Who cares where the Alien came from?
Normally, I don’t do a spoiler review right off the bat, but I’m sorry. I don’t respect this film enough to do a spoiler-free review, so here we go.
Alien: Covenant is the sixth movie in the Alien canon and the second in a planned series of films to precede the original Alien. In Covenant, the crew of the titular ship is on a colonization mission to a distant planet when they get a cryptic signal that leads them to an unknown world.
Before we get into what this movie gets wrong, let’s talk about the hits. Michael Fassbender is the only standout performance with his dual role as androids Walter and David, the latter returning from Prometheus. For a great deal of the second and third acts, Walter and David are interacting with each other and Fassbender did an excellent job portraying the two robots.
Secondly, the visual effects are all great, but in a big-budget blockbuster, you expect that. Despite the xenomorph not looking as good as the original design, it looks spectacular and is every bit as menacing as it was in the first film. The movie introduces a new monster called the neomorph, a large, white, skinny alien that is similar to the xenomorph in appearance. This new creature provides a few genuine scares, something the franchise has been missing for a long time. The neomorph looks just as real as the xenomorph, and the special effects will likely earn this film an Oscar nomination next year. Unfortunately, one good performance and a few spectacular special effects are not nearly enough to save this movie.
Almost everything about Alien: Covenant is wrong. From the characters to the story to the motivations, this movie fails at every turn to ensure the audience will walk out satisfied. Knowing that the crew is made up of spouses, you know that most of them are going to die even if you’ve never seen an Alien movie before. It’s a horror movie in which all of the characters have a significant other, so of course all but one or two of them will be dead by the time the credits roll.
You have no reason to care about any of the characters; before we get to know anyone, Daniels “Dany” Branson’s (Katherine Waterston) husband burns alive in his cryopod. This happens only 15 minutes in, and you haven’t been introduced to anyone. There is no reason to feel sympathy for Branson because we don’t know a thing about her. Even the African-American man and his wife, both of whose names escape me, don’t get any character development before they are killed by the xenomorph as they take a shower together in the climax. The characters are so hollow and wooden, the only thing you will be feeling when anyone dies is either a jump scare or a chill because the creatures are terrifying.
Billy Crudup’s Captain Oram has to be one of the dumbest characters in all of science fiction. When the crew discovers a cryptic message that contains beats of a song from Earth, they travel to the planet of its origin to discover its sender. Oram heads the decision because the planet is just as capable of sustaining life as their destination, yet they know nothing about the planet, especially if there is anything that could harm the crew. Branson even questions the decision logically, but Oram dismisses her objections that any rational human would consider. Later in the film, David leads Oram to a chamber where he is growing facehuggers. Even after Oram saw David blow up over the former shooting the neomorph to death, he trusts David’s word that the facehugger eggs are safe. He sticks his face right into an open egg and gets attacked. Even if you don’t know what is inside the egg before it jumps out, you are thinking to yourself, “Don’t do it. Don’t do it.” This is a basic horror movie cliché, and that’s all the movie is reduced to–a paper-thin horror flick stuffed with the same tired tropes that kind of film entails.
If you liked Prometheus, and you want Covenant to continue that story, don’t bother watching it. The film doesn’t respect fans of Prometheus, as few and far between as they are. It is revealed that David killed Elizabeth Shaw to use her for his experiments. He went to the engineer’s home world and used the pathogen they were going to use on humanity on them, wiping them out. Not only does the movie give the finger to fans of Prometheus, but to fans of the series and its own audience.
As mentioned before, David grows facehugger eggs, and you realize that he is the one who created the xenomorphs, ignoring the brief appearance by one of them at the end of Prometheus. It doesn’t matter where the Alien came from because the franchise was better when things were simple and unknown. It is only made worse that a robot with a creator complex engineered the xenomorphs because he thinks humanity doesn’t deserve to go on. Somebody wrote that into a screenplay, and it got approved by Ridley Scott. Ridley Scott. Boom, all faith and confidence in the series and in Scott as a filmmaker gone.
The movie ends in one of the biggest “screw you” ways I have ever seen. Just before the remainder of the crew escape the planet, Walter and David fight, and we don’t see who wins. They look exactly like each other, by the way. It isn’t until the very end when we learn that David killed Walter and got onboard the Covenant. Branson realizes it was David the whole time he activates her cryopod with her inside it, and he regurgitates two facehugger embryos and places them with the human embryos that were meant to populate the colony. And then the movie ends. Wait, WHAT? I wouldn’t have been more insulted if Ridley Scott himself walked into my theater as the credits began and flipped off the entire audience because he was already doing that the entire movie.
Alien: Covenant proves that the franchise is doomed forever because it is a clichéd, elementary horror movie packed with one-dimensional characters and a contrived, stupid explanation for the titular monster that nobody cares about. Do not see this movie. Just stick with the first two films.
Alien: Covenant gets a D
“I’m no Ripley. I had doubts that I could play her as strongly as she had to be played, but I must say that it was fun exploring that side of myself. Women don’t get to do that very often.”-Sigourney Weaver
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