Several years after the failed Prometheus voyage, a large ship floats graciously through the depths of space. It’s a colonist ship, consisting of a mere 15 crewmembers and whopping 2,000 passengers. When just seven years out from their final destination, a far off planet ideal for starting a new civilization, the ship runs into an unforeseen complication. The crewmembers are temporarily awoken from hypersleep, forced to face this ship malfunction. Our central protagonist, technically speaking (more on this later), is Daniels (Katherine Waterston), following under the orders of Captain Oram (Billy Crudup). Whilst attempting to fix the ship’s issue, Tennessee (Danny McBride) unintentionally intercepts a transmission signaling out from an unknown, uninhabited nearby planet. Unsure of but intrigued about its seemingly human origins, the ship lands down on the planet to investigate. Here, terror awaits.
This is, first and foremost, a continuation and companion piece to Ridley Scott’s ambitious 2012 sci-fi horror. Without delving into how, as it’s initial flip will probably surprise, the film takes a sudden turn. While the first Alien film is deliberately slow, it does so effectively, building up the tension and creating intrigue through its character set up. You not only care about the characters, but also desperately want them to survive. They’re real. Human. Alien: Covenant also takes a slow approach to its storytelling, but it doesn’t seem to grasp what made the buildup in Alien so effective. It wasn’t through instant peril, or spending 20 minutes exploring the surface of an unknown planet. It was what happened during that time. In Alien: Covenant, it’s nothing. We’ve seen characters explore new planets in every film, and while a little part of me was intrigued as to where it was going, it didn’t seem to allude at much. The plot was off to a halt before it even begun.
It should be noted that this is absolutely Michael Fassbender’s film through and through. We open on an extreme close up of an eye, soon revealed to be that of Fassbender’s. This opening shot works as a metaphor for the film’s real protagonist, Walter (and in a way Prometheus’ David, who plays a vital role in the overarching story). Fassbender is extraordinary, for reasons all too good to spoil. The way his character is handled is not the way you’d think going in, even if it soon becomes obvious where it’s inevitably heading. It may have been set up to be Katherine Waterstone’s film, and she certainly nails every aspect of her character, but it’s Fassbender who pulls through and takes this film home. Plus, there’s a scene near the end of the second act that I won’t spoil, and it’s simultaneously the greatest and absolute worst thing about this movie. Trust me, you’ll know it when you see it.
It’s so determined to try and find an explanation for its own lore that it winds up being unable to follow through with a coherent narrative. The visuals can be haunting, and just like with Prometheus, there’s a lot of cool ideas floating around, but they’re all unconnected strings blowing aimlessly through the wind. It’s frustrating how incompetent the film’s plot manages to be. The reasons why will be saved for another time, where spoilers will certainly be discussed, but so much of the film, in particular a certain character’s callous motives, is questionable. All logic is thrown out the window. Its overly complex storyline is artificial and lifeless, a 2 hour film where very little occurs, and what does left little resonance. A good hour in the middle of the movie slows to the point where nothing of any significance occurs; loosing the tension it worked so desperately to build.
Like so much of this film’s plot, it’s difficult to discuss the xenomorph’s involvement in the film, more so than it is to discuss the neomorph’s. Both alien species, while sinister in appearance, are wasted. Alien: Covenant is first and foremost a human story, or at least one that continues to question the origins of mankind and the reason behind creation. Neomorphs come and go throughout, and while chilling at first, later appearances, especially their final appearance, are tiresome. In fact, that very final scene involving a neomorph has got to be one of the most idiotic moments in the entire film, lacking logic and upping the overall weirdness. No longer did they feel like any sort of a threat, even after some vicious, hyper gory attacks.
This is the first proper Alien film in 20 years, yet it feels more like a remnant of what came before than an actual continuation of the story. Disappointing is an understatement. This could’ve been good. It should’ve been good. But it’s not. A third film in this new trilogy of Alien movies is already in the works, supposedly titled Alien: Awakening. If this is to go ahead, and a part of me wants it to just to bring conclusion to the story, all it needs to do is be better than Alien: Covenant. I have so many questions and so few answers, and it’s up to Awakening to save this franchise.
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