When I saw Prometheus back in 2012, I can honestly say that I was not a fan of the movie. I found it boring, with unlikeable characters (other than Shaw) and a plot that was hard to follow and made little sense. When it was announced that Alien: Covenant was being developed, again by Ridley Scott, and that it would tie in to events from Prometheus, I thought it was time I go back and revisit Prometheus to refresh my memory – I remembered nothing.
I was astonished to find myself really enjoying Prometheus the second time around; it wasn’t boring, as I had remembered, and the plot made perfect sense and was easy to follow and understand. Though I cannot excuse some of the dumb characters and their actions; they are still there and feel just like your typical horror movie cliché characters. But at the core of Prometheus lies this really thought-provoking film that asks the question: who made the human race?
Was it a God? Or was it aliens – which in Prometheus’ case are called The Engineers.
To many Alien fans, Prometheus was not the prequel to Alien that they were looking for. First and foremost, there wasn’t a Xenomorph anywhere in site, and tonally, Prometheus is a vastly different film from the original Alien. Alien was dark, grimy, and dingy with this foreboding feeling of danger and doom at every turn, especially once the alien is lose on the ship. Prometheus is glossy and cleanly shot with beautiful looking scenes and set pieces; the foreboding atmosphere of Alien is replaced by a sophisticated story, with moments of terror and panic as the characters uncover who or what the Engineers are. Second, the whole premise of Prometheus was based around the space jockey prop from the original movie, when the crew from the Nostromo discovers the crashed ship on LV 426 – hence how we came to get Prometheus.
Though the core of Prometheus is great – were humans created by a God, or Aliens – there wasn’t enough of tie-in to the original Alien from 1979 to get people excited for future movies and it was somewhat of a convoluted mess.
Simply put, fans wanted to see the Xenomporph.
So that brings us to Alien: Covent, a direct result of listening to fans and trying to please everyone.
The film begins ten years after the events of Prometheus. A shipped named Covenant is on a seven-year trip with 250 people, all set to colonize a new world. To insure the trip goes off without a hitch, an android named Walter (Michael Fassbender) is on board making sure the ship continues to run smoothly and the crew, in hyper sleep, are okay.
When Walter raises the recharging sails on the Covenant, an unsuspecting cosmic blast hits the Covenant, causing malfunctions and damage to the ship and leading to the deaths of several of the crew members, including the captain (James Franco, who is truly wasted in this movie and why he was even cast remains a head scratcher). The crew of the Covenant is woken from hyper sleep to help repair the ship.
While repairing the Covenant, they receive a transmission coming from a planet not too far from their current position – a planet much like earth, but somehow has gone undetected.
Captain duties have fallen on to Oram (Billy Crudup) a religious man who feels he should have been the captain of the Covenant all along, but because of his beliefs he was not given the chance. Oram sees this as an opportunity to find out who sent the transmission and maybe colonize the undiscovered planet in hopes of not having to go back into hyper sleep for another seven years just to reach their original destination. Daniels (Katherine Waterston) isn’t so sure and voices her opinion of the matter. She is overruled – of course she is.
Once they touchdown and begin to track where the transmission was sent from their journey soon turns into a nightmare and they discover that this planet isn’t what it appears to be.
It really seems like Ridley Scott is trying to please everyone for Alien: Covenant. He wants to give the hardcore Alien fans what they want with the Xenomorph but also tie up events laid out in Prometheus. It’s very hard to bridge these two films and make them one cohesive piece. Prometheus and Alien may be in the same universe, but they are vastly different films.
So does Scott succeed? Yes and no.
Alien: Covenant works best in its first and second acts. When the crew first gets to the undiscovered world and begin to uncover its mysteries. Covenant feels very much like a follow-up to Prometheus at this point, with enough mystery and suspense to keep you intrigued.
We are introduced to new alien lifeforms on the planet that affect the host through spoors, and see the birthing of the Neomorph – that whole sequence is rather nail biting and very intense and leaves your palms sweating, much like the cesarean scene in Prometheus.
We find out what happened to Shaw and David – don’t worry, I will not spoil anything. And if Shaw and David did indeed find the Engineers.
But it is in the third act where Alien: Covenant falls apart; it feels like you’re in a completely different movie, with a director that forgot how to cut, edit, and pace his film – yeah the third act is that bad. Scenes seem to be missing from the third act, and characters are forgotten about and just disappear without finding out what happened to them. The Xenomorph is also introduced in the third act. I will not go into details on how the Xenomporph comes about in the film, but if you’re a huge Alien fan, and love the lore and the Xenomporh creature, you are going to be angry that it doesn’t have much screen time and the creation of the Xenomorph is also confusing and causes a big continuity error for the rest of the franchise. Another problem with the third act is it actually has a fourth act hidden inside the third act – if that makes any sense at all. It’s really odd how it’s structured and seemed tacked on just to add to the movie’s run time, or dare I say, the Xenomorph’s screen time. And the twist ending, really isn’t that much of a twist, and you can see it coming a mile away.
There is another problem with Alien: Covenant and one that plagued Prometheus also: stupid characters doing stupid illogical things that only serve to push the movie forward. But where in Prometheus we were limited to a few of those characters, in Alien: Covenant we get dozens of these characters, only added to the movie to give it a greater body count.
Not only do the characters in Alien: Covenant do dumb things, like sniffing strange pods that release microbial spoors into the air, just to get them infected, or characters constantly splitting up – one guy even goes to take a leek (actually he just wants to have a smoke by himself for some reason) and bumps into one of these pods and becomes infected by the spoors, which spawns the Neomorph. Almost all the characters are clichéd and reduced to nothing more than victims like in a cheap slasher film, being picked off one-by-one.
Not that it matters, there really isn’t much character development for anyone in the film, including the leads, for you to care anyway. Like I said earlier, James Franco is wasted, and we’re never given any time to get to know him or his character, so his death isn’t really a big deal to us. We see the aftermath his death and the affects it has on the crew, especially Daniels, but it’s handled so lazily that you end up forgetting about it soon after it happens, as do the characters.
Daniels is the lead character in the film, but you never learn anything about her other than she was romantically involved with Franco’s character. She’s kind of like a discount Ripley, in that they needed another female lead to do battle the alien. I’m okay with having all the Alien films having a strong female lead, I like strong female characters who don’t take crap from anyone, including one really pissed off Xenomorph, but give me some character development first so I can care about her when the shit hits the fan. I could have cared less if Daniels lived or died in the film, she was just there and serviceable at forwarding the plot.
Walter and David (both played by Michael Fassbender) was given more time and care than any of the other characters in the film; you got to know both of them. And Fassbender’s acting in both roles was great – his acting alone really holds this film together and it’s hard for you to take your eyes off him because he is so good.
All in all, if you’re going to see Alien: Covenant this weekend just know what you’re getting into. If you’re hoping for a return to form in the likes of Alien or Aliens, you’re going to be disappointed. If you go into it hoping for closure to Prometheus, you’ll be happy, and the added extra bonus of the Xenomorph might just make your night.
7 out of 10 stars.