An Imitative Story Highlights This Middling Franchise Entrant
2017’s Alien: Covenant marks the sixth installment in the ‘Alien’ film franchise; and a sequel to 2012’s Prometheus. Directed by Ridley Scott, and with a star-studded cast headlined by Katherine Waterston and Michael Fassbender; Alien: Covenant superficially looks to be trying to merge the discovery/wonderment tone of Prometheus with the science fiction horror of the original 1970s/80s film series. If only that is what Alien: Covenant did, it could have been a good, if not great, film; responding to the criticism that followed the release of Prometheus with what that one missed. Instead, the writers and production team made a half-hearted attempt that pushes together a convoluted backstory and predictable finale with silly character choices; making this film only a few steps removed from being a full-fledged disaster.
Written by Dante Harper, with extensive rewrites by Academy Award nominated screenwriter John Logan (Gladiator, The Aviator, Skyfall); Alien: Covenant is in many ways a carbon copy of its underperforming predecessor, Prometheus. That is in no way a compliment, but a criticism of the lazy route the writers took in trying to pass this film off to audiences. While Prometheus didn’t live up to the hype, and missed the mark in many respects; it was at least presented as a unique wrinkle to a franchise that needed an injection of creativity. The plot of Alien: Covenant is such a thorough copy of Prometheus, a synopsis of the one could serve as the summary for the other. There is an optimistic and diverse space-faring crew, a mysterious, seemingly uninhabited planet, a strong female lead, a dubiously motivated synthetic android, and minor characters making inexplicable decisions that lead to conflict with a superior, aggressive alien species.
Labyrinthine backstory aside, there are a lot of other things wrong going on here. Characters that are presented as some of the brightest in their fields, scientists and security experts, continuously make baffling choices that lack realism, but serve to progress the plot of a human vs. alien showdown. Major story-points unfold in coincidentally timed moments that highlight how the writing team must view their consumers, as thick-minded dolts. The eventual final ‘twist’ can be guessed early on thanks to exhausting foreshadowing; negating any surprise when it is finally revealed.
The stunt work and special effects are par for the course; there isn’t anything spectacular here when compared to similar films. Nothing will make someone think ‘Wow, that was great!’ unless they’ve never seen an action film before…ever. The thought running through viewers minds when watching the action set-pieces is likely to be focused on the absence of any sort of realism; making Alien: Covenant stupider than it needs to be. Viewers know the extent of what a human body can endure, and it cannot endure what were presented with on screen. In totality, Alien: Covenant serves to show the poor excuse for a script and the careless attitude the writers took in their work.
Based on the inadequacy of the script; there is no need to waste time reviewing the direction, cast performances, or camera work. Suffice it to say, everything here is run-of-the-mill; and what one should expect from a substandard sci-fi horror/thriller.
- Screenwriting: 1/10 – The writing team should have more respect for themselves than to turn in this poor excuse for a screenplay.
- Stunts and Special Effects: 5/10 – Middle of the road in all aspects.
- Everything Else: 4/10 – Acting, direction, camera work – everything is unsatisfactory; but that should be expected when working off an inferior screenplay.
3/10 – Maybe genre fans will enjoy more of what they liked in the previous franchise entrants, but for any filmgoer other than the most diehard; Alien: Covenant is a lazy clone not worth seeing.