is a big problem I have with Alien: Covenant. The movie immediately throws viewers in with the crew with zero introduction and barely any characterization to make us care. The tiniest amount of understanding of these characters and the mildest of affection I had for them was only present because of the extended prologue that was seen in theaters and online and wasn’t even in the finished film!!
Additionally, the surprisingly profound discoveries of the origin of life from Prometheus have no equivalent in this film, the Engineers themselves are an insultingly lame afterthought in Alien: Covenant, and the journey of David post-Prometheus with Dr. Shaw to meet the Engineers (mankind’s creator) is also only seen in a vignette that was posted online and only vaguely mentioned in Alien: Covenant.
So at least there are true-blue facehuggers and Xenomorphs in this one, right? Yes, but it’s far from the ground-breaking horror that established the franchise and what’s done here is riddled with plenty of clichés – many of which the franchise itself helped to create in the first place. The origin of the facehuggers and Xenomorphs is also discovered in the laziest, most boring of ways that makes very little sense while being wholly unsatisfying. To add insult to injury, the film ends on another massive cliffhanger with fates in the balance and a huge setup for another film that will most likely once again get your hopes up and then extinguish them like a homicidal alien spore.