By Thomas Simpson
Fans of the Alien franchise were excited to hear that Ridley Scott would be returning to direct a fifth installment. Rather than produce another sequel, Prometheus would serve as a somewhat prequel that existed within the same world yet was very much its own beast.
The end result was a wonderful spectacle with brilliant performances, but it remained a confusing mess that left audiences frustrated. Filled with plot holes and bizarre twists, Prometheus lacked both the suspense and thrills of its predecessors.
Five years later Alien: Covenant promised to be the Alien prequel that fans have been hoping for. Instead, it serves as a sequel to Prometheus and cements itself with a continuing story arc that makes it clear that there is a long way to go on this journey before this series focuses on the Alien in the title.
While an improvement upon Prometheus, Covenant is inherently flawed and struggles to convince that the route they’re continuing down is worth following. While it raises some interesting ideas, it continues to do so under the pretense of an Alien prequel – when this new story arc in the franchise feels like a spec story that’s had existing mythology tacked on for selling purposes.
Alien: Covenant will be defended as a Prometheus sequel, but the marketing campaign suggested that this would be a horror in the vein of Scott’s 1979 classic, the first Alien. Covenant offers plenty of gore and deaths, yet there’s nothing scary let alone terrifying on offer. The cinematography is stunning; that’s where it stop. Although much of the visual effects are pretty to look at, the Alien creatures themselves are horrendous CGI abominations that wouldn’t look out of place on the Alien 3 test reel.
The cast thankfully is brilliant, with Michael Fassbender excelling in his role as the android Walter. Katherine Watson gives a fine performance as Daniels but, regrettably, they try and turn her into Ripley in the third act which falls flat. Not due to Watson it must be said – but because the final action sequence is devoid of any excitement or anticipation. It doesn’t feel like the film is coming to a climax, so when it does, not even the predictable twist at the end can save it.
There is a solid sci-fi story bursting to come out of Alien: Covenant but it is smothered by its own Alien DNA. Consequently, the Alien part of the tale is trodden over, which leaves a film that tries too little and too late to appeal to the original fan base.
It’s easier to digest than Prometheus but it still leaves many questions hanging in the air. If you want the answers, it’s evident that you must be prepared to invest in this part of the series as it slowly meanders towards the events of Alien. Scott’s epic still has time to return to its roots, but there appears to be no rush.
Thomas is a writer and filmmaker based in Glasgow, U.K. Find him on Twitter: @Simmy41.