‘Alien Covenant’ Is A Step Up From ‘Prometheus’… Is That Saying Much?

Cast from Alien Covenant (20th Century Fox)

Alien Covenant is a solid action horror film for adults. I’d give it an average rating. It hits on mostly everything you’d want a ‘R’ rated film to hit on. Decent acting, exciting action sequences, gruesome scares, but an ending that may leave you a bit conflicted on your overall impression of the film. All in all, it’s a nice counter to the family friendly superhero films poised to flood the summer movie market. It also serves as a step up from Prometheus and should satisfy Alien fans at least to some degree.

*Spoilers for Prometheus and Alien Covenant ahead! You’ve been warned* 

Prometheus left a lot of diehard fans of the Alien series divided on its arrival. Personally, I felt it was a thoughtful film which struggled with its own identity. It showcased a few poorly written characters who were mostly stupid or served to represent some sort of existential point of view. Idris’s accent and Charlize’s inability to zigzag were egregious to me at the time. There was a little sprinkling of Alien in there, but it was widely thought to be a missed opportunity at rebooting the familiar aspects of the franchise. At the end of that film, we’re left with Fassbender’s ‘David’ and Noomi Rapace’s ‘Elizabeth Shaw’ headed to the home world of the Engineers.

Michael Fassbender as ‘Walter’ (20th Century Fox)

If you’re still reading, I’m assuming you probably have a good idea of what Alien Covenant is about. The crew of a colony ship is headed to a planet tagged for colonization along with a more friendlier version of Fassbender’s menacing robot. As ‘Walter’, Fassbender creates another interesting android who convincingly stands apart when he inevitably meets up with David.

After an accident aboard the ship, the crew with the exception of a recently widowed Daniels, played by Katherine Waterson, respond to a signal emanating from an alternate planet to colonize. We all know how well that works out. There’s been some folks who aren’t much happier with this ship’s crew than they were with the one in Prometheus. When they get to this paradise of a place, the crew do some exploring that’s a bit questionable. Because of the better pacing and more reasonable circumstances encountered in their mission, I found these human errors much more forgivable. After the first infection, things move in a deliberate and horrific way. Ridley Scott doesn’t show any signs of aging given the suspenseful action sequence which follows. He does in fact show his stubbornness in pulling away from the Alien motif in subsequent scenes to explore the lofty life questions this and Prometheus fail to give clarity to.

Michael Fassbender as ‘David’ (20th Century Fox)

After meeting up with David, we finally get to learn Shaw’s fate, which oddly felt fitting given how stupid people acted in Prometheus. I mean, why not put together the robot that murdered your boyfriend, tried to kill you and was always a bit creepy? Better yet, take a nice cryo-nap while David takes you to a world filled with an alien race whose already demonstrated homicidal tendencies towards you and genocidal desires to humanity.

David’s been tinkering with stuff as expected. You get to see a glimpse at how the xenomorph came into being. We get a full on classic alien and face-huggers after the crew battles what I believe are being deemed ‘neomorphs’ earlier on. As with any Alien film, a female lead heroine is part of the fabric. Daniels is hardly a Ripley replacement, but thankful, Waterson’s performance is respectable. The role is largely lacking, of no fault of her own. The last bit of the movie required her to act counter to the smart, skeptical take she had kept up on until then. I get it was necessary for Covenant to have the ending it wanted, but it was a bit of a let down to see her be fooled by David so easily.

Final Thoughts

Ridley Scott on set for ‘Alien Covenant’ (20 Century Fox)

It’s hard to be angry with Ridley Scott for messing with the formula of a franchise he created. He did a good job minimizing most of the issues found in Prometheus. Ultimately however, Covenant didn’t really cover the ground it should have. I get that this is just part of a series of films leading up to the Nostromo and the events of the original Alien. This serves as a successful film overall for the franchise, but doesn’t bode well for its future.

James Cameron gave us a queen xenomorph, further explaining the life cycle of Ripley’s nemesis in a way that paralleled her own story arc in Aliens. Aliens proved a successful sequel because of the invested interest in the main character and the frightening new take on space’s scariest beast. If Scott sticks to a plan that only has David as the continuity in these films and nothing really “new” in terms of the xenomorph life cycle, it’s going to be hard to really care which random crew gets it in the next film. While I’m thankful to see new locations and get a bit of deeper contemplation out of a film, I just worry that his vision isn’t the right take at this point for the Alien franchise.

Scott is a legend and it feels blasphemous to think it, say it or type it. He improved Prometheus’s formula and if anyone can still get this franchise completely back in order, I got to believe he can make that can happen. Alien Covenant’s not a miss. It does it’s job and brings suspense and action. It’d just be nice to see another film in the franchise capture the magic of the first two before it fizzles out completely.

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