Alien: Covenant FILM REVIEW
Director: Ridley Scott
Screenplay: John Logan and Dante Harper
Story: Jack Paglen and Michael Green
Starring: Katherine Waterston, Michael Fassbender, Billy Crudup, Danny McBride, Demian Bicher, Amy Seimetz, Carmen Ejogo
Rated R for sci-fi violence, bloody images, language and some sexuality/nudity
Running Time: 2 hours 2 minutes
*** out of *****
Photo: 20th Century Fox
The crew of the COVENANT have seen better days in the latest film in ALIEN franchise, Ridley Scott's ALIEN: COVENANT.
In 2012, Ridley Scott's return to the franchise served as a prequel to the ALIEN series. At the time, PROMETHEUS was expected to answer the questions of where did the xenomorphs come from and who and what is the space jockey, the pilot of the alien ship, and where did it come from. Some answers were provided, more questions were raised and ultimately the film was rather underwhelming. Certain notions were quite intriguing, such as the origin of man, but the film's coda felt like a desperate afterthought to let viewers know they were watching a film in the ALIEN universe. Scott once again returns to the series with the latest film, ALIEN: COVENANT, which like its predecessor is a mixed bag of answers and more questions.
ALIEN: COVENANT is the sixth film, eighth if you count the ALIEN VS PREDATOR films, in the long running franchise. It is also the second prequel to the first film, 1979's ALIEN. The film picks up ten years after PROMETHEUS and follows the crew of the transport ship Covenant as they receive an unexpected signal and set off to investigate an uncharted planet. If that sounds familiar it should since that was essentially the set up for the first film. Therein lies the problem with this franchise. No matter how you spin it is nothing more than the same model with a new paint job. We've seen countless alien attacks throughout the other films in the series that it has lost its impact. What this film and PROMETHEUS benefit from are the mysteries that Scott wants to explore with each new film. How receptive one is to each new revelation is purely subjective. PROMETHEUS provided an intriguing notion behind the origin of the species. ALIEN: COVENANT provides some intriguing ideas about the origins of the alien species. In both cases, beyond those ideas there wasn't much else to the films other than retreading material.
This is certainly a better film than PROMETHEUS as I found many of the themes and character developments much more satisfying and intriguing. Scott plays around with the gestation and development of the aliens to decidedly mixed results. Some moments come off as horrific and fascinating while others illicit unintended snickers. However, one cannot escape the inherent deja vu that permeates any scene involving the aliens. The film is at its best when it focuses on the characters and the mystery being explored. Ironic to think that the prequels would be better served if they focused less on the titular characters. For this reviewer, the ideas presented were quite thought provoking.
Michael Fassbender returns to the series this time as the synthetic Walter. He's joined by Katherine Waterston, Danny McBride, Billy Crudup and Demian Bichir. Uniformly the cast is quite good and you buy them as a tight knit crew much like that of the original ALIEN and its sequel James Cameron's ALIENS. The cast does a fine job of conveying the dangers of interstellar space travel and the deep loss they feel when losing one of their own. Fassbender is fine as always as once again you are left to wonder if you should ever trust an android. Billy Crudup does stand out work as a man who is unexpectedly thrust into the spotlight and forced to make many life or death decisions. Katherine Waterston is fine as Daniels but the not-so-subtle similarities to Ellen Ripley are a bit heavy-handed.
Scott is a fine director for sure but this is certainly a step down from his last film THE MARTIAN. While it is a better film than the first prequel it still fails to capture the essence and feel of the original film and its sequels. The action scenes involving the aliens were fine but lacked any suspense and the 'twist' is so telegraphed all one can do is shrug when it is revealed to the characters. Now the ideas explored in the new film are very intriguing and unlike the last film actually has me looking forward to the next prequel. As fore mentioned, the film provides some answers and raises a few more questions. The paramount question being how is Scott going to tie it all together in the end. Despite my better judgment I'll have to see the next one to find out.
***** = Outstanding ****1/2 = Excellent **** = Very Good ***1/2 = Above Average
*** = Good **1/2 = Mediocre ** = Fair *1/2 = Poor * = Bad 1/2* = Abysmal