I’ve been sitting on my thoughts of “Alien: Covenant” for five days now, and the more I ponder the film, the more confused I feel about it.
First thing’s first, I love the Alien franchise. The first film is one of the best horror films ever made, the sequel is what nearly every action/sci-fi film has ripped off in the last 30 years, the third film is flawed, but beautiful, the fourth is stupid fun, the first AVP flick is a perfect Saturdaymatinee – in fact, “AVP: Requiem” is the only one devoid of redeeming qualities.
Then there’s ”Prometheus.” This is the only one in the franchise to jettison the heavy horror and action of the previous films, comics, and video games – and go for some big-idea sci-fi normally reserved for the better Star Trek episodes. “Prometheus” dealt with how we got here, why we were put here, and where we belong in the greater scheme of things while showing off with some of the most gorgeous cinematography and production design of any movie…ever.
However…people wanted to see the damned alien. They complained the franchise’s main bad guy, the xenomorph, wasn’t in the movie. And, unfortunately, Ridley Scott listened.
While doing interviews for “Alien: Covenant,” Sir Ridley said fan reactions changed his ideas for the next films in the franchise, and it shows. Even though the film is called “Alien: Covenant,” it’s very much a sequel to “Prometheus” in form and function (except for Scott’s odd and uncharacteristic use of a handheld camera). That means, like “Prometheus,” you see the xenomorph and the white-skinned newcomer, the neomorph, in full-on, well-lit shots, with none of the mystery, tension, or darkness of the original “Alien.”
And this is kinda my problem with the movie…
If Scott had gone full-on with a “Prometheus” sequel, that would have been great. If he had made a full-on prequel to “Alien,” that would have been equally great. However, he obviously still wanted to play in the “Prometheus” playground (Engineer homeworld, the android David) while giving the audience what THEY want (xenos and blood!) and, unfortunately, the two don’t mesh, stylistically.
Also, the film feels rushed. The first act races by and not in a heart-pounding-can’t-stop kinda way, but in a this-feels-like-it’s-been-cut-down kinda way. At 122 minutes, it could have been 30 minutes longer and would have felt better-paced than what we got.
Now, all this said – “Alien: Covenant” is NOT a bad film. It’s beautiful and the actors all do a phenomenal job, with Michael Fassbender being the standout. There are some classic moments and good set pieces, but overall, the film is very surface level with the big questions of the previous installment all but gone.
I’m sure the majority of people will enjoy “Alien: Covenant” more than “Prometheus,” but not me. Will I watch it again? For certain. My screening was marred by a man sitting directly behind me, talking the entire time and breathing like he was making an inappropriate phone call. Maybe I’ll enjoy the film more on the second go-around. In fact, I’m sure I will. But I have a feeling it’s grade will remain the same: B.