A Disappointing Mess – Alien: Covenant marks a new low for a failing franchise

Spoilers Ahead.

5 years on from Prometheus, we once again find ourselves with the next instalment of Ridley Scott’s Alien prequel trilogy. Once again we leave the cinema’s scratching our heads. Once again fans of the series are left broken. Once again, we don’t know what to make of another entry to the franchise. The disappointing Alien 3, the abomination that was Alien: Resurrection, the confusing mess that was Prometheus just highlight how the once great series is slowly declining. There were more enjoyable points here than the previous film, but ultimately it was another Nostromo sized nope.

The best way to describe this film is a prequel sequel. It was set before Alien, so it has the prequel aspect and its set a few years after Prometheus, with the crew mentioning the doomed vessel from LV-223. It linked the two movies well enough, but not enough to fully weave together an intricate story. The elements blended well enough, but the equipment and feel of the universe still feel far too new to be a sequel to Alien. All the items they use and the ship itself is far too tidy to precede the first Alien film, it makes everything look disjointed and unnatural. With that being said, the movie was trying to be too much. A prequel, sequel that explains where the Prometheus went and why, what happened to the crew, where the engineers were and why they wanted to kill us, how the Aliens came to be and so many more questions – all that to fit into a movie is too much, even despite the next filmed planned as well. Ridley needs to answer all his questions rather than just glossing over them in a later instalment. David calls the black goo “a pathogen.” Ok, that’s fine. But if that is the case, why not explain how it works? Or how it is made? Oh, you’re just going to disperse it and kill all the Engineers? Ok, I guess so movie –  you do you.

This movie is essentially a “soft reboot.” In the same way as Jurassic World or The Force Awakens was a soft reboot, Alien: Covenant features nods to the previous films, featuring characters who resemble or feature in a previous instalment, a similar plot device or twist and of course the recycling of old ideas. Aspects of this film hurt so much. Ridley Scott tried to do something different for Prometheus, rather than applying the same old formula like most other directors. He seems to have gone back on that here and it has completely backfired on him.

The obvious soft reboot aspects are here – Hey memba Dallas? Well here’s Tennessee! Memba Ripley? Well, we’ve got Daniels! What about the Xenomorphs…memba? Cause we’ve got them too! We get it, ok! Give us something new?

Oh, you did. The Neomorphs which are different Xenomorphs but it is never explained how they are different? They come from the plants rather than the usual egg method so maybe it’s that? It is just another question left unanswered by the director. Saying that though, the Neomorphs were pretty cool. The back-bursting scene looked genuinely terrifying, although, it did feel a tad “memba the chest-burster scene, well we’ve got that – BUT BACKWARDS.” The motion capture for both the Xenos and the Neos were astounding. It has been a while since we’ve seen a guy in a suit extend its arms wide of an alien hug from the first film. But good effects and CGI is nothing without a good story behind it.

David’s overall role seemed logical. The creation seeing its creators as inferior and attempts to create something better sounds like a good Sci-Fi story. But is it the right one for Alien? Alien is essentially a slasher movie in space. There is not greater back story to it. The biggest overall rumour for the plot is that Jesus was an engineer and that they wanted to come back and destroy us because we killed him. But is that right? It is such an absurd back story for a scary alien movie. With that being said, David’s role felt right and will undoubtedly be explored in the final chapter, but it just feels so stupid. We meet David in the first film and now he has become some moustache twirling villain? His motivations really need to be explained more.

Motivations like killing all the engineers and Dr Shaw. Yes, Shaw was not an engaging character as Ripley, but even so, why the hell did David experiment on her? Why the hell did David kill all the engineers? Is Walter still alive? How do the Alien eggs get to LV-426? Will we ever see the nodding bird again? So many unanswered questions.

Fassbender’s performances as Walter and David were enjoyable, if a little creepy when he kisses himself. By no means Oscar worthy, Fassbender’s gentle stroll of a role-playing an emotionless automaton seems to suit them gentleman well. He seems to be the poster boy for the franchise now as Ridley Scott has found his golden emotionless boy. The idea of android gone wrong has again hinted at the soft reboot territory as David emulates Ash from the first movie. This again highlights the movie’s problems and overall thematic flaws by that it cannot create anything interesting, character, story or theme that isn’t recycled from the first two movies. With regards to the ‘twist’ ending, by placing it in speech marks it is clearly obvious that I am being sarcastic about it being a twist. So, the ‘twist’ was so obvious that Stevie Wonder could have seen it coming.

In fact, the whole final third of the movie felt rushed and unnecessary. It was like the writers of the movie had no idea how to end the movie whatsoever. You know it is bad when one of the screenplay writers co-wrote Star Trek: Nemesis. It felt so rushed into an action scene that the shower scene was just an idea that stuck because it was vaguely plausible. What wasn’t however, was that they gave away this plot point in the trailer. Stop giving away the best bits in the trailers – god, movies!

So with a below average reception from the box office and more importantly, from me, where does it put the future of the franchise? Well, Alien: Covenant wrote some of the wrongs of Prometheus by trying to become the soft reboot that others were. Those aspects didn’t work. The story elements were fine, the callbacks were not. What good is a CGI horror Sci-Fi movie when there isn’t a compelling sense of dread or a story? The franchise has moved so far away from its origins that it doesn’t know what it is anymore. Scott needs to take a long hard look at what he has made and admit what the end goal is. Without this, his creation is a hodge-podge mess of action, crappy dialogue and frustrating its own fans.

Would I recommend this film? No – If you are a fan of the series you are obligated to watch this, just don’t go in disappointed. If you are not, then don’t waste your time as you’ll be bored, confused and even more so disappointed.

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