MOVIE REVIEW: “Alien: Covenant” stars Katherine Waterson (Inherent Vice, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them), Michael Fassbender (Prometheus, X-Men: First Class), Billy Crudup (Watchmen, Big Fish), Danny McBride (Pineapple Express, This Is the End), Demian Bichir (The Hateful Eight, A Better Life), Carmen Ejogo (Selma, It Comes at Night), Jussie Smollett (Empire [TV series], The Mighty Ducks), Callie Hernandez (La La Land, Graves [TV series]), Amy Seimetz (Upstream Color, Sun Don’t Shine), and Nathaniel Dean (Candy, Summersault). It is directed by Ridley Scott (Gladiator, The Martian), while it was written by Jack Paglen (Transcendence, Roadside Picnic [TV series]), Michael Green (Logan, Blade Runner 2049), John Logan (Skyfall, The Aviator), and Dante Parker. Ten years after the events of “Prometheus,” the crew of colony ship Covenant come into possession of a distress signal, leading them to an unidentified planet that seems like the perfect home to start anew. However, it won’t be a cakewalk when they soon discover the dark secrets behind this mysterious planet.
I like to consider myself a fan of the “Alien” franchise, albeit a reserved one. The first two films were spectacular; top-tier science fiction flicks in their own right. However, I soon realized that when you extend a universe further, the weight is bound to give. This was the case with “Alien 3” and “Alien: Resurrection.” While one wasn’t that bad, the other was atrocious. Soon enough the brand became a parody and I found myself sick of the large xenomorph going after people over and over again. That is…until I saw “Prometheus.” Say what you will about the film. I found it to be not only a step in the right direction, but a fascinating exploration into creation and science itself. I’m a Christian; I know we come from God, and the Bible serves as a history book as to how we got here and how we are saved. The theories proposed by “Prometheus” are all fictional and highly interesting because of how fascinating their narrative is. Who are these engineers? Where did they come from? When I found out that Ridley Scott was planning on making a sequel to this, I was psyched. I wanted to jump back into the fray of exploration and creation, and was looking to see some questions answered that were left opened in the prequel. Alas, when the trailer for “Alien: Covenant” dropped, it looked as though Scott had reverted back to his original days; the ones involving horror. Don’t get me wrong, it worked great in the first release; I was just looking for a more sci-fi approach. So, I stayed away from the theater, waiting for it to come out on rental so that if it didn’t meet my expectations, I wouldn’t be at a loss. After viewing “Covenant” last night, I don’t really know what to think. How about I state some positives first. Obviously, the cinematography is immaculate. Scott knows how to make a film beautiful, and I loved his color palette when it came to crafting this feature. What gave life to it, above all, were the locations. Not only were they magnificent to look at, but they also told a rather dark story without having to fill in words. I thoroughly enjoyed the exploration of this planet, even though it sometimes resembled the same stinkin’ planets we’ve visited countless times before (I mean, how many times are we going to discover a ship shaped in a “U”?). Another great thing about this is its score. Jed Kurzel took the scores from both the original “Alien” and “Prometheus” and combined them to create an awesome, chilling hybrid. As usual, I listen to the movie’s score while I review it, and revisiting this one makes me shiver. Lastly, the performances were pretty good. I wouldn’t say that they’re the best, but I mainly chalk that up to hollow character development. The actors did what they could do, and I commend them for turning in respectable performances. With all of these pros aside (which served “Prometheus” well in my initial viewing), we move on to why “Covenant” fell more than it soared: the story. I stated before that I didn’t know what to think about this film, and it was for good reasons. This movie felt as if it had many cooks in the kitchen trying to write their own plot. While the final product didn’t seem as jumbled, that’s the closest reasoning I can figure. Many elements were combined in this release in order to cater to the two camps of “Alien” fans: the ones who wanted a return to form, and the ones who wanted a continuation of “Prometheus.” What we received in the end was some sort of horror-science-fiction-shoehorn that teetered between interesting and boring. There were moments that I was in wonder, and moments I was in frustration. Most of my anger was geared towards the horror aspect of this, as it hindered the storytelling more than it strengthened it. In molding the movie to fit the horror genre, the story leaned back on its predictable structure, where characters land on a planet due to a distress signal, get marooned, then have to fight their way back to safety because of a xenomorph. The funny thing is, the horror of it all isn’t even scary. I’ve seen the same scenes done several times, especially with the xenomorph attacks, and have grown numb to anything “new” involving it. On top of that, the visual effects used to bring it to life were shockingly poor. The final xenomorph looked okay, but the babies looked terrible. It was clearly CGI and I couldn’t stand the sight of them. Back to the story, as horror tried to absorb the backfield, science fiction filled the cracks. Sprinkles of theories on creation and further development of the Shaw/David story glistened along the surface. They were the best moments, but unfortunately they were held to just “moments.” A lot of times they seemed to be unnecessary, only because they didn’t fit into the scheme of the narrative. As I said, Scott wanted a horror which focused on these characters trying to get back to their ship after realizing the distress signal turned out wrong. Anything that strayed from that was made to be filler or a means to an end. How they handled “Covenant” was sorely disappointing. It reminded me of “Alien 3,” where the positivity you felt from the previous flick was suddenly shanked in the one that followed. Everything that I wanted to see following “Prometheus” happened off-screen, years before the events of “Covenant.” I hated the shyness of character development, and it wasn’t even strong for the figures we started this one on. David (Fassbender) was honestly the most interesting character of this film, but I will say that his motivations were rather strange. I may have to watch “Prometheus” again, but what he did in “Covenant” didn’t seem like something he would do beforehand. A lot of it felt like a plot device in order for the new characters to get from point A to point B. Most of the fascinating stuff that involved the engineers (what this movie should’ve been focused on in the first place) was glossed over, shown in flashbacks or through dialogue. Therefore, anything resembling the afterthought of “Prometheus” seemed, as stated, filler. Really, the juggling and handling of “Covenant” and it’s story elements is what destroyed it in the end. While it isn’t a terrible picture, for it does have its moments and pros, it’s certainly a disappointment. By the end, it felt like I was watching three movies altogether; when one door would close, another would open, leaving it to feel tiresome. If you are interested in seeing this, go for it (it’s cheap to rent). Otherwise, I would steer away from this blown opportunity. FINAL SCORE: 70%= Burnt Popcorn
Here is the trailer: