Alien Covenant Review: Deja Vu All Over Again
Alien: Covenant is déjà vu all over again. The sequel to Prometheus and sixth film in the franchise is a straight rehash of the same damn story. We do get more regarding the savage creatures origins, but its two hours of banal predictability apart from that. I was sincerely hoping that Ridley Scott would offer something new. There isn't. Alien Covenant is textbook in every way. It has a great production value, definitely well made, but utterly lacks creativity.
The film opens ten years after the events in Prometheus. The spaceship Covenant is transporting two thousand colonists and a small crew to a new planet. Their voyage interrupted by an anomaly, the crew (Billy Crudup, Katherine Waterston, Danny McBride) is awakened by Walter (Michael Fassbender), an android doppelganger of David. As they go about making repairs, they receive a faint human transmission. Their investigation into its source leads to a habitable world with deadly locals.
Every Alien film has the following plot points. Somewhere in deep space, a ship of suspended animation crew awakens, finds a creature on another ship, inexplicably take it aboard, all die horribly; except for a few survivors who take the beast to the next movie. Let's not forget the evil android, the female lead (Katherine Waterston), who isn't in charge, but soon takes over; and the moronic captain who leads them to doom (Billy Crudup). I honestly thought that after five incarnations of formula, Ridley Scott would take the plot in a different direction, even a little. That's not the case here.
Alien: Covenant has a hackneyed attempt at philosophy. As humans were apparently engineered, the androids created by humans question their existence. Should they be servants to their gods or are they superior beings? This theme has merit. It deserved more than surface exploration, but is lost completely when the film barrels along. It's surprising that screenwriter John Logan (Skyfall, The Aviator, The Last Samurai), one of the best in Hollywood, doesn't dig deep beyond the standard Alien horror/action tropes. Ridley Scott has final cut on all of his work, so I will assume he wanted more of the same.
The creature effects, production design, and action scenes look pretty good. H.R. Giger would be happy with the latest interpretations of his work. There's more of a nightmare surrealism. As a sequel and prequel, Alien Covenant ticks all of the style boxes to fit into the overall franchise timeline. It works on the purely technical level. The stale plot sinks the competent work of the production team. There needed to be a more even focus.
Alien: Covenant will disappoint fans, but may get a passing grade from neophytes. If you've never seen an Alien film, or just had a glancing familiarity, Covenant should entertain. There's no weight of expectation. Creatures bursting through chests is a new experience to enjoy. For the diehards that know the franchise back and forth, you've sailed these waters before. From Twentieth Century Fox and Scott Free Films, Alien Covenant is a huge letdown. Sigh.