Director: Ridley Scott
Starring: Michael Fassbender, Katherine Waterston, Billy Crudup, Danny McBride, Demian Bechir, Guy Pearce, James Franco, Noomi Rapace
Rated: R (sci-fi violence, bloody images, language and some sexuality/nudity)
The crew of a colony ship, bound for a remote planet, discover an uncharted paradise with a threat beyond their imagination, and must attempt a harrowing escape.
By Cole Schneider
Ridley Scott’s “Alien” (1979) was a masterpiece, both smart and thrilling. Its sequel, James Cameron’s “Aliens”, started a trend toward emphasizing the thrills over the smarts and indeed there were fun moments in that and other Alien films since even as it seemed like each sequel was trying to one-up the previous installment in terms of sheer stupidity. Then Ridley Scott returned in 2012 with an “Alien” prequel, “Prometheus”, which reemphasized the franchise’s embryonic value on intelligence—but at a cost.
While “Prometheus” certainly had some interesting elements and while I was able to appreciate its efforts to veer away from the kind of movie the last several films had become, it was ultimately worn down by its tepid, perfunctory insistence that it was the most ‘important’ blockbuster in years. “Alien: Covenant” is a sequel to “Prometheus” and is also helmed by Mr. Scott. It’s also tepid and perfunctory and pretentious and boring and altogether no better.
Through a series of poorly written dialogue and splashes of body horror as impressive as it is grotesque, “Covenant” pontificates endlessly about what it means to be a god and the relationship between creator and creation. Meanwhile every agnostic in the theater is praying for something interesting to happen. It never does. Don’t get me wrong; Scott wrote a ‘shocking’ twist that is sure to thrill. The problem is that you’ll see it coming a mile away and even if you don’t, you surely won’t care. He’s trying too hard to be Stanley Kubrick (2001: A Space Odyssey) and while “Covenant” isn’t a disaster, its biggest utility may be confirming that the upcoming “Blade Runner” sequel is in better hands without its creator.
Rating: 2.5 out of 5 stars
By Matt Greene
Alien is a bona fide sci-fi, haunted house masterpiece. Aliens is a roller-coaster action film full of fun thrills. From there, the franchise has is a hodge-podge of less-than-stellar films struggling to find an identity. With these last two entries, director Scott seems to lean into his Blade Runner, marrying a darkly patient skin with a more philosophical, poetic underbelly. It’s a decent idea; however, what was once a simplistically visceral mysterious-killing-machine series has become a frustrating head-scratcher. The in-the-moment scares of Covenant are eclipsed by predictable plot, confused thematics, and overwhelming pretension.
We follow a new crew of stereotyped misfit Earthlings head out to colonize a new planet, when a mysterious transmission guides them towards a planet of monsters. Scott’s direction is effortlessly skilled, and that skill shines in the gory sci-fi and the general design elements. Unfortunately, like the polarizing Prometheus, the underlying story is nearly impenetrable and the dialogue ranges from inanely cliched to insanely stupid.
My real problem lies in the very concept of these prequels. Comedian Patton Oswalt said it perfectly when talking about his hatred for the Star Wars prequels: “I don’t [care] where the stuff I love comes from; I just love the stuff I love!” Here, we’re presented with a lore that gives us the origin of this classic monster, effectively undermining the terror within the mystery of these aliens. This might bother me more if Covenant weren’t so forgettable; luckily, there is so little character or story linking these to their much better predecessors that you can eject them from your memory as easily as an alien bursting from your chest.
Rating: 2 out of 5 stars