Starring: Katherine Waterston, Michael Fassbender, Danny McBride, Billy Crudup, Demian Bichir, Jussie Smollett, Carmen Ejogo, and James Franco?
Directed By: Ridley Scott
Plot: A sequel to Prometheus, which is a prequel to the original Alien. This film finds the crew of the Covenant, a colonization transport, stumbling upon the wreckage of the Prometheus, and the still alive android David (Fassbender). What they don’t know is that there’s something else on this planet. Something that is absolutely looking to kill them one by one.
What Works: Visually, this film is pretty freaking great. I loved everything visual about this film, from the design of the aliens to the ship itself. At no point did I think I was looking at something computer generated. It all looked real. I know they used a mix of practical and computer effects, but everything looked great. I think the previews ruined some of the deaths, for sure. I knew most of the deaths were coming because I had seen the previews. There were only a few deaths left out, but most of the deaths you could see coming. Katherine Waterston really steps up and continues the franchise’s history of having a strong female lead who kicks alien ass. She’s aided by Danny McBride, who is out of his genre here, but still surprisingly effective. Fassbender is great in the dual Walter/David role. His most effective scenes are the ones where he faces off against himself. I actually didn’t mind the pacing, which moves from storybuilding to action to storybuilding to action. The film is never non-stop action/horror, and has a lot of downtime moments that help build these characters and the world they live in. Also, the ending is pretty effective. I do hope this series gets one more film to properly connect Covenant to Alien, but I can understand if the studio is done with this. The box office wasn’t great.
Some spoilers ahead…
What Doesn’t Work: Sorry, but I have to talk spoilers here because what I didn’t like about this film lies almost entirely in spoiler territory. First off, I didn’t like that James Franco was even in this. He dies immediately, in a pod, before he can ever contribute to the film. His only spoken dialogue is in a video that Daniels (Waterston) watches afterward. That’s it. I get that Franco might be a huge Alien fan that fought to be in this film in at least some capacity, but this wasn’t the right role for him. In addition, I didn’t like that the cast was populated with unknown actors. It’s like from the beginning, they were already telling the audience “these people will die”. And pretty much, the unknowns are the ones that die first, and fast. By the time they get off the planet, the only “name” actor that died was Billy Crudup. Waterston, McBride, Fassbender, Bichir, and even Jussie Smollett all make it off the planet. Then a few more die, but by this point, there’s only one random cast member even left to kill off (and the only reason she even is alive at this point is because her character wasn’t part of the planet team). Meanwhile, like 10 of them died on the planet. I kinda wish the cast had either been populated with a few more recognizable faces, or even less. I think we all expected Daniels and Fassbender to make it to the end, but everyone else was up for grabs. The casting could have definitely helped the film feel more suspenseful. It’s a boring horror trope, and I expect more from Ridley Scott.
Final Word: I generally enjoyed the film, but there was no suspense in any of the kills. Everyone died when you thought they would die. I understand why a lot of Alien fans don’t love this film, because the original Alien and Aliens film had way more suspense. You really didn’t know who was going to make it out. Here, the film is full of so much cannon fodder that it telegraphs to the audience which characters you’re not even supposed to bother to care about. Honestly, the unknowns are so poorly developed as characters, I didn’t even know most of their names, let alone what their actual job was, or who was their partner on this colonization mission. Depending on what you’re looking for from Alien Covenant will affect your overall enjoyment of the film. If you want a film that looks cool, then this might be enough for you. It’s well paced, for what it is, and the performances are good. However, the film lacks in character development and structure, and every kill in this film is either predictable through poor storytelling or because you saw the preview. Ultimately, for me, while I enjoyed the performances and the visuals, what I need from a film like this is a bit more intensity and unpredictable action. I didn’t really get either.
Final Grade: B-