Alien: Covenant faces one big question: is it better than Prometheus?
It was never going to better than the original Alien or its beloved sequel Aliens, but would it produce more thrills than the sluggish and convoluted 2012 prequel? The short answer is yes.
Prometheus was too high-brow. The fans of Alien never wanted that. It got into weighty science fiction ideas like freedom and ethics of robots without really cluing the audience in and it left a lot of people confused. The film’s big draw card – the beginnings of the xenomorphs – ended up being underwhelming, not entirely answered and only an entry point into a discussion on humanity’s creationism and/or evolution.
It all got way too much. A lot of this was down to the vague ‘Engineers’ and Alien: Covenant does its best to apologise by only featuring them once. In that scene their species is wiped out and none of the new cast know enough to ask the intense questions the last film posited. There’s a big full stop mark on this plot point – thankfully – but it does come off a little contrived and convenient.
It also stings of studio meddling. It’s a compliment rather than a complaint, because however inelegantly it ended the relief is that the Engineer plot has ended. (Hopefully).
This film has a few things going for it, including a fresh cast comprised completely of couples. The small quirk gives the redshirts an immediate depth and does a decent job of fastforwarding the getting-to-know-you portion despite a yawnish opening ten minutes.
A James Franco cameo sucks all the believability out of the film right from the onset but it does course-correct afterward. Franco is better off doing this kind of work for Fox’s Apes series.
After the first (and most violent) deaths Prometheus character David appears and the film really gains momentum. Michael Fassbender plays two androids with different experiences to maximum effect. The best subplot is their conflicting relationship and the best scene in the film is a Fassbender V Fassbender hand-to-hand fight.
Fassbender predictably steals the show but a lot of the ensemble are engaging, especially the short-lived Amy Seimetz. Comedy guy Danny McBride acts against type with above average results and never pulls the audience out like bigger name Franco did.
Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them’s Katherine Waterson is the last woman standing against evil Fassbender and his beloved xenomorphs, and that’s about the most interesting thing about her character. She’s got short-hair like Ripley and she battles the baddies like everyone else, but it’s the marketing that tells me that she is the main character rather the movie.
Ridley Scott has said he will never again rest the Alien series, which doesn’t bode well for the shelved Neil Blomkamp Alien 5. He insists he will produce at least two more prequels but that the series will never die while he is alive. Despite the trilogy rule going out the window ten years ago the law of diminishing returns is still relevant and this is worrying.
Alien: Covenant is not something to rush toward, but if you have a spare Sunday afternoon it’s a solid watch. Skip Prometheus – Alien: Convenant is tied to it and in its shadow but is better without it.