Ridley Scott returns to the universe he created, with ALIEN: COVENANT, a new chapter in his groundbreaking ALIEN franchise. The crew of the colony ship Covenant, bound for a remote planet on the far side of the galaxy, discovers what they think is an uncharted paradise, but is actually a dark, dangerous world. When they uncover a threat beyond their imagination, they must attempt a harrowing escape.
A lot of the success franchises all began with a simple concept; Terminator had a cyborg trying to assassinate someone, Predator had an 'invisible' creature 'hunting' people, and Alien involved trying to escape a deadly alien that wanted to use the humans as a host for its parasitic babies. The downfall of the ongoing sequels is arguably the addition of backstory (apart from Terminator 2: Judgement Day, that film kicked ass). When a film starts placing too much emphasis on explaining the history and lore of the franchise over several films, you find the genre that the film fits in start to shift away from the original film.
In the case of Alien, the original film started off as a horror, which then became more action movies in the follow-up sequels. When the prequel 'Prometheus' came around, it nearly came across as a drama with a superficial plot thrown in to generate action scenes to keep the interest of the audience (and it largely failed at that). The general lore is interesting, but the portrayal of it in the films leads a lot to be desired. With how poorly 'Prometheus' was received, I was curious to see how 'Alien: Covenant' would compare; with the addition of the word 'Alien', one would hope it signals a move towards the style of the original film.
Covenant is a movie of two intersecting parts; you have the plots relating to the lore and backstory, and then the human vs alien element. While the film starts on an exciting note, it falls into the trap of following convenient plot devices to lead the characters towards where the director needs them to be. Whether it is the husband-wife relationships in the crew that cause the poor judgement, or just poor writing, it's impossible to tell, but every character makes the worst decisions you could think of.
The appeal of 'Alien' movies has always been in the tension and suspense of being in a dark place, where the enemy knows its way around better than you, and the humans getting picked off one by one, by an unseen enemy. Covenant loses that aspect entirely by trying to shoehorn in the evolution of the Alien species, because suddenly every little thing must be pointed out and made obvious. There is no shock and surprise left. Despite some very realistic CGI these days, Aliens will always seem rather unrealistic, so to suddenly have them out in the light (as can be seen in the trailer, and cover of the DVD) they lose their mystique, and a lot of their threat (it's easier to kill an enemy you can see), as well as just looking ridiculous.
The film does do well at attempting to bridge the gap between 'Prometheus' and 'Alien', but is still well below expectations. When half of the film is backstory and exposition, you have to wonder whether the main arc of the film should have been centred around that portion of the lore, rather than trying to explain it inside of a different storyline.
The film tries to fit action, horror, and drama all into the same film, while explaining things in a way that a five year old child would understand. Ultimately, it becomes far too predictable. Michael Fassbender is both a delight and a hindrance depending on which character you look at (Walter vs. David), but you know what is going to happen. You are aware of every bad decision, you already can guess the consequences, and it isn't long into the film before you can outright guess the outcome.
The environments are stunning (much of it was filmed in New Zealand (no need for CGI there), but the pacing of the film, and the avoidable nature of the every threat, makes the film difficult to properly enjoy. Good for a date night if you want to give your partner some jump scares, and interesting to fill in the gaps of Alien evolution, but as an action/horror/sci-fi it's an improvement on Prometheus, but still can't hold a candle to the original two Alien films.
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