Review: Alien Covenant

From Lt. Ripley to Elizabeth Shaw, the Alien franchise has shown terror on the big screen for almost 40 years. The latest anxiety filled alien adventure is Alien: Covenant, the sequel to the prequel known as Prometheus.

In the year 2104 (18 years before the events in the original Alien) a new group of alien victims and/or surrogates are aboard the colony ship Covenant headed to a remote planet named Origae-6. The ship is filled with thousands of colonist, embryos, a ragtag crew, and one android named Walter (Michael Fassbender).

After an accident in space, most of the crew is awakened from stasis, but a few crew members die – including their captain. Shortly after, the crew picks up a distress signal from an unknown planet. With the crew afraid to go back into stasis for another 7 years, their new captain Oram (Billy Crudup) decides to send a group down to investigate and see if the planet is inhabitable.

The expedition team is lead by Omar, his wife Karine (Carmen Ejogo), Daniels (Katherine Waterston) and a few others check out the mysterious planet while Covenant stays in orbit.

In true Alien fashion, it’s not long before some crew members are infected and all hell breaks loose – by “all hell” I mean kitten sized aliens bursting out of people’s chest and growing to the size of Lebron James in the matter of hours. The uninfected crew has no idea what’s happening, but they know it’s incredibly terrifying.  The crew attempts to make it back to the Covenant before it’s too late.

Even with aliens running around, the Weyland Corporation, and the Alien name attached, Covenant doesn’t feel like much of an “Alien” movie – it feels like a space thriller with some Alien elements in it. The world the Alien movies inhabit is terrifying and helpless. Covenant dips its toe into that world but never fully immerses itself in it. Karine and an infected crew member have a scene together that exemplifies what the Alien franchise is. It has the fear, uneasiness, shock, and horror that made the first two films classic pieces of cinema.

Instead of smart characters that are easy to cheer for, Covenant has pointless characters that are led to their death by stupid decision after stupid decision. The film is buffet of dumb decisions topped with some humor sprinkled on top. The best and brightest are in charge of leading this new colony, but aren’t smart enough to stick together after their friends are slaughtered. It’s unbelievable to watch.

Katherine Waterston is great as Daniels aka New Ripley, but she’s not the star of the show. Even though she’s dressed like Ripley and given all the tools to be the hero, as a character, Daniels doesn’t connect the same way.  Ripley felt like she was running things, Daniels feels like she’s along for the ride and just trying not to die. Towards the end, Daniels has her “badass” moment. It’s a great scene, but one couldn’t help but wonder where that kind of fire was earlier in the film.

The best performance comes courtesy of Michael Fassbender. He’s continues to be incredible. He delivers some of the most mundane dialogue but makes it sound intriguing. Moviegoers love Fassbender, yet it feels like he’s not appreciated enough. He’s the only actor who knows they’re in a thriller and not a random alien film.

The action is what’s expected from an alien space movie. There aren’t any big set pieces or sequences that haven’t been done in other films. What it lacks in originality, it makes up for in blood. Some of the deaths are pretty brutal so there is lots and lots of blood during some of the alien fight scenes.

Alien: Covenant may not solve some of Prometheus’ unanswered questions or bridge the gap between the two prequels and 1979’s Alien. It does bring audiences back into the familiar terrifying world of Alien. Fans of the franchise will find it more enjoyable than most, but that doesn’t stop Covenant from being a slightly missed opportunity to bring the franchise back to prominence.

Grade: B-