Alien Covenant Review

The Plot

The crew of the spaceship Covenant find themselves unexpectedly awakened from hyper sleep while carrying 2000 people to settle a colony on distant planet. Discovering a strange message emanating from a mysterious seemingly perfect planet leads them to deviate from their carefully laid plans in the hopes of finding an even better new home for their new colony…

The Good

Prometheus was largely derided by the fans and critics for a lack of iconic Aliens in an Alien prequel, for Covenant the trailers and posters were emphatically clear that the recognisable monster would be horrifically present.

Covenant also retains one of the rare positives of Prometheus in keeping Michael Fassbender in the cast, this time in dual roles as prototype android David and his successor Walter. Alongside Fassbender the addition of the competent acting talent of Billy Cudrup, Danny McBride and Katheirne Waterston help give at least a little personality to the endangered Covenant crew.

Alongside these familiar faces the overall look, design and visual effect success of the film is evidently its strongest asset. The classic HR Geiger creature design and dark visual motifs of the saga, combined with credible future tech give the film at least a polished visual credibility.

The film’s expensively crafted science fiction world, frequent bloody action and unashamed philosophising will no doubt keep fans with those particular combined appetites entertained.

The Bad

The largest single criticism of Ridley Scott’s first prequel Prometheus from fans and critics was that it failed in its self-declared intention to finally explain and expand upon the more mysterious elements of the original film. Decades of fan speculation and intrigue surrounding possible explanations for the origin of the crashed alien spaceship and the actual ‘Aliens’ created a truly powerful mystique. Unfortunately it also created a very high level of expectation for revelations of actual answers. Prometheus utterly failed to provide those answers, leaving frustrated long term fans and bemused newcomers with yet more unanswered questions.

With Covenant Ridley Scott had a second chance to finally deliver a more satisfying and coherent film capable of filling a growing list of gaping plot holes, unfortunately this simply does not happen.  If anything Covenant further confuses and undermines the existing mystique of the saga in favour of predictable plot twists and heavy handed philosophising.

Covenant fails to resolve the Prometheus mysteries surrounding the alien ‘engineers’ or to neatly set up the origins of the Alien xenomorphs in a way that actually fits at all with the original film. Beyond failing to untangle the muddled mythology of the series, Covenant also has a plot driven by two dimensional characters making increasingly odd decisions. Audiences will be left largely bemused and frustrated by the antics of characters that recklessly walk themselves into obvious disaster. It’s particularly frustrating given the number of times the franchise has now seen mostly disposable casts prove the architects of their own gory demises.

In particular despite Michael Fassbender’s competent dual performance, Prometheus android David is again a major catalyst for much of the events of Covenant, but as with the first film his motivations remain ill-defined and largely implausible.

Leaving aside notably disappointing and at times confused narrative flaws, the film offers moments of blood splattered action. Unfortunately many of these moments of body horror and acid drenched mayhem will likely only have a powerful impact on those unfamiliar with the past films or truly hard-core fans of the series.

Covenant marks the 8th film in the combined Alien cinematic universe, so it’s safe to assume the saga’s signature scenes no longer grab audiences with the same shock factor they once did. Nothing in covenant comes close to matching the memorable suspense of Scott’s original Alien or the action packed adrenaline of James Cameron’s war themed follow up Aliens. It unfortunately feels like the franchise is drifting further out into the confused vastness of space without moving much closer to recapturing the iconic heights of these essential earlier films.

Scott supposedly has two more planned Alien prequel films to make, but based on the evidence of Prometheus and now Covenant it seems a real shame for fans that these films have killed off director Neill Blomkamp’s exciting plans for a direct Aliens sequel with Sigourney Weaver. There’s a growing sense that Scott’s desire to hang on to the franchise has probably actually cost fans their best chance of getting the actual Aliens film they have patiently craved.

The Ugly Truth

Alien Covenant mostly mimics the familiar and popular elements of the increasingly long running franchise, however slick CGI and repeating iconic moments can’t mask a general failure to live up to the high standards of the early classic films in the series.  The franchise which looms large over both the horror and science fiction genres is sadly still yet to truly deliver fans the brilliant sequel they have long awaited and deserved.

Review by Russell Nelson

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