There are a few things that I’ll get out of the way before wading into a conversation of any depth about Alien: Covenant. First, I’m one of the few that thoroughly enjoyed Prometheus, this film’s immediate predecessor. Next, I’m a firm believer that absolutely nothing is sacred and that even if a reboot, sequel or side-story is terrible, it does nothing to take away from the impact and value of an original property, if that original property was in fact any good to begin with. Finally, I will gladly plunk down money to go see any film set in the Alien universe until the end of my days, no matter how bad it is, even if there are Predators involved.
If any or all of these items offend your sensibilities as a true fan of the Alien series, it should come as no surprise that I’m going to have a different perspective about Covenant than you will. The truth is, I have a different perspective about Alien: Covenant than I do.
That didn’t make any sense. Thing is, neither did much of this movie. But then again, I had loads of fun watching it.
Alien: Covenant concerns itself with a handful of things, not all of which necessarily gel with the others. It gives considerable attention to the fact that it is, officially, a Prometheus sequel. So we’ll need to learn about what happened to those that came away from the harrowing events of that film. It’s also very much involved in spinning its own contained splatter house story about an errant human colonization mission and its crew. Lastly, the film seems very intent on providing explicit connective tissue between the events of Prometheus and the larger Alien universe, with an eye to eventually linking up to the beginning of the original Alien film.
The problem inherent in wanting to tackle all of these things is that the first doesn’t work very well with the second, and the third feels like it could maybe work with either of them, but not both of them. The heady philosophical mumbo jumbo that led many to dislike Prometheus is heavily on display here, and like Prometheus, Covenant suffers from an incongruity between discussions of very-big-ideas and characters doing very-dumb-things. The number of dumb things done by a crew of scientists and soldiers is actually too long a list to catalogue here, but it provokes an almost constant stream of “oh-God-no-don’t-go-in-there-you-idiot” reactions from the audience.
The film’s work in establishing perhaps unnecessary background the series is, I will admit, fairly clumsy. It’s also unnecessary. I almost have to look at these two films (Prometheus and Covenant) as a tangential, almost entirely separate series of their own. I actually think that there are many for whom these films would be at least enjoyable popcorn fare were the films not attempting to weave themselves into a mythology that people consider to be untouchable. If this were a separate series, I would imagine that people would judge them as the not-great-but-totally-fun-and-dumb fodder that they are.
The thing is, I really like “oh-God-no-don’t-go-in-there-you-idiot” movies. I had lots of dumb fun watching the crew get dispatched, and I even found a lot to enjoy in the film’s attempts to sew new scares in with the trusty old scares. We get chest-bursters, yes. But we also get spine-bursters. It’s ridiculously gory and winds up being a fairly fun gross-out thrill ride. Additionally, this is a Ridley Scott film. As such, it goes without saying that it’s absolutely gorgeous to look at.
So, I liked Alien: Covenant. I also did not like Alien: Covenant. You can do whatever you’d like with that information. Of course it isn’t as good as Alien or Aliens. How many modern films are? At the very least, it is not as much of a bummer as this year’s other alien life form loose on a spaceship film.