Prometheus, for all its flaws, at least had an air of originality. In fact, the film was so original that it would have been better served had it been its own entity, merely taking place in the Alien universe but not directly connected to the original. As an Alien movie it is disappointing. The Xenomorph hardly appears and, one sequence aside, it doesn’t contain any of the original’s visceral horror. However, what it does contain are some superb performances, principally from Michael Fassbender as the android David. The film also boasts some stunning imagery and production design, as well as dark and mature themes. In an industry that is devoid of big-budget, original science fiction, it’s reasonable to assume that had it arrived without the pressure of being an Alien prequel, the reception to Prometheus would have been much kinder.
For somebody who’s called it, ‘the thinking man’s horror film’, Ridley Scott insults the audience’s intelligence in many ways throughout Alien: Covenant (No reference or allusion can be made without aggressive citation from the characters). However, perhaps the most galling is the film’s implicit suggestion that all we wanted was a by the numbers retread of Alien and some Xenomorph action. All of which is phoned in to disguise the film’s true intention, which is a doubling down on Prometheus. It defenestrates the film to try and gain some geek cred, yet also wholly embraces it. Not only that, it embraces its worst aspects, with Covenant’s script making Damon Lindelof’s words sound natural and subtle.
For somebody considered an auteur director, Alien: Covenant is Ridley Scott filmmaking by focus group. To add bewildering insult to injury, it’s done to cynically dispose of a film whose style and plot it lovingly continues. And if that sounds like a contradiction it’s because it is. And so is this film. Either make Prometheus 2 or a true Alien prequel, all this disjointed mess serves to do is undermine what could have been an interesting sci-fi series in its own right, and further saturate the Alien franchise. You’d think if anybody could make the Xenomorph scary again it’s Ridley Scott and yet the film’s desire to explain the origins of that classic movie monster only serves to rob it of the qualities that made it so terrifying in the first place.
If you didn’t know, you wouldn’t think that this film was from the same director as Alien; such is its fundamental misunderstanding of what made that film so scary. Like George Lucas and Peter Jackson before him, in going back to provide his classic with a prequel trilogy, Ridley Scott seems to have forgotten what made his own film so good in the first place. Watching Alien: Covenant, the film I was most reminded of was not Alien, but rather Attack of the Clones. That film got good reviews just for not being The Phantom Menace, but that didn’t make it any good.
With this prequel series, Ridley Scott is following the George Lucas mold of providing utterly unnecessary backstory in the most ponderous of ways. To extend this Star Wars comparison further, Alien: Covenant represents the worst of both worlds, having the portent of the prequels and the pandering fan service of the latest sequels. However, whereas The Force Awakens was good, all the Alien moments here feel utterly generic and unspectacular. Who would have thought that a chest-bursting scene could feel like such a non-event?
Meanwhile, there is no sequence in Covenant as compelling, or disturbing, as the one in Prometheus where Noomi Rapace’s character has to perform self-surgery in order to remove an Alien fetus. Alien: Covenant may dial up the Xenomorph action but it doesn’t do so to any great effect. Whilst we all remember sequences from Alien, Aliens and Prometheus, I’d be willing to bet that in a few years time people will struggle to remember anything from Alien: Covenant. And perhaps that’s the film’s biggest crime beyond its dishonest disjointedness…it just isn’t scary.
Movie Parliament Rating: FRINGE PARTY
By Movie Parliament Prime Minister,