Alien: Covenant Review

Alien: Retold

Alien: Covenant brings up faith the same as Prometheus brought up questions of creation. Prometheus never provided answers. Alien: Covenant won’t actually explore faith either. At least Ridley Scott’s take on the series is consistently evasive.

This is definitely an Alien movie – gruesome, chest-bursting kills, woman-led action, space stuff, and planetary discovery. Those things also give Alien: Covenant an inescapable familiarity. Messily re-introducing the Xenomorph, Alien: Covenant jumbles and steps over itself, bumbling plot lines colliding into one another, all to set-up the Xeno-loose-on-a-ship climax.

Prometheus wasn’t superlative. Its reflexive way of shying away from answers meant the follow-up needed a belt narrative ammunition. In a way, Alien: Covenant does have a reply, evaporating (literally) the creationism angle, once primed for an evocative pay-off. Not so, in the end. What’s left is a retread through Prometheus, from the excitable scientific revelations, inevitable viral exposure, abysmal research protocol, and bloody kills upon bloody kills.

… attempts at deriving merit from this material varies from outright boring to glacially slow

The issues therein reduce the Xenomorph to the level of Alien vs. Predator Requiem, a rather mundane slasher villain with neither the leering sexuality of Ridley Scott’s original work, the blast-a-thon action of James Cameron’s sequel, or even the chilling, stalking atmosphere of Alien 3. Instead, Alien: Covenant drifts between surly sci-fi art cinema and low brow entertainment, the two never remotely mixing.

Thematic exploration occurs through Walter (Michael Fassbender), contemplating his existence as an android, leading into a series of overlong, pace-pitting scenes. Dialog neither carries emotive or evocative qualities. Instead, Walter’s fascination with life and being alive drizzle into the core of the film only to land on a sequel-bait conclusion. Again, no answers, and Scott’s attempt at revitalizing the series seems terrified of ever providing any.

Whereas Prometheus left with cues, Alien: Covenant entices audiences only with the promise of rabid slaughter. Scintillating, when done right, but the indifferent tone and rudimentary chills handicap future potential. In a film insisting there’s tension when someone is dumb enough – a scientist no less – to peer into an alien egg, all is lost.

It’s led by a powerhouse Fassbender performance, and an expectation of the Xenomorph staging itself to appear cool in trailers. Marketing for Alien: Covenant, looking back, was interesting, laser focused on splatter effects without a hint of resonating content. Good thing – the attempts at deriving merit from this material varies from outright boring to glacially slow. When the action flares up, lost is the elegance of the practical Xenomorph. The creature moves with such improbable swiftness, gone is the tension or appreciation for the design.

Those here for an expansion of lore leave disappointed. Those theater goers coming for ‘80s-style creature violence leave frustrated. It’s not a movie attending to a fan base much as it is a studio’s relentless need for faster churning sequels with a visible monster icon on their posters.