Sir Ridley Scott made a landmark film in 1979 with Alien, a movie that helped push science-fiction horror from the campy days of old, into a dark new era of psychological horror - complete with nightmarish concepts and terrifying visual effects. Since those landmark days of old, however, Scott has seen praise for his films dwindle - especially when he attempted to make a quasi-prequel to Alien, and ended up with the divisive and generally lackluster Prometheus instead.
Unfortunately, Alien: Covenant, the supposed cure-all for all of Prometheus' wrongs, ends up being a worse stage of the slow rot of Ridley Scott's directorial career - making the experience of watching it almost more painful than the 'gorrific' fates suffered by the characters.
The story picks up ten years after the Prometheus expedition; we meet the colonization vessel Covenant traveling through deep space with 2,000 souls in cryogenic freeze and fifteen crew memebers watching over them - all headed for the distant planet they will call home. The voyage is thrown off course when Covenant suffers damage in a solar storm, forcing the crew to wake early and make repairs. During that process, they pick up a random transmission from a a nearby planet that's not on the charts - one that's even better suited to their colonization needs. Of course, when they land, they find that the planet is not as hospitable as they thought - not hospitable to anything that's alive, and wants to stay that way.
There is no other way to say it: Alien Covenant plays like a C-movie horror flick, and definitely stands as one of the worst chapters of the franchise. It's almost baffling to think that it's the product of the same man who made the haunting and terrifying original, but here we are. From the way it's shot (and the shoddy visual effects work), to the plodding and utterly predictable storyline, Covenant ultimately makes the entire Alien franchise feel exhausted and incapable of anything new or interesting.
The Prometheus sequel tries to cover its narrative and thematic fatigue with a hefty amount of gore - with kills that are more a return to the torture porn fascination of the 2000s, than anything thrilling or memorable from an iconic sci-fi/horror franchise. Prometheus, at the very least, went for the novelty of an expanded mythos and thematic focus - examining mankind's origins and the deadly cost of playing god. Alien: Covenant almost feels like Scott's angry response to his Prometheus critics: a slapdash and by-the-numbers horror flick, with no greater designs than providing the blood and body count. Worst of all: it does little to finally connect Prometheus to Alien in any meaningful way, marking the second time that Ridley Scott and 20th Century Fox have cashed-in on fan expectation, without really delivering.
Lost in the middle of all that mess between director and material is the cast, who are asked to play out a deeper drama that never ends up mattering all. Katherine Waterston handles the dramatic weight placed on her character - but "Daniels" is certainly no substitute for Ellen Ripley, and it's hard to peg what she really is at all, since the story offers little to no insight. The rest of the characters are just as vague (read: forgettable) - including Billy Crudup's religious captain (preoccupied with the "war on faith"); Danny McBride's generic redneck pilot; and the rest of the forgettable victims we never really get to care about.
The only real standout of Covenant is seeing Michael Fassbender play two versions of the synthetics, David and Walter. Fassbender is the only thing truly alive in the film - however, Alien: Covenant is the type of movie that manages to wear out even his welcome, pushing the David/Walter storyline to either painfully predictable turns, or downright weird moments.
In the end, Alien: Covenant is the death-knell for Ridley Scott's legacy in the franchise; after this, it's hard to see why he should be making any additional chapters to the saga. Fans who were excited for District 9 director Neil Blomkamp's Alien 5 (as a franchise rebooting sequel to Aliens) should mourn that lost opportunity; Alien: Covenant is as much of a creative graveyard as the doomed world it takes place in.
Alien: Covenant is now playing in theaters. It is 2 hours and 2 minutes long and is Rated R for sci-fi violence, bloody images, language and some sexuality/nudity.