Alien: Covenant - Review

Ridley Scott's new entry into the horror franchise he created comes in the form of Alien: Covenant - a film that has an identity crisis. Read on to see my thoughts on the latest chapter of the only horror franchise I care about.

As stated above, I am generally not a fan of the "horror" genre. However, a good movie is a good movie, period. Ridley Scott's Alien came out in 1979 (2 years to the day after Star Wars) and showed that a horror film could be a masterpiece and tell a good story. It proved that a horror film didn't have to be all jump scares and gore to be scary. So Alien has always had a place in my heart as the first (and one of the only) horror films I really enjoy. In addition to that, it produced a near perfect sequel in Aliens, something only a few franchises have been able to pull off.

Flash forward to 2012. Ridley Scott is making Alien prequels! The franchise is back in the hands of the person who started it! Everything will be fine! False. Prometheus covered everything I didn't care about. It was a film that took everything I loved about Alien and flushed it completely down the toilet. So the big question when Covenant came to be was: Is this going to be Prometheus 2 or the true Alien prequel that we were promised?

Well, it tried to be both and failed. Parts of the film honestly feel like a bonafide Alien prequel. A crew finds the alien ancestors that Ripley had encountered and all hell breaks loose. Fantastic. Here's my money. The other part is exploring more of what Prometheus did, with questions of creation and where we came from and things like that. The film tried to have its cake and eat it too; and it fell flat.

There were some fun characters but only Billy Crudup's character and Katherine Waterston's character truly get to shine outside of the characters that Michael Fassbender plays which is the only one Scott seems to care about. He legitimately seems more interested in telling David's story than continuing the legacy of the xenomorphs (and all the other kind of "morphs").

The set pieces are absolutely gorgeous, and the aliens look great (kudos to whoever created all the alien drool - it was truly impressive CGI). But outside of the aesthetics, it falls flat. You could predict almost everything that is going to happen, and when they have a big "reveal" at the end, no one in my showing seemed all together surprised. The clues weren't sprinkled in cleverly enough. It felt forced and it hurt the movie because of it.

Prometheus fans will like where Covenant took the narrative. Alien fans will like the action sequences. Fans of both films might be pretty pleased. Normally, I don't like to judge a film based off of outside influences (for instance, saying a film is bad because I like the book better - that isn't judging the film on it's merits alone). But I don't feel like you can walk into this and feel satisfied with no background knowledge. There is enough exposition to get you by, but you need the knowledge of the other films in the franchise to get the full experience. Coming from someone that has that knowledge, I walked out disappointed feeling that it was unfocused and spent too much time on the wrong things. I would be curious to hear what someone who has never seen an Alien anything thought of it.

I've seen reaction to this on both sides of the spectrum. I am somewhere in the middle. I liked it better than the preachy bore fest of Prometheus, but wasn't even close to what I imagined what an Alien prequel would be.

Ridley Scott is a wonderful director and has the right to do whatever he wants with his franchise. But he seems bored with space aliens and just wants to tell a story about an robot questioning creation; which is fine, but not in this franchise. He also says he wants to make 3-4 more Alien prequels (more Alien is fine, but seriously, do sequels with an older Sigourney Weaver instead) and if they continue on this path, then I might not be his target audience. I will always adore the original film for showing me what horror truly could - and should - be. But we seem to have different visions of what that universe should be about; Ridley's vision is the one that matters of course, but the film needs to pick a side. Trying to please both sides did it no favors.

However at 79 years old with no signs of slowing down, I do look forward to what Ridley Scott does next.

Alien: Covenant is now in theaters.


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