Alien: Covenant (2017) – Film Review
Ridley Scott has always been able to make movies look great but without a good script any director’s going to suffer.
The Covenant is a colony ship carrying over 2000 colonists and crew in cryogenic stasis which is diverted to a mysterious planet after picking up a signal of human origin when their ship is damaged in a space storm.
Sound familiar? There’s plenty more of that sort of thing in this film. Whether or not you like it depends on how many of the Alien movies you’ve seen as there’s some familiar scenes and music cues within.
As a fan of first two Alien films – a classic slasher movie followed by a kinetic action flick by two of the best directors in the business – successive entries in the six film series have puzzled me.
David Fincher’s Alien 3 was bleak and apparently cut to shreds by studio interference, a fate apparently shared by Jean-Pierre Jeunet’s surreal Alien: Resurrection in a different way.
There was a long hiatus of 15 years after Alien: Resurrection before Prometheus landed – with Ridley Scott back at the helm and a mysterious script originally penned by Jon Spaihts but doctored by Damon Lindelof.
The mystery elements added in by Lost scribe Lindelof added a level of complexity and mystery but also a level of pretentiousness and some unanswered gaping plot holes that padded out Prometheus.
Moving back to Alien: Covenant, it would appear that the horror/slasher fans have been catered for this time with something of a return to earlier Alien tropes that made the first film so popular.
This film is a sequel to Scott’s 2012 film Prometheus which was highly anticipated and sought to add some clarity to the history of the Xenomorph which was originally introduced in his 1979 film.
Prometheus may have appeared at first viewing to be a decent addition to the Alien mythology, but for me it didn’t stand up to repeated viewings – with flaws showing up thanks to a poor quality script.
Alien: Covenant script overly talky, not enough action
It’s impossible to get away from the fact that this latest film has another confused and overly talky script despite trying to get away from Prometheus’ problems.
Experienced screenwriter John Logan appears to be the main credit but there’s four writers in all involved adding their contributions while Logan appears to have introduced some leftover speeches from his gothic TV series Penny Dreadful, which I liked a lot, but they seem out of place in the 22nd century.
Unfortunately there’s plenty of pretentious chat about 19th Century poets when most people want to get back to the action but the problem with that is that there’s too much talk and not enough show.
Speaking of the action, fans of the Alien series will have a serious case of deja-vu by the time the film is finished, with whole sections of the film seemingly playing to the gallery.
The inventive deaths which are part and parcel of slasher films have mainly been seen before in the Alien universe, but the large ensemble cast – cannon fodder – inevitably get lost in the mix as only Katherine Waterstone and Michael Fassbender get significant opportunity to showcase their talents.
Sadly, as the crew are picked off one by one, I got the overwhelming impression that they were not the smartest people in the universe. It’s not usually a problem in slasher movies but the plot issues created distracting structural issues for me.
Fans of the Alien films who wanted to see something new will be especially disappointed at the direction that the now films appear to be going in with previously established rules of the Alien universe being bent from film to film.
The worst part of all this is that Alien: Covenant is also inevitably filled with plot holes somehow bigger than the ones in Prometheus and the end is telegraphed so obviously and so far in advance it makes the final twist an anti-climax.
Alien: Covenant (15; strong bloody violence, gore, strong language; 122 minutes)
Summary: ALIEN: COVENANT is a science fiction horror film in which a spaceship on its way to colonise a distant planet is diverted to an uncharted world with optimum conditions for supporting human life. The film is the sequel to Prometheus and the latest in the Alien film series.