Written by J. Weagle
I’ve said it many times before, the Alien franchise is without a doubt my favorite horror franchise of them all. Though every film in it hasn’t been an A plus material, there hasn’t been a truly bad film in the saga yet, that is until now. Ridley Scott’s follow up to the highly underrated Prometheus, a sort of origin story that sets up the Alien universe we’ve all come to love, Covenant finds itself as the sequel we all thought we wanted but could have lived happily without ever knowing. Where Prometheus left a lot up to the imagination and opened many unanswered questions, Covenant attempts to answer them all but ends up both sucking the mystery out of the Alien lore and opening up a whole bunch more questions.
Alien: Covenant picks up a decade after the events of Prometheus, this time following a crew on a colony ship bound for a planet that sounds like it could offer a good home for human beings. They intercept a signal from another nearby planet and decide to change their directory to answer the call since it isn’t too far off course. What they find is a storm filled planet that acts as a breeding ground for deadly creatures and a crazed android acting as their creator. The story setup is not completely unlike Prometheus, but where that film gave us interesting characters to care about and intrigue into their history and relationships, Covenant gives us a script full of plot holes and one dimensional crew members who die off one by one after making horrible and unbelievable decisions. From the very beginning Covenant feels like a film made from gathering market data on Prometheus and “fixing” the issues with the story while completely draining it of any sort of substance.
Forget the ridiculous, nonsensical story for second and the film still manages to disappoint on the characters alone. It is not that the actors do a bad job, it a reflection on just how awful the script is. We are suppose to care about these colonist but are given barely any insight into their history other than they are married, one is Religious and the other wanted to build a log cabin by a lake. From this we are told to care about these people but feel nothing when they start getting butchered off one by one. It also doesn’t help that every decision the characters make are completely idiotic, by the time the third act rolled around I was crossing my fingers they’d die off quicker. It’s a damn shame since Katherine Waterson nailed the bad ass look and had the potential to have been one of the best leading ladies in the franchise. Once again it is Michael Fassbender who steals every scene he is in, doing double duty this time but even he could not save the messy plot.
There is a lot going on in Covenant, or at least it wants you to believe that there is. Regardless it is way too much for an Alien movie, that up this point has put scares before anything else. This film has zero moments of terror and instead offers us a stylized fight scene between two androids that made me cringe in my seat. Scott’s attempt to create his own cinematic universe to rival what the Superheroes are doing is almost laughable. Moving away from horror for a more high fantasy tone that discredits everything that the original Alien movies stood for.
The visuals have always been a strong part of this series, usually relying more on practical effects rather than digital. Covenant goes in a different direction, smashing badly render CGI creatures into our faces that made them look like something out of a Saturday morning cartoon rather than nightmare fuel. Even the iconic chest burst scene here was a bizarre looking mess that had more people in the theater laughing than turning their heads away in disgust.
Perhaps what is most disappointing and damaging about Alien: Covenant is that not only is it a bad film but it also ends up hurting Prometheus a bit in the process. That film was hit with many negatives upon its release for not spoon feeding the audience answers, so in return we got a much safer and less intelligent movie that tries to cater to what a modern audience would want. It attempts to make right all the wrongs of its predecessor but does so in a way that is so bland and unimaginative that I hope we never get another chapter in this amazing horror saga.