Ridley Scott returns once again to the Alien universe with Alien: Covenant. The movie that serves as a sequel to 2013’s Prometheus, but also as yet another prequel to the Alien franchise. Unfortunately, it is an unengaging, scarless, tedious mess.
The Covenant is a colony ship on its way to a remote planet across the other side of the galaxy. It carries -- between colonists and embryos -- around 3000 people, plus a small crew and one android named Walter. The android is a later model of David, the android featured in Prometheus and is once again portrayed by Michael Fassbender. When a neutrino shockwave damages the ship severely Walter is forced to awaken the crew earlier than planned to help repair the ship. Amongst the repairs they receive a signal from a planet not far away that seems habitable and safe. Maybe they missed this planet in their scans of the system? So they go in to investigate. Seven years away from the planet they were en-route to, or one only a week away that seems just as good? But it’s got bad things on it, bad things that will bite your face.
Covenants plot is… boring to say the least. Most of its problems don't even come from it's ever continuing and confusing plot-hole ridden direction of Prometheus's story. Prometheus for all its problems had a strong cast and characters that were, if anything, at least fully formed. Noomi Rapace played a strong lead, Charlize Theron and Idris Elba brought gravitas and Guy Pearce as the young Peter Weyland was a strong butt-headed douche, but a strong character nonetheless. Covenants characters seem like second-tier characters from all the other Alien movies gathered up to form this cast.
James Franco is introduced as a minor cameo character that you can go see more of watching the prelude to Alien: Covenant videos on Youtube. I’d highly suggest this actually because I didn’t watch them til after and it might have made the movie ever so slightly more enjoyable. His presence though was direly needed in this film, and by the end of the film, I still don't understand why they couldn't have made his role bigger.
Michael Fassbender gives a great dual performance as David and Walter and the dynamic and different relationships these two characters have towards their ‘Dad’ Peter Weyland is some of the more interesting stuff in Covenant. Fassbender gets the two best scenes in the film: both featuring himself and another character just talking while Scott uses long takes; it’s all about the acting, and the deeper impact of what the characters on screen are saying.
Much like Prometheus, the plot of Covenant is heavily focused on bigger things than the earlier Alien films. It’s full of metaphorical questions and sub-devices in the plot, it’s about deeper questions about life, gods, humans existence and science vs spirituality. This is Scott’s focus with these past two films and it’s as if he feels obligated to ask these questions in the Alien films shell to the detriment of the product as a whole.
Covenant tells a very basic horror plot at best but fails to build any tension, and has gone to gore for its shock value. But even with the increased level of blood and guts, it still isn't anywhere near as tense or shocking as Noomi Rapace’s Elizabeth Shaw self-surgery in Prometheus.
But Covenants biggest issue is its characters. With a stronger lineup, it may have been possible to enjoy Covenant somewhat or at least find some aspect of it engaging. Katherine Waterston and Danny McBride may make for an oddly paired team but work well together, however, they don’t have much to work with other than, it seems, ‘act like you're in an Alien movie!’ Billy Crudup plays the leader of the team and is perhaps one of the worst and dumbest characters in the franchise history while Carmen Ejogo gives a performance that is straight from a Friday the 13th sequel. Even the aliens give bad performances thanks to bad some really cheap CGI.
Alien: Covenant is never engaging in its story or with its characters, never mysterious in its paint by numbers plot or profound with its questions about life and the universe; it’s also never scary, not even for a moment. The biggest tension was how long til it would just wrap up it’s meandering final act.