By Ryan Keating-Lambert
Cheesy dialogue and a messy narrative make this a confusing outing. It’s a wonky blend of the original Alien and Prometheus. Apples and Oranges.
Directed by Ridley Scott, Alien: Covenant sees a crew of couples consisting of planet engineers and colonisers on the ship ‘Covenant’, which is on its way to a distant habitable earth-like planet, until they abruptly veer off course to investigate a distress signal.
There are some notable actors here, and most of them serve their screen time well, including Daniels (Katherine Waterston), Oram (Billy Crudup), Tennessee (Danny McBride), Branson (James Franco), and android Walter (Michael Fassbender). The overall relationship between crew members is definitely a lot warmer than that of the terrible Prometheus. They also don’t make the same stupid mistakes as Shaw and her crew… they make all new ones.
At least there is a bit more backstory, explanation and character building in Covenant. The crew does have a bit of that trucker-type camaraderie of the original Alien, and even James Cameron’s Aliens. But it’s still a bit strange that there wasn’t more hesitation with visiting a planet, with a distress call, that was completely off course and could pose a certain amount of danger. But perhaps we’ve seen this happen in so many of these films and it’s just not that convincing anymore.
On top of that, they stumble around pressing buttons, and aside from the Ripleyesque Daniels, don’t really approach anything with any kind of caution. Daniels appears to be a bit different; a born leader and a tough nut from the get-go, but it appears that director Scott has spent too much time on making her Ripley. To the point that even some of her lines are straight out of Alien. Throughout the film you get a rushed ‘best of’ catalogue of the earlier films and at times it’s just so so forced… not surprising considering the backlash from Prometheus.
So that’s why we see a bit of the classic xenomorph this time round, and it’s cool, but incredibly rushed and just so predictable, as are the earlier scenes with its cousin the neomorph. Scott made an attempt to get back to the franchise’s horror roots, but hasn’t left any room for suspense over the copious amounts of blood and gore.
This is in no way a coherent film, and maybe that’s because of the Prometheus mess that’s still very much in the air. There are strange and unusual character moves and motives, and a plot that doesn’t make much sense, but you have to give Scott credit for his big ideas and Blade Runner-like philosophies of creation and A.I. identity.
The flashback of surviving Prometheus members David (Michael Fassbender) and Elizabeth Shaw (Noomi Rapace) arriving on the engineers’ home planet and quoting from ‘Ozymandias‘ was extremely haunting and even a bit biblical – probably the highlight of the film for me. Though David’s motivations and evil agenda were sometimes over-the-top, Fassbender was brilliant. Playing both David and new Covenant android Walter, this is a Fassbender moment to remember.
The flute scene between Walter and David was also a stand-out and feels like the Ridley Scott that we remember. Two androids bonding for the first time and pondering their own creation and sense of identity… and then it’s ruined by their epic superhero-like battle which didn’t feel like either Alien or Prometheus, but a scene from Batman v Superman.
It’s a real pity because there are some decent and profound ideas buried deep within Alien: Covenant, but its predictability and nonsensical approach, as well as its overcompensation for nostalgia, almost ruined those ideas altogether.
Scott should just make a film about these ‘god’ philosophies that is completely separate from the Alien universe. Well, I guess there’s still Blade Runner 2049, which he’s had some influence on. Fingers crossed that it’ll be a bit more coherent than Covenant. With director Denis Villeneuve in the chair, it just might be.