Directed by: Ridley Scott
Written by: John Logan & Dante Harper
Starring: Michael Fassbender, Katherine Waterston, Billy Crudup, Danny McBride, Demián Bichir
No film franchise has reached the highest highs and lowest lows than the Alien franchise. At its best, it has boasted masterpieces and at its worst, it shows the horrors of studio filmmaking. The stories can either be incredibly potent or wildly wacky. With Alien: Covenant, the original director attempts to utilize the same formula that kick-started this series of films too far fewer returns.
Carrying thousands of colonists, the Covenant ship receives a distress call and the crew decides to see to that disturbance. Once they land on this planet, they quickly learn of what happened to a ship that recently landed and the different creatures that inhabit the land and will soon feast on them.
The similarities between this film and Alien are quite jarring, but not surprising considering the director helming the project. Ridley Scott famously directed the first film of the franchise to incredible results and then made his way back with Prometheus. A film that I quite enjoy for the larger conversation it tried to have about creation and how it serves as a prequel to the entire franchise. It received its criticisms for the lack of the actual xenomorph, so Scott decided to give the audience exactly what they wanted and returned to the story’s roots. While he brought the incredible visuals he utilized in the past, the story feels contrived except for the bits that continue with the mythology built in with Prometheus.
Most of the film follows the simple formula that has been copied since the 1979 classic, where we have a bunch of new characters that we get to know and they run into the alien creatures and try to survive. All of that has its fun if it did not feel like a retread already. I mostly enjoyed the character of Walter (Michael Fassbender) who serves as an advanced android figure that leads the crew. The journey he traverses in the film has him question his entire existence and what his purpose may be in everything. The interactions he has and the conversations he holds create some of the most intriguing elements of the entire narrative, but the story does not stay on him, as it continually focuses on the retread story of xenomorphs hunting down people. It does show the evolution of the xenomorph, as Alien: Covenant still falls as a prequel to the rest of the franchise, so it at least added some context in that manner.
It feels like Ridley Scott had some great ideas in Prometheus that he wanted to continue to explore in this film, but he received restrictions because the commercial value of the franchise comes from the xenomorphs tearing into people. I personally feel that the film loses its weight when it decides to focus far too much on the killing because it has all been seen before. It follows all of the basic steps, but then adds more recent horror tropes, like having a shower sex scene where the couple gets killed in the process. It ultimately deteriorates the experience as a whole.
The visuals undoubtedly look stunning, as Scott creates a planet that has the illusion of being a wonderful home, but in actuality, poses a bigger threat than any of the crew members could conceive. From the monuments to the refinement of the actual xenomorph, the craft on display cannot be besmirched, but it seems that this franchise gets worse as the visuals get better.
If one wants a retread of Alien with nothing new and inventive then Alien: Covenant might be right in your wheelhouse. I more so hoped that the franchise that has been 50/50 would try to push with something new as posited in Prometheus, but instead, it went back to old tricks to try and bring back an audience that seeks nothing new.