Directed by Ridley Scott
UK Release Date: 12th May 2017
Feature Running Time: 122 minutes
Back in 2012 when Prometheus was about to come out, I was excited as much as the next Alien fan to see Ridley Scott return back to his original roots where he breathed new life into the Sci-Fi Horror genre. In fact, I couldn’t remember the last film I got that excited about before Prometheus came into play. You see, the original 1979 Alien is one of my all time favourite Science Fiction Horror films as well as being one of my top ten and I will argue with anyone the reasons why I think its a better film than James Cameron’s 1986 follow-up sequel Aliens.
When I did finally get to see Prometheus in its opening weekend back in June of that year, I cannot express to any of you the level of disappointment I experienced from it. It broke my heart how it failed to live up to any of my expectations, as the original Alien is a perfect example of being a product years ahead of its time since its release nearly 50 years ago now. Suffice to say, this film really did split its fans in two and with Scott reportedly saying several times that Prometheus is in no way a part of the Alien franchise, instead an altogether separate film that just happens to share the same DNA as Alien (whatever the fuck that means) had led to weeks and even months following its summer release of fans speculating whether it is a prequel to Alien or just it’s own thing. And that, ladies and gentlemen, is the main problem I had with Prometheus as it seemed confused as to knowing what kind of film it wanted to be.
Fast forward 5 years later and we come to its sequel/prequel, ALIEN: COVENANT. Yep, that’s right, with Alien capitalised in its film title, Scott really was fibbing us this whole time about this never being a prequel for reasons that are too unfathomable for this writer to work his head around. I forgot to mention that I caved in and watched Prometheus again a second time last year and found myself enjoying it a little bit more despite its massive flaws concerning the poor script and flat characters. So in that respect I was fairly optimistic about Covenant and thought to myself ‘just how bad can this one be?’ But no, it was bad. On second thoughts, scrap that. It was an abomination and a complete offensive insult to Scott’s ’79 masterpiece.
Set 10 years after the ill fated events of Prometheus, we’re introduced to yet another crew aboard the colony ship, Covenant, carrying 2,000 colonists and about twice as many embryos that’s monitored by human synthetic Walter (Michael Fassbender) as they head towards a remote habitable planet on an all important colonisation mission, when they suddenly get hit by a neutrino burst and while the damage caused gets under repair; they intercept a human radio transmission from a nearby unknown planet that mysteriously appears out of nowhere on their radar. With curiosity getting the better of the ship’s newly acting captain Oram (Billy Crudup), they alter their mission by checking out said unknown planet thinking it to be an uncharted paradise, enough to perfectly colonise on instead. Sound somewhat familiar? This is just the tip of the iceberg. It gets worse. Much, much worse. To be honest, I didn’t have too much of a problem with the film’s main set-up that allowed the rest of its designated events to unfold. Heck, I didn’t even mind so much of the main opening title sequence, accompanied by the same haunting score being copied either. Its only until the expedition team descends to the planet’s surface that I really started disliking this and ended up hating it.
First of all, a whole entire team of explorers land on an unknown planet they know diddly squat about and unsure how it came to be here in the universe, and yet they don’t think to take the necessary safety precautions by each equipping themselves into space suits and helmets? Its one of the biggest errors in the film that really bothered me taking into account that a film director as prolific as Ridley Scott should know by now what it takes to make a science fiction film actually believable to an audience. Case in point, check out his previous sci-fi effort The Martian to know exactly what I’m talking about here. As the expedition team scout out the planet and it’s environment, it doesn’t take long before two of its members become seriously ill due to their own stupidity and naivety of allowing themselves to get infected by contracting a toxic virus when interfering with the planet’s seemingly questionable wildlife. Such as it is, history is made when these two dangerously ill crew members eventually die in gruesome ways but of course, not before giving birth to Xenomorphs. This was another scene that annoyed me, maybe even more so than the one I briefly already discussed but I shan’t go into more detail in the fear of revealing more plot details for those who have yet to still see it. All you need to know is that the film gets progressively worse the longer the film remains on this planet.
The biggest insult that Scott has made unto himself is by recreating a series of scenes that we have already come to love in the original film. I just don’t understand why he thought it would be a good idea to do something like this because in a way he has diminished his own masterpiece by not putting enough creative thought, imagination or simply any kind of originality for this to stand tall and proud as a straight up sequel to Prometheus that could have been bursting fresh with other great ideas. Its a shame that he took the lazy and uninspiring choice to make this too much of an Alien prequel instead of staying further away from it.
If there was one thing that I can take away from this film that I kinda liked about it then it would be the excellent dual performance from Fassbender as human synthetic androids Walter and David respectively. I loved how he played two robots against one another – one being good and the other one just plain evil. But as far as characters go, none of the others really impressed me, they were all very forgettable and really two dimensional. I was frustrated by the character of Daniels played by Katherine Waterson mainly, as Scott chose to base her too much on Ellen Ripley. This, I thought, was a rookie mistake as Ripley is such an iconic female heroine that no one can really do this kind of character justice than Sigourney Weaver could. I just felt it was in poor taste and pretty uninspiring to have Waterson’s Daniels to be modelled on Ripley so much.
Some people who have liked this film have said that this film in some ways maintains a bit of a fan service the way Star Wars: The Force Awakens did. This is something I strongly disagree with. The Force Awakens may have similar themes in the same vein as the original Star Wars trilogy but it introduced a lot of new ideas with a whole host of interesting characters. The same definitely can’t be said about Covenant. In the most nicest way I can explain this, this film reminded me too much of Terminator: Genisys, a film that recreates the same scenes that we know and love from the original to give it more of an update to try and fit it in with a more modern day audience. The truth is it doesn’t work. At all. Most of us want to see films that don’t completely rehash everything in a more digital day and age. Its boring, tedious and lazy.
As a final thought, I’m more disappointed than I could ever dream to be. Ridley Scott should have known better than to make a follow-up to Prometheus that’s set in the same shared universe as Alien. We’ve seen this done a billion times already since Marvel were the first production company to introduce it to us in the 21st century in their long slate of films within the MCU. Now every other film-maker is trying to copy it. Scott used to be such a masterful director throughout the seventies, eighties and early nineties but now he just seems to be more hit and miss presently. What a crying shame.