Alien: Covenant is the sequel to Prometheus and prequel to the 1979 Alien film, and is directed by Ridley Scott, the director of both those films. The film follows the crew of a colonisation ship who, after being forced to stop due to a radiation storm, come across a new planet that they believe would be better for a colony than they’re destination. However, in true horror film fashion, the planet isn’t as perfect as it seems and the crew is subsequently terrorised by chest bursting aliens. I absolutely love Alien and Aliens, and so I was looking forward to seeing if the masterful suspense and horror that the first film managed to portray so perfectly. Unfortunately, this film doesn’t come close to the quality of its predecessors. I actually found myself laughing at the stupidity of the plot and characters actions, cringing at the poorly presented “horror,” and down-right insulted by some of the story elements that undermine the previous films. You can see how they wanted to turn the Alien franchise into the next big sci-fi franchise, like Star Wars or Star Trek, and so all the subtlety, and simple but effective storytelling, is lost in CGI action and pointless backstory that bloats he film and tries to establish this wide extended universe. This film is also directed by Ridley Scott, and stars Michael Fassbender, Katherine Waterston, Billy Crudup, and Danny McBride. I am going to say that from this point on I may be revealing spoilers, so if you wish to remain spoiler free then stop reading now.
The way they are trying to establish this franchise just doesn’t line up with the original films. Alien is a very simple film about a small cargo ship’s crew being hunted by a horrific alien creature. Aliens is also simple, and is just about a group of marines trying to kill a bunch of the creatures who have infested a colony. Both these films have different tones, one being horror and the other being more action focused, they both share similar techniques and themes, such as suspense, and not showing you too much of the aliens in order to let your imagination create the horror, and while these films do have elements of world building, such as the shady company that wants to research the aliens, the franchise building wasn’t the point of the film. Both these films are so simple that they don’t need an origin story, and yet this film tries to provide one in the most ham-fisted way I could have imagined. I don’t need to know where the aliens come from, and even if I did the origin this film gave them is so stupid it ruins the other films, and I’m going to say *Spoiler Warning* again, because I have to talk about the fact that the idea of the aliens being genetically created by an insane human android is so stupid and annoying. The thing that made the alien so effective and scary was that it was an alien, not some genetic creation from something from Earth! It was a completely unknown enemy and giving it an origin in the first place was a stupid idea because it destroys that sense of the unknown, but then having that backstory be a stupid plot point of an android, who didn’t like being a created slave so he designed his own perfect species, feels so generic and lazy, and so it makes the alien feel that way too. Not to mention how bloated the plot became with all these elements. There were multiple scenes with the android trying to figure out what being alive is, which works in a film like Ex Machine but not in an Alien film. For example, there is an overly long scene at the start with the android (played by Michael Fassbender) being ordered around by his creator, and another one of him teaching the flute to another android (also played by Fassbender). Not to mention loads of stuff about an old civilisation of dead aliens and a heap more plot filler that makes the feel very slow and boring at times. It’s like Ridley Scott forgot what made the original film so special, as backstory and franchise building wasn’t important in the original. He also seemed to forget that what made the alien so special was that you hardly ever saw it properly, as in this film you see it way too much. There’s something about seeing the alien running across an open grey landscape, in complete CGI, that really ruins the effect of the thing. I understand that the creature would be done in CGI now a days, and that’s fine, but that doesn’t mean you need to remove all the suspense from a scene by showing where the alien is at all times. This gets especially frustrating towards the end, when two of the characters are running away from the alien and it keeps cutting to CCTV footage of where it is and what it’s doing; it’d be so much more tense and suspenseful if we didn’t see that, so we experienced how the characters felt hiding from it! There were also a bunch of really over the top action and gore scenes that made the tone feel more like a Marvel film than an Alien prequel. There was one action scene that seemed to get it right, it was in a field at night with a bunch of soldiers being attacked by these two baby aliens. It was quite intense and it didn’t show the aliens too much, and that just makes it even more frustrating when every other action scene is stupidly over the top, as they show they can do it right but then just don’t. There is a lot of gore as well, which added to the over the top feeling. Alien didn’t need gore to be scary, the only gory moment is the chest bursting scene, but this film seemed to think that over the top blood and guts is what makes a film scary. The worst thing about the film though, is how utterly stupid and unlikeable pretty much all the characters are. You’d think that, as the crew of a colony ship, they would all know that their top priority would be to protect the 2000 colonists on board, but none of them seem to care that much about them! I laughed out loud when one of the characters pretty much killed herself by being so terribly stupid, and I don’t think that’s how I was supposed to react, but you’d think that the crew of a spaceship would be able to handle pressure well enough to not blow yourself up in a panic. They try and make them relatable by having this concept of all the crew being in relationships with each other, but that idea is so stupid, as the characters all end up putting the whole ship at risk to try and save their spouse or something like that. It’s so obviously stupid that I don’t believe a colonisation company would ever decide to run an operation that way. It’d make more sense if each of the crew had a spouse in hyper sleep amongst the colonists, that way they would all be trying to protect the ship and colonists, not putting them all at risk to try and save their partners. They try and make you care about the main protagonist, played by Katherine Waterston, by killing off her husband in a disaster that occurs right at the start of the film, before you even meet the characters, and so I didn’t care about that emotionally because I had no prior connection to them. I didn’t like Fassbender as the two androids. Both androids had quite annoying accents, one being English and the other a Southern America accent, which were distracting and quite poorly done by Fassbender. The only character that was kind of likeable was Tennessee (The only character name I can remember), played by Danny McBride, and he was still a stupid character, but McBride had a great charisma which made him the only memorable character.
Alien: Covenant was massively disappointing. The only good thing you can say about it is that it had some nice cinematography, but the horrible plot points and unlikeable characters make this film only good for slagging of with your friends while drinking. When I wasn’t sighing with disbelief I was laughing at the stupidity of it all. I know I have been harsh, but that’s because I have a great love and respect for the original film and I hate seeing its lore and legacy handled in this way. Watch Alien and Aliens instead.
P.S. The only thing I enjoyed about this film was going to the pub afterwards with my girlfriend and slagging it off. My apologise for slowing down with my reviews, I’m still doing Movie Mondays but I’m struggling to write the reviews due to time, so they might not always be out on the Monday and Tuesday, but I will still try and get a review out once a week.