If there was one word to describe Alien Covenant – the one running theme of the entire film – it would be aimless. It doesn’t have the nail-biting horror of the original Alien, nor does it contain the adrenaline-pumping action found in Aliens. Covenant certainly leans more to the latter as comparisons go, but in the literal sense, it is the follow-up to the Alien franchise’s previous instalment, Prometheus. Its predecessor wasn’t perfect, by any means, but where the characters and writing failed, its ability to expand upon the original, opening up new ideas on the creation of humanity and (more importantly) the Xenomorph meant it still managed to stand upright. The film was flawed but memorably so. However, I don’t see myself remembering Covenant at all by the week’s end.
The main issue with Covenant is that it is exceptionally forgettable, which is disheartening to admit for a film from such an immensely successful franchise. The film lacks any personality, least of all in the characters who, might I add, make so many dumb and clichéd decisions that your brain might start to bleed. It goes through every single horror trope in the book, to the point where even Paranormal Activity would roll its eyes. The distinct lack of creativity in every single frame immediately sets off alarm bells.
The film literally starts with every character wanting to take a risk instead of going along with the foolproof plan that is probably years in the making. However, one person is unconvinced that this is the right move and objects to it, but is shut down because ‘you’re just being paranoid’. Then, lo and behold, everything goes positively tits-up and the other characters realise their mistakes, even going so far as to apologise for not taking that one person seriously. Its fucking homework-copying tier writing, and I’d expect much more from an Alien film, especially from such an acclaimed director as Ridley Scott.
The movie is weirdly genreless. As mentioned earlier, it’s certainly not scary, unless you count excessive gore as scary (hint: it isn’t), and there isn’t enough guns and glory for it to be an all-out action movie. Actually, if anything, the film becomes borderline slasher flick in some scenes. There’s a sex scene(ish) in a shower which has Friday the 13th levels of grotesque gore and violence. In fact, the exceptional amount of blood spilled on a regular basis leads me to believe that this was intended as more of a slasher than a thriller, but if that’s the case then surely a Nostromo-esque setting would be perfect for that.
The film lacks focus. It isn’t good enough technically to be considered a genre piece, but the narrative isn’t that interesting either so it just feels void of any substance whatsoever. Even now, having only watched it mere hours before writing this review, I struggle to remember anything of actual merit to note.
I guess the set design is good? The designs of the xenomorphs have a bit of variety this time around, which is nice I suppose. The score is decent if a bit uninspired in places, and the acting is alright-
(Look, I got nothing. There aren’t many positives here to mention. Give me this.)
But the acting is actually solid. There wasn’t one person who stood out as truly bad at any point, and Katherine Waterston looks like she’s really trying her best with the material she’s given. Michael Fassbender, who has to play two different characters simultaneously, is in league of his own though. He manages to pull off a performance that isn’t quite unsettling, per se, but it does have neat little subtleties which add metric tons to the pretty dreadful story (that implying there is one in the first place).
However, all the actors’ talents are rather dulled by some of the weakest characters I have seen in a long time. The way the film just throws you into the action implies that you’re already supposed to know of and care about the entire crew, even though I only remember two (three, if you count Fassbender’s android character) of the fifteen (give or take) characters’ names. People die left and right, and relationships are predominantly expected to be known rather than made clear. I think every crew member is supposed to be in some kind of relationship since its a colonisation mission, but it’s never made clear.
What’s that? *shuffles notes* There was a prequel short film released separately from Covenant which details the characters’ relationships and the separate personalities of each individual? Well, I’ve got three special little words to describe how I feel about that, and I think you’ll like them:
How. Fucking. Cheap.
What, so we’re expected to receive the character development externally before seeing the actual movie? That’s weak, Ridley. Real weak. If I pay £10 to enter a cinema screening of your shitty movie surrounded by loud rustling packets of sweets and talkative teenagers, I except to see one whole complete package, including character development and things of importance actually being, you know, explained.
And yes I did watch this video before seeing the full movie, but that doesn’t change the fact that the full movie has absolutely zero character development and the writers clearly didn’t give a fucking shit out anything other than the likely sizeable cheques they received. It’s patronising, it’s infuriating, and it’s downright insulting to think that’s acceptable.
Is that what films are now? Are they entering the video game realm of DLC, where you can’t see the true ending of the movie until you pay an additional fiver, sucking the many executives’ tiny, money-hungry dicks all at once? To me, Alien Covenant feels completely and utterly pointless, both as an Alien movie and as a movie in general. It doesn’t set the bar for horror or action like its predecessors, and it doesn’t explore interesting and fresh new ideas like Prometheus, it simply exists as a shallow cash-grab on an incredible intellectual property that should know better.
Ridley, I love you. I always will. You have created some of the most important films of all time. You’re the man who has philosophers and film theorists scratching their heads to this very day over Blade Runner, the man who redefined the sci-fi horror genre to what it still is today with Alien, the man who has made film after film for decades now and, for better or for worse, has become one of the most recognisable names in film history. Your name deserves better than this. Alien deserves better than this.
We deserve better than this.