Release Date: May 19, 2017
Running Time: 123 minutes
The most reactive sequel since Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, Alien: Covenant brings back the lean, mean killing machine known as the Xenomorph to please the franchise fans who didn’t appreciate director Ridley Scott’s Alien mythology-altering prequel Prometheus. Scott retools the storyline introduced by Prometheus—which found humanity in search of its far-flung creators, the Engineers—to focus on the android David’s own obsession with playing God. So while Covenant unfolds as Alien on the Engineer’s home world as opposed to a spacecraft, it is as much a sequel to Prometheus than it is a more conventional and lacking prequel to Alien. Covenant opens with a pre-Prometheus flashback of Michael Fassbender’s David’s first meeting his “father,” Guy Pearce’s Peter Weyland. Weyland’s fascination with finding his God speaks to David’s own questions about the act of creation, which lays the foundation for the events of Covenant that involve the crew of a colony ship in search of a planet to inhabit. The crew of the colony ship, the Covenant, unknowingly plots a course for the Engineers’ home world when they receive a distress signal possibly from Dr. Elizabeth Shaw, the archaeologist played by Noomi Rapace in Prometheus. A search party finds David and not much else. His scientific experiments, all involving black goo, reveal both his hated of his creator and his endeavor to become a creator in his own right. Whereas Prometheus didn’t introduce an alien until its final minutes, Covenant wastes little time introducing the Xenomorph prototype the Neomorph that terrorizes a crew that is led by Katherine Waterston and Billy Crudup. It isn’t so much as Scott repudiating Prometheus but giving his audience what they want. Combining strands of DNA from Alien and Prometheus, though, doesn’t work as well as Scott and his credited screenwriters, John Logan and Jack Paglen, anticipate. Covenant is essentially a remake of Alien and Prometheus, with a familiar storyline that doesn’t offer anything new and raises more questions than it answers. For example, Covenant twists the franchise’s mythology so much that it’s going to take one or two more prequels before it sufficiently ties into the events of Alien. The final act is poorly handled, especially in regards to its big twist. The crew members lack personality, suggesting that are only there to be killed in gory fashion. Heck, Covenant features one of the worst cameos in recent memories—maybe the actor in question just wanted to cross off “Appear in an Alien film” off his bucket list or he just wanted to hang for a day or two with his buddy, one of Covenant’s leads. While it’s great the franchise continues to emphasize a female protagonist, Waterston’s Daniels is a wishy-washy Ripley substitute. Crudup’s First Mate Oram is a bundle of nerves whose deep faith is never truly tested by Scott. In fact, Scott happily abandons Prometheus’ religious themes in favor of a sibling rivalry that develops between David and the Covenant’s own synthetic, Walter, who is also played by Michael Fassbender. Walter is different from David because, as a latter model, he is programmed to be more empathetic of humans. Consequently, Fassbender portrays Walter as measured and subservient to Daniels, whom he loves in the same way that David professes to love Shaw. As David, though, Fassbender is slightly unhinged—he’s all scenery-chewing mad scientist. It’s just one of Covenant’s studies in contrast, the most prominent being Scott’s approach to Covenant. This is the Scott of Prometheus, not Alien. Aside from the opening scenes onboard the spacecraft that fails to establish any interest in the crew of the Covenant—even Danny McBride’s space cowboy who happens to be named Tennessee (groan)--Covenant finds Scott constantly in a rush, especially in his bid to return to human-on-alien action. Unlike Alien, there is little suspense to be found in the Xenomorph tracking down its prey regardless of location. The CG Xenomorph also lacks the sense of intimidation exuded by the man-in-suit creature in Alien. That said, Covenant does feature two swift and effectively staged attacks that will surely rank among the franchise’s best. Still, this is not Scott at his best. To be honest, Scott’s execution is no better or no worst that of Aliens vs. Predator’s Paul W.S. Anderson. We’re now two entries into Scott’s Alien prequel trilogy or quadrilogy, depending on many more films he wants to make before tying everything together. While Scott hasn’t make a dud on the scale of The Phantom Menace, it’s evident that these Alien prequels aren’t rising to the level of what we expected from Scott.
Aired: May 18, 2017
Web site: http://www.foxmovies.com/movies/alien-covenant