I’m a big fan of the Alien franchise; I sat through AVP requiem and didn’t cry, and I once live tweeted the entirety of the special edition of Aliens. So it was difficult to go into Alien Covenant without coma-inducing levels of excitement. Scott at the helm and the trailer promising xenomorphs a plenty; what could go wrong?
Well, as it turns out, a fair bit. The film is set 10 years post-Prometheus and centres around the crew of the spaceship Covenant. They’re on a recolonization mission, and to add some element of emotional engagement, they are all couples sent (along with a cargo of colonists and human embryos) to populate a new world. But they soon intercept a strange transmission and decide (against all protocol and frankly, believability) to go and investigate. As per usual with the Alien films, the crew touch down and things start to go South very quickly.
Among some rather gruesome scenes, lofty dialogues involving Byron, Shelly and Wagner and a smorgasbord of almost direct riffs on previous Alien films (including the two AVP abominations), there’s a good film struggling to get out, but sadly gets lost trying answer questions that no one really wanted the answer to.
Whether you are a fan or not, the film just feels far too rushed. Ironically enough, it is at it’s best before the first Alien is glimpsed. The set up for the interception of the transmission plays out well, and Scott manages to build up the tension before the first appearance of an Alien with all the swagger that we’re used to. Sadly, after that, the film takes all sorts of big twists and turns which have irrevocably changed the cannon of the Alien franchise for good. As a fan, its infuriating; but as a film, it’s perplexing.
Undoubtedly Scott is a master of his craft – the visual impact of the film is stunning and there was a clear attempt to rekindle the fascination with HR Giger’s original haunting concept art. However, the scripts Scott so often works with are his limiting factor, because this simply is not scripted well. The dialogue is clunky, too much grandstanding and the plot escalates far too quickly to a third act which was frankly, unnecessary. As for the individual performances, Fassbender seems to have ingested too much Shakespeare, Katherine Waterston is believable up until the third act, and Danny McBride’s character ‘Tennessee’ is the only person you remember afterwards (but that maybe because all I could hear was “I’m Kenny F*&^ing Powers man!”)
Prometheus was critiqued for its atrocious script too but at least it had a sense of purpose; to boldly ask important questions and leave the viewer to find an answer to them without being spoon-feed. Alien Covenant fails to leave any open-ended questions other than glaring plot holes. It is also now very puzzling how the saga progresses – given that it is a mere 20 years before the start of Alien.
It’s not a bad film at all, it has some wonderful visuals, there are some extremely tense and horror-inducing scenes. But is struggles to hang together into a coherent whole. Where Scott goes from here with the franchise is anyone’s guess, but wherever it is, you’ll be hearing me scream.
“It was a bad call, Ripley. A bad call…” 6/10.