One of Ridley Scott’s best and most popular films is, without a doubt, Alien (1979). Starring Sigourney Weaver, it was a very influential piece of film-making that defined a good chunk of the science-fiction flicks that have come ever since. I loved it because of how intimate and terrifying it was! He wasn’t in charge of its sequels, but he did direct Prometheus, the first prequel in the Alien universe, 33 years later. That movie was received quite poorly, unfortunately… And now, Scott himself is directing Alien: Covenant, a sequel of the prequel (duh) that seems to go back to the franchise’s origins. Has he succeeded? Let’s find out.
The crew of Covenant, a colony ship, finds a planet that seems to be a perfect fit for its needs, but upon going on an exploration mission, its members discover it’s packed with dangerous threats. It may seem this description of the plot is quite vague, but there isn’t a lot more going on, actually. The movie begins with an outstanding first act which is packed with tension, but as soon as the spaceship lands in the mysterious planet, it loses momentum and a very tedious part packed with exposition starts. Even worse, the final act is very unfulfilling, the climaxes are not as powerful as they should be. The ending itself is pretty cool, though.
It must be said that Ridley Scott is a prolific director, and that really shows in Covenant. He has taken the style of the original Alien film, and adapted it to the most recent trends. The use of unpredictable, subjective cameras is amazing, it creates an immersive experience that creates a sense of fear just with the camera. The cinematography is very good too, which makes a great use of the lighting most of the runtime and production design was enjoyable, as it keeps the style of the 1979 film to ensure a cohesive universe.
A big issue the film faces is the lack of innovation. As stated in the introduction, Covenant follows the events of Prometheus, and precedes those of Alien. Therefore, most of the creatures and some of the characters (and more importantly, their intentions) are known to the audience. The twists, surprises and jump-scares make no sense when you, as an audience member, know what is going on. It does have some moments in which those familiar elements come as a reference that fans of the original film will enjoy, such as the face-hugging alien or the refined version of the xenomorph.
The highlight of the film is, without a doubt, Michael Fassbender, who delivers a great performance, as he always does. He doesn’t have a particularly complex character, as he plays a man-made Android, but he nails every facial expression, and his line delivery is incredibly compelling. Katherine Waterston (who had a major role in Fantastic Beasts) portrays Daniels, Covenant’s own Ripley. She does so with a rich acting, but the poor script and lack of character evolution are issues she can’t overcome by herself. Other actors do a correct job, even if there are no outstanding performances, either.
By the way, I’ve seen this movie labeled as a horror film or as a thriller, so it was a huge surprise to find out how much comedy it has. Sure, it is unintentional, but it is there. Lots of tense moments are ruined by laughter. For instance, Fassbender’s character, the Android, has an enhanced version that looks exactly the same. For some reason, the script has a few lines that instead of sounding threatening, convey a very sexual tension among the two machines… Some wording choices sound like they were taken from a porno.
Any sci-fi blockbuster with a budget of over 110 million dollars should have great special effects, but Covenant is quite irregular with them too. There are some great scenes in which the two Androids played by Fassbender interact with each other, and they look flawless even when they make physical contact. The primary issue is the CGI, which is way too abundant and surprisingly poor-looking. Creatures seem to be made of rubber, have a weird shine to them that isn’t natural at all, and the animations are terrible. This is quite unforgivable, in my opinion, as it shatters the suspension of disbelief.
All in all… Meh. Ridley Scott was heavily criticised because of Prometheus, but instead of making a shift in direction, he has simply changed the title to avoid mentioning that movie. This is, quite clearly, just a “Prometheus 2”, a film that will delight those popcorn-munching viewers that are seeking for action and gore, but will thoroughly disappoint fans of the franchise as it lacks the emotion and character-depth of the title that redefined the genre over three decades ago. Love Alien? Avoid Covenant and rewatch the 1979 picture instead. 3/10