Back in 2012, Ridley Scott returned to the world he created in 1979’s Alien with the wildly divisive Prometheus, a prequel of sorts, focusing on an ill-fated journey into a planet to discover, essentially, the beginning of life.
It had its good parts (Michael Fassbender as the android David, that creepy-cool self-surgery sequence), its bad parts (Charlize Theron’s daddy issues, a stupid crew), but unlike most, I enjoyed it…even if its connective tissue to Alien was flimsy at best, and it was kind of a beautifully shot yet incredibly dumb sci-fi thriller.
Spurred by Prometheus’ relative success, and undoubtably because Hollywood LOVES cinematic universes, the 79-year-old Ridley Scott is back in the saddle again of a proper Alien movie – Alien: Covenant.
Taking place 10 years after Prometheus, Covenant attempts to bridge the gap between the Prometheus era and the Alien era with decidedly mixed results.
Yet another ill-fated Weyland Yutani ship (how is this company still standing?) is off to an important space expedition. In this instance, it’s a colony of 2000, with 1500 embryos, 15 or so crew members, and 1 android (Michael Fassbender as an upgraded version of David, named Walter) in search of a planet to colonize and continue the human race. One solar flare later, and the crew members are awoken early, and find a mysterious signal on a planet – a planet just as inhabitable, just as worthy of human life, and sure enough, closer to them as their original destination.
As I’m sure you’re already predicting, this planet is filled with the titular Aliens – or Xenomorphs, as the hardcore fans know them. The movie quickly shifts from quiet sci-fi journey to creature feature once they hit the planet (which is hiding a dark mystery among it’s inhabitants, of course) and unfortunately, the urge for gore and violence takes away any instance of getting to know the cast. It’s a shame, as the actors feel pretty game – Danny McBride as a spaceship pilot is inspired casting, Katherine Waterston seems ready (if miscast) to be the new-age Ripley, Billy Crudup as a Captain with a strong holy faith – but instead, the blood must flow.
Much like Prometheus, the visuals are gorgeous (thanks to cinematographer Dariusz Wolski), the score is pretty solid (Jed Kurzel), but there is a strong emptiness for the movies 123 minute runtime. For every inspired moment (like the intense gore of the Xenomorph birthing scenes, or a Xenomorph POV shot), there are many sequences which just follow aimless thriller beats.
I guess what I’m saying is this – for a take on the Alien franchise that seems so focused on the question of “How”, whether it’s “How did mankind come to be?” or “How did the Xenomorphs from Alien get started?”, we’re now left asking a bigger question – “Why?” Like “why did we need these details?” or “why did this movie get made?”
I really wanted to like Alien: Covenant. Instead, now, just hours after leaving the theater, I’m struggling to remember the majority of it. I think it’s time to let this franchise be.
Alien: Covenant is in theaters now.