Alien: Covenant is the newest addition to the legendary sci-fi/horror series and the third film of the series directed by sci-fi god Ridley Scott. His last film in the series was the highly underrated Prometheus and he’s coming off the huge financial and critical success of the 2015 film The Martian. Alien: Covenant stars Katherine Waterston, Michael Fassbender and Danny McBride, who play crew members on the colony expedition “Covenant.” After being awakened by space turbulence, and landing on a previously undiscovered planet, the crew finds the legendary Xenomorphs, ready to kill. Expectations were high for this film, and it felt sadly underwhelming.
When Ridley Scott directs sci-fi, it’s a given that it’s going be a visual treat. Most of his films, including Alien: Covenant, look incredible. He is a master of the genre, and it seems like he is continuing to improve at this stage of his career. Cinematographer Dariusz Wolski effectively demonstrated the beauty of the alien world. The visuals were the best aspect of this film by far.
There are three major flaws with Alien: Covenant that held the film back, one being the woefully undeveloped characters. Most of the cast is woken up and thrown into action without any dialogue to set them up. The characters felt hollow and disposable, making their inevitable deaths not impactful. There are multiple marriages within the crew but since the viewers don’t really know who is who, it quickly becomes convoluted. The only memorable characters were Danny McBride’s Tennessee, and Michael Fassbender’s double duty as androids Walter and David. McBride’s character was more memorable due to his charismatic performance, rather than the way the character is written. McBride’s ability to switch between a light-hearted mood and a serious one when needed was an unexpected showing of the actor’s versatility.
That being said, the true shining star of this film is Michael Fassbender’s multi-character performance. As usual, Fassbender steals all the scenes he’s in, and demands the audience’s attention. The problem with his character, though, is that all his actions are telegraphed, and nothing he does surprises the audience. Everything he does can be seen coming from a mile away, killing any potential suspense. Furthermore, the main character, played by Katherine Waterston, was very dull, thus the audience doesn’t really care when anything happens to her.
Another issue that hurt this film was the way Scott used the Xenomorphs. The aliens were conceived, born and fully grown within 10 to 15 minutes. They seemed rushed, as opposed to the original 1979 monster. One of the things that made the first film so thrilling was watching the alien grow as the runtime went on. With so many aliens becoming fully grown in a matter of minutes, it takes away the ability to effectively scare the audience. The Xenomorph is supposed to have a menacing presence when on screen but this flaw makes them feel like a tool used only to progress the plot.
The third major flaw of this film is the number of aliens that Scott decided to use. The original film had one alien and one chest bursting scene. This film had a chest bursting almost every thirty minutes. The original scene was a major point in the plot, thrusting the characters into the chaotic adventure that followed. When Scott uses variations of this scene over and over again, he is killing all the suspense, as the viewer already knows what’s going to happen.
This film shoots itself in the foot on multiple occasions. Overall, Alien: Covenant was nice to look at, but struggled with almost everything else. See this on a cheap Tuesday if you’re a fan of the series, otherwise, it can’t be recommended at full price. You’re better off watching Aliens again.
(Featured Image: Alien: Covenant, 20th Century Fox)